For Immediate Release
The Plains, Ohio – Debbie Phillips, CEO of Rural Action, will participate in Communities in Action: Building a Better Ohio, a roundtable discussion at the White House on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Phillips will join other stakeholders from across the state to discuss how the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will impact Ohio communities and the work of Rural Action.
“I’m looking forward to having the chance to talk with White House officials about how these funds are helping to strengthen our communities,” said Phillips. “We live in a region that has been impacted by generations of under-investment and exploitation. The people here are smart and resilient, and these investments support local efforts to diversify the economy and build on our assets. It’s important for policymakers to hear from the people in local communities, and I’m excited to go and share some of what’s working here.”
Increased AmeriCorps Programming
The impact of federal funding on Rural Action’s work most recently includes the expansion of our national service program through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Rural Action’s Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps (AORC) is a service corps with a long track record of supporting individuals in a year of service that benefits the region, while supporting their professional and leadership development. Many AmeriCorps alumni have gone on to be leaders in our region, and the opportunity to grow the program was created by ARPA investments.
Working with ServeOhio, the Ohio Commission on Service and Volunteerism, the ARPA funded expansion will increase Rural Action’s service corps from the current 31 national service members each year to 70. This increase will allow Rural Action and its many partners across the region to address the climate crisis, increase community resilience, and create opportunities for training and certification of the workforce necessary for both confronting the climate crisis and increasing employment opportunities in the region.
Sam Miller is one example of a great National Service success story. She served a term as a Rural Action AmeriCorps member, after which she went on to work as a regional staffer for US Senator Sherrod Brown, and now serves as the Development Director for Buckeye Hills Regional Council. She shared that, “My AmeriCorps service allowed me to dig my roots deeper in communities in the region. I developed networks and new visions and ideas to counter the setbacks that have stifled their growth and development for generations. The experience served as a launching point for me to move on to be a better advocate and public servant with a stronger understanding of how to get the work done.” The program expansion will enable more opportunities like these for people in the region to grow their skills and give back.
Investment in Appalachian Ohio Communities
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted recently announced a targeted investment of the state’s ARPA funds in Appalachian Ohio. Ohio BUILDS allocates $500 million for transformative projects in the region, and many community leaders are engaged in planning for the most impactful investment of these funds.
Increased Funding to Address Legacy Pollution
Rural Action has a 30-year history of working with local communities and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to restore streams that have been impacted by historical mining (before regulations existed around reclamation). ARPA and the Infrastructure law provide additional funding for this work, which supports the remediation of dangerous mine openings, reduction of water pollution from acid mine drainage, and related economic development opportunities in outdoor recreation, business parks, and other community assets. The Abandoned Mineland Economic Revitalization (AMLER) program is administered by ODNR and funds reclamation projects that have positive economic development impacts.
The Moonville Rail Trail in Athens and Vinton counties is one example of the program. Closing mine openings and improving trail surfaces increases safety and access to outdoor recreation. The completed rail trail is expected to result in 236 jobs and total regional economic activity of $21.6 million. Another example of this work is the development of a treatment facility at the Truetown discharge near Millfield, Ohio. This project will treat water from the largest acid mine drainage discharge in the state and will produce iron oxide pigment to be used in paint and other products. “Projects like these create jobs and help to address historic injustices,” said Phillips. “I look forward to the opportunity to talk directly with officials in the White House about the importance of investing in our communities and of working with local residents to make sure the focus stays on helping people.”
Ohio also has a backlog of orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells. The infrastructure law includes funding to appropriately cap these wells, many of which are releasing methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. Increased funding for this program will create jobs while helping to address a significant driver of climate change.
As CEO of Rural Action, Phillips leads a team that believes in the power of people to create strong, resilient communities. She previously served as the area’s State Representative in the Ohio House from 2009-2016, and as a member of House Leadership. She lives on a farm in Albany, Ohio
Rural Action is a regional community development organization with a 32-county footprint working with members and community leaders on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. Learn more about Rural Action at www.ruralaction.org.
You are invited to join Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, White House Director of Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms, American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling, and Ohio elected, community, and labor leaders for a special “Communities in Action: Building a Better Ohio” livestream event on Wednesday, 9/7 at 11:45am ET. This conversation – taking place live from the White House – will focus on the labor and workforce investments the Biden-Harris Administration has made in Ohio communities, and spotlight promising examples. You can RSVP here, and all are welcome.
Rural Action Media and Communications Director
740 677 4047 ext. 140