By now you may have heard about a little something called the "Power+ Plan." If not, it's time to get educated! Because it's geared directly toward communities that have been impacted by a downturn in the coal industry, communities that need resources to help shape the next chapter of their economy. The Power+ Plan is a part of the President's budget package for fiscal year 2016, and it's all about investing in coal communities, workers, and technology.  

Here's the background laid out by the President for why he's requesting this funding: 

The United States is undergoing a rapid energy transformation, particularly in the power sector. Booming natural gas production, declining costs for renewable energy, increases in energy efficiency, flattening electricity demand, and updated clean air standards are changing the way electricity is generated and used across the country. These trends are producing cleaner air and healthier communities, and spurring new jobs and industries. At the same time, they are impacting workers and communities who have relied on the coal industry as a source of good jobs and economic prosperity, particularly in Appalachia, where competition with other coal basins provides additional pressure.

There are three major pillars to the plan:

  • New resources for economic diversification, job creation, job training and other employment services for workers and communities impacted by layoffs at coal mines and coal-fired power plants ($55 million)
  • Investments in the health and retirement security of mineworkers and their families and the accelerated clean-up of hazardous coal abandoned mine lands ($1 billion)
  • New tax incentives to support continued technology development and deployment of carbon capture, utilization and sequestration technologies ("clean coal") ($2 billion)

What does this mean for you? Well, it depends who you are and what kind of resources you need. If you live in a community affected by pollution from abandoned coal mines, your community may see redevelopment opportunites coming down the pike as $1 billion is released from the Abandoned Minelands Fund to put people to work reclaiming these sites. If you are a retired UMWA worker or family member, the security of your retirement would be better insured through the plan. If you are a laid off coal miner or plant worker, you could see more options when it comes to reemployment services and job training. If you're a mayor that's just beginning to think about what's next for your town, these funds could help you create a plan to ensure future prosperity.

One section of the Power+ proposal that's worth highlighting provides $25 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission to regrant to

Appalachian communities most affected by coal economy transition and will support a range of economic development planning and implementation activities, including developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, facilitating access to 2capital investments and new markets, and addressing barriers related to adequate water, sewer, and telecommunication infrastructure.

The ARC will fund a regional grant competition to distribute the money throught communities that have experienced reduced operations at a coal mine or coal power plant and are undertaking economic transitions. Nonprofits, government, and public educational institutions are eligible to apply, but not private enterprise.  The grants can be spent to either plan or implement projects to diversify economies, create jobs, attract new investment, or provide reemployment services. The ARC even listed some promising sectors: Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, Local Food Systems, Tourism Development, and Healthcare.

Sounds great, right? Before you get TOO excited, please note that this is the proposed budget. It still has to pass through Congress and come back to the President for signing, a process that can take a while. 

Two key documents will help you educate yourself on the details of the Power+ Plan: a Fact Sheet about the President's plan and an outline of the ARC's regional grant competition for the $25 million.