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Eastern Kentucky could benefit from EDA grant

Shaping Our Appalachian Region

A non-profit local to eastern Kentucky has been named as a finalist in the Economic Development Agency’s Recompete Pilot Program, which aims to invest in economically distressed communities and connect people with good jobs. Officials said Recompete aims to accomplish this by investing grant money into areas that need it to help with development.

Colby Hall, Executive Director of SOAR, said their mission is to improve the quality of life for those living in communities that were affected by the loss of coal production, and that the way they would use grant money to accomplish this is by helping those in the prime employment age get to work. Hall said there is a large gap between Kentucky and the United States in terms of how many prime-age workers are employed.

“Nationally this number is about 81 percent. But in 12 of the counties that SOAR is working on in our application, that number is closer to 63 percent. So, there’s a prime age employment gap of about 18 percent,” said Hall.

Hall said SOAR plans to use grant money to help people develop skills and provide them resources to join the workforce.

“So, our application is proposing a series of projects that deal with different types of interventions that are all based around helping these prime-age employment gap workers, these 25 to 54-year-olds that are outside the workforce to get back into employment. And so that’s a combination of workforce training, it’s a combination of some flexible wrap-around support services because we know that there are some barriers to employment, things like childcare,” said Hall.

The 12 counties Hall said they would focus these efforts on are Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Perry, and Pike counties.

Hall added that getting these people back into the workforce successfully is a long-term goal and one he and his organization are devoted to.