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ARC Katrina Recovery Grant Targets Training and Schools in North Alabama

October 2005


CULLMAN, ALABAMA, October 4, 2005—The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) today announced a $400,000 grant to provide disaster-related assistance to communities in north Alabama to address the job-training needs of individuals displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The assistance will also help relieve some of the financial burden on K–12 public school systems faced with an unexpected influx of new students. ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope and U.S. Congressman Robert B. Aderholt were joined by local officials for the announcement at Wallace State Community College.

"While the physical damage from Katrina was relatively minor in this area, the influx of over 2,800 new students and the immediate job-training needs of many of their parents have created unexpected demands on the already limited resources in many communities across north Alabama," said Pope. "We came and listened. Now we are here with a plan and the resources to help with the specific needs that have been identified by community leaders in north Alabama."

Pope and other ARC staff had recently held listening sessions in north Alabama and northeast Mississippi to help determine the assistance needed in the wake of Katrina. The Alabama meeting, which took place at Wallace State two weeks ago, included local elected officials, public school leaders, the president and staff of Wallace State, the local Red Cross and health-care providers, pastors, utility company representatives, economic development practitioners, and emergency management experts from across the Appalachian area of the state.

"North Alabama has admirably shouldered a sizable burden in the efforts to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and as a result, many school districts are feeling the financial pinch," said Aderholt. "This grant will provide quick, short-term assistance to reduce that financial burden on our educational resources and will help train evacuees and others for jobs here and in the areas being rebuilt along the Gulf Coast."

ARC funds will be delivered through a grant program administered by Wallace State Community College and will provide rapid, short-term gap assistance to help compensate for some of the fiscal strain on K–12 public school systems in Alabama's 37 Appalachian counties. The funding will also help provide skills training to both residents and evacuees for high-demand job opportunities related to rebuilding storm-damaged areas or job skills in demand in north Alabama.

"I've never been more proud to be governor of Alabama than I have in the past month. The citizens of this state have opened their arms to those in need," said Governor Bob Riley. "Our primary concern has been taking care of hurricane victims, and this grant will help us continue that important mission."

The funds awarded to public elementary or secondary schools and school districts may be used to fill gaps from other sources of aid for a wide range of activities or expenses related to the increase in student enrollment, including books, supplies, additional faculty, student transportation, and temporary classrooms.

Congressman Bud Cramer, co-chair of the Appalachian Congressional Caucus, said, "I'm pleased to see ARC recognize this need and provide this assistance to Hurricane Katrina victims in north Alabama."

According to the Alabama Department of Education, 2,826 displaced K–12 students have enrolled at city or county schools in the Appalachian area of Alabama. Some local leaders predict that between one-third and one-half of the evacuees will wind up staying in the general areas where they have relocated.

Senator Richard Shelby said that "Alabama continues to play an integral role in helping many from the Gulf Coast recover following Hurricane Katrina. I am proud of Alabama's willingness to assist citizens from Louisiana and Mississippi in need of shelter, employment, and education. The funds provided by the ARC will provide much-needed assistance to allow north Alabama to assist school-aged children and those individuals seeking job training. I applaud ARC for their continued willingness to help those who are most in need."

The job-training component, to be offered through Wallace State and Gadsden State community colleges, will focus on short-term training that will enable new residents to return to the workforce quickly. Courses will be offered in high-demand areas such as construction, welding, and health care. This training will equip workers either to stay in north Alabama or to reenter the workforce if they return to the Gulf Coast.

Congressman Spencer Bachus said that "while north Alabama was spared the brunt of destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, our citizens have willingly welcomed hundreds who were displaced by the storm. This is not an easy economic burden to bear. This grant will provide needed financial relief to ensure assistance efforts continue and succeed."

"Folks across Alabama have opened their hearts and homes to help support the victims of these tragedies," Congressman Mike Rogers said. "This grant should help provide critical support for those most in need and, hopefully, additional assistance for our local communities where it's needed most."

"The sudden rise in population in many north Alabama towns creates both significant challenges and promising new opportunities for local economies," said Pope. "Helping foster strong local economies is a key part of ARC's mission, and education is an important component for building up a competitive workforce."

Wallace State president Vicki Hawsey explained that college staff will work with ARC and eligible schools to streamline and expedite the process for delivering these funds, which will help address gaps not filled by other sources of aid.

Recipients of the funds will be asked to certify that ARC funds will not duplicate other funding assistance received for the same purpose.

Riley expressed his appreciation to the ARC federal office and three other states—Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina—for their rapid redirection of ARC funding to this special project.

Short-term workforce training will be provided through Wallace State and Gadsden State. All public schools in Alabama's 37 Appalachian counties are eligible to apply for recovery aid through this special project. Those counties are Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Cullman, De Kalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Macon, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, Pickens, Randolph, St. Clair, Shelby, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston.