KFTC members respond to Promise Zone designation | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

KFTC members respond to Promise Zone designation

KFTC members welcomed today’s announcement by President Barack Obama designating eight counties in eastern Kentucky as a "Promise Zone."

The designation will give the counties priority in applying for federal funding for programs that increase job training, access to affordable housing, educational opportunities, and more.

“The idea of the Promise Zone is encouraging,” said Elizabeth Sanders, a KFTC member from Letcher County, one of the Promise Zone counties. “We have a vision for a future for eastern Kentucky and know we have a lot of promise here in the mountains. If the resources from the federal government through the Promise Zone will coordinate with things like the SOAR Initiative and other existing and future programs, we may begin to see some steps toward the change the people of eastern Kentucky have been ready for and working toward.”

Through Appalachia’s Bright Future conference held last year and participation in December’s SOAR Summit, as well as through letters to Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Representative Hal Rogers, KFTC members are advocating for a just transition for eastern Kentucky and calling for increased public and private investment as one important part of building a bright economic future for the region.

KFTC believes we have the opportunity today to work together to build a strong and vibrant economy in eastern Kentucky, though it will be a tough and long-term challenge. Making it easier to access existing federal dollars and new programs that address poverty and spur local investment is a part of the solution to that challenge. 

Carl Shoupe, a Harlan County KFTC member said, “I’m extremely pleased the President chose our area as one of the first Promise Zones in the country. Groups like KFTC and others in the region have been working on this issue of just transition in the mountains for some time now. We’re ‘shovel ready.’ This is an exciting opportunity, but we know we’re going to have to keep doing our work to inform voters and hold decision-makers accountable. We’ll be watching as these programs roll out to make sure local leadership is doing the best it can to make sure we’re building on the opportunity we have, and not squandering it.”

KFTC has shared with state and local leaders a set of 14 policies and ideas that members believe can help build a just economy and bright future for eastern Kentucky. These include actions such as:

  • Develop and support local leadership (including programs for youth, entrepreneurs, education and nonprofit leaders) by providing high-quality training programs, fellowships and other leadership experiences, access to capital, marketing and networking assistance, and more.
  • Reweave our social safety net by increasing support for programs that sustain people and families in times of need (including food stamps, health care and housing support) and programs that make it possible for people to improve their quality of life (including increased minimum wage, Pell Grants, child care assistance, early childhood programs, and access to affordable health care). 
  • Commit to ongoing, rigorous improvements to K-12 education in Kentucky, including increased funding, renewed efforts to address inequality in funding, funding for quality preschool, wrap-around services for students in need, curriculum reform, and upgrades to teacher training and professional development.
  • Restore civic trust by eliminating corruption, cronyism and the tendency by those in power to use their public positions to benefit themselves and other well-connected individuals.

To learn more about KFTC’s principles for a just transition and a suggested policy platform, visit: www.kftc.org/eky


As long as the initiative is transparent and allows eastern Kentuckians to have a voice in the decision making, this appears to be hopeful news.

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