ARC needs to reevaluate county#039;s economic status

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 11, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

No matter what the Appalachian Regional Commission says, Lawrence County is, indeed, distressed.

While we do not like to think of Lawrence County as suffering in any way we are, at least by definition and guidelines set forth by the ARC, distressed.

Email newsletter signup

Webster's Dictionary defines distressed as something "subjected to great strain or difficulties." Perhaps not great ones, but Lawrence County is surely subjected to strain and difficulties in economic terms.

The ARC defines distressed counties as those that have high poverty and unemployment rates and low per capita market income rates, compared with U.S. averages. In these terms, Lawrence County is, indeed, distressed.

If it were just a word to describe our county, we certainly would not have opposed the ARC's decision in February to upgrade Lawrence County to a transitional county for Fiscal Year 2005. The ARC said then

a decline in the county's unemployment rates and other contributing factors, such as population and economic growth, increasing economic diversification of county economies, spillover effects from adjacent metropolitan areas and improvements in transportation and accessibility to markets led to this decision.

However, as a distressed county, Lawrence County would be eligible for special funds allocated to the states by the commission, and for reduced matching-funds requirements for regular ARC grants. For example, distressed counties are required a 20-percent match while transitional counties need to fork over a 50-percent match.

We applaud Congressman Ted Strickland for recognizing this as a potential problem for Lawrence County and writing Gov. Bob Taft and the ARC and asking for assistance in changing guidelines for determining economic-level designations for counties in Appalachia. Hopefully, they will read the letter and take its message to heart.

Lawrence County is a step behind in today's economy. In order to compete with cities of similar size in wealthier parts of the state, we need a little government assistance. That 30-percent swing can make a big difference.