Mar 16 2016
U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) highlighted the Eastern Kentucky grassroots efforts of SOAR - Shaping Our Appalachian Region - this week during federal budget hearings for fiscal year 2017.
Despite raising serious concerns with the U.S. Department of Labor's regulatory agenda, including minimum wage, the fiduciary rule, and overtime regulations, Rogers praised Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for his support of SOAR initiatives and for taking time to visit Eastern Kentucky last year.
"As you are aware, over the last seven years, Eastern Kentucky has been hit hard with the loss of over 10,000 coal jobs, and more recently, the temporary shuttering of the AK Steel plant in Ashland," said Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Thank you, Secretary Perez, for speaking at the SOAR Summit last year and highlighting the importance of education and job training. As you saw during your visit, SOAR is partnering with workforce development groups like the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program to help create jobs and opportunities. Important pieces of this initiative include innovation, workforce development, and job creation, and I appreciate your continued support of these programs in the budget – as well as your continued interest in SOAR."
During a budget hearing for the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Rural Development (USDA-RD), Rogers commended Undersecretary Lisa Mensah for her recent visit to Bell County. He also showed appreciation for Kentucky State Director Tom Fern and the Kentucky State Office for Rural Development for their continued efforts to improve the quality of life in southern and eastern Kentucky, as well as their support for SOAR at both the state and federal level.
"Since the beginning of this initiative, USDA Rural Development has been a partner working alongside myself and both the current and former Governors of Kentucky to build a strong economy for Appalachia," said Rogers. "I look forward to continuing this partnership as we continue to strengthen and expand the economy in that region."
While applauding the USDA-RD, Rogers said he was troubled by the Administration's proposed termination of Guaranteed Water and Waste Disposal Loans, as well as a reduction of nearly $400 million for Direct Water and Waste Disposal Loans.
"The water and waste disposal loan and grant program is wildly popular and many of the communities the program serves have no other alternatives to construct, improve, or extend their water and waste systems," said Rogers. "Currently, there is an enormous, well documented backlog in rural water and waste applications; however, the budget request significantly reduces the lending and grant levels previously appropriated."
Click here to watch the FY17 budget hearing for the Department of Labor.
Click here to watch the FY17 budget hearing for the Department of Agriculture - Rural Development.