Proposed federal budget cuts deep in Tenn. communities

Last updated on June 15th, 2017 at 11:48 am

For more than 50 years, the Appalachian Regional Commission has helped to fund economic and community development in Tennessee and 11 other states.

But the agency may be no more if President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget is passed as is.

The ARC is one of 18 agencies the president proposes to eliminate in his 2018 budget.

The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation is one of the organizations funded last year.

Theresa Carl, the organization’s president, said the money would impact individual communities that count on the funds to provide books to children from birth through age five.

“I think it’s really important to folks, especially in areas where access to books is not so easy, and that is really the key factor in terms of early childhood literacy is just having access to books to begin with,” she said.

Carl said the $100,000 provided by the ARC last year largely goes to help communities pay for their financial cost of the book program.

More than 35 Tennessee-based organizations, including Boys and Girls Clubs, health departments and educational programs, also received funding last year from the federal agency.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is not commenting on the federal budget, but according to records, in the last two years it has supported 662 projects in Appalachia totaling more than $175 million.

Those investments were matched with other public and private funds to create more than $400 million in investments in the region.

Carl said it’s important that early childhood education remains a public and private effort at every level.

“We’re grateful for all support because what it does is underscore the emphasis on starting early with exposing children to books and language,” she said.

In a statement, Ted Townsend, COO of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and the ARC board member for Tennessee, said the funds “have been an important part of the department’s community development efforts.”