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Committee pushes for EZ funding

A committee concerned with West Virginia-Ohio Empowerment Zone funding is lobbying federal lawmakers for budget assistance.

Tuesday, October 12, 1999

A committee concerned with West Virginia-Ohio Empowerment Zone funding is lobbying federal lawmakers for budget assistance.

"We, our five C’s Committee (Cooperation, Collaboration, Coordination, Communication and Commitment), have developed a letter that talks about how important getting Empowerment Zone funding is," said Betty Barrett, committee chair and zone board member.

This year, the two-state region received $3 million plus a $100,000 planning stipend to begin improving utilities and services in Ironton, developing industrial parks in South Point and Huntington, creating daycare centers and workforce training and offering tax breaks to new industries. But the $3 million is $7 million short of what was expected.

The region can receive up to $10 million a year for the remaining nine years, but only if Congress pushes full funding of the program as promised, Mrs. Barrett said.

"According to lobbyists, our legislators support it but have not done anything that has helped," she said.

Congressman Ted Strickland has said he will fight for full funding, but indicated that it is in the hands of the Republican majority on Capitol Hill.

A bill giving about $70 million to 15 zone communities throughout the country is moving through the House and Senate, but it falls short of funding expectations.

"What we want to have happen is the obligation for the full 10 years," Mrs. Barrett said. "Full funding means a much more successful program."

The zone has a 10-year plan that requires the full funding to bring more jobs to the Tri-State area, she said.

The committee’s concerns center on the private sector because they cannot work year-to-year but must make long-range plans.

If the zone funding is year-to-year then board members feel private industry will not invest in the area, Mrs. Barrett said.

The country is operating on a continuing resolution budget right now, but Congress must have plans by Oct. 21 or do something else, she said.

In those final plans, the committee would like to see $10 million a year for the next 10 years dedicated to the Empowerment Zone, Mrs. Barrett said.

The 314,000 voters living in the zone can make a difference by writing letters that urge lawmakers to fight tough for that funding, she said.

Addresses for Ohio’s lawmakers are:

– U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, 140 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, (www.senate.gov/~dewine)

– U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, 317 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510, (www.senate.gov/~voinovich)

– U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, 336 Cannon House Office Building, First Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20515, (ted.strickland@mail.house.gov)