Children planting tree's in a park

Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Grant Programs

History of ARC

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is an independent commission established by Congress in 1965. This commission is a federal grant program that represents a partnership between the federal government and the governors of thirteen states that make up the ARC region. The President appoints a co-chair to represent the federal government and there is a selected governor who represents the thirteen states. The chair and the states must come to an agreement before any kind of budget and grant is set into motion.

Community Improvement

Project activities include infrastructure projects (water, wastewater, broadband, workforce development, entrepreneurial and business development, and local leadership and community capacity building)


  • Amount – the amount of funding allocated to WV annually depends on subsidy by the U.S. Congress. It averages at $8-9 million per year.
  • Source of Funds – Funds are appropriated directly to ARC by Congress.
  • Funding Cycle – Federal grant applications are received on an annual basis, normally in the fall of each year.
  • Authorizing legislation/statue – Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965

ARC designates grant money to each county in West Virginia based on the strength of the local economy. The criteria are set and agreed upon by ARC members.

County Designation

  • Distressed (counties with weakest economies)
  • At-Risk (counties at risk of becoming distressed)
  • Transitional (counties transitioning out of distress)
  • Competitive (counties that are able to compete in the national economy)
  • Attainment (counties that have attained parity with the nation)

Community Development Projects

Projects approved for ARC assistance must support one of the five general goals:

  • Invest in entrepreneurial and business development strategies that strengthen Appalachia’s economy.
  • Increase the education, knowledge, skills, and health of residents to work and succeed in Appalachia.
  • Invest in critical infrastructure ─ especially broadband, transportation, including the Appalachian Development Highway System; and water/wastewater systems.
  • Strengthen Appalachia’s community and economic development potential by leveraging the Region’s natural and cultural heritage assets.
  • Build the capacity and skills of current and next-generation leaders and organizations to innovate, collaborate, and advance community and economic development.

Special Development Opportunities:

  • Hatfield-McCoy Trails: A network of outdoor recreational trails usable by ATVs, UTVs, and off-road motorcycles. First opened in 2000, the trails have expanded into eight trail systems in seven counties in the southern coalfields. An economic impact study of the trails completed in 2014 noted that non-local visitors to the trails generated $19 million in economic activity in the state. Plans are underway to expand the trails into two new counties, bringing the total counties with a trail presence to nine counties in the southern coalfields.
  • Post-mined sites: The West Virginia Office of Coalfield Development is charged with advancing economic development in our coalfield counties. One approach to accomplishing this is the reuse of surface mined lands. Marshall University’s Rahall Transportation Center had been contracted to work with each coalfield county to prepare a Land Use Master Plan. These plans evaluate development attributes of mined lands and determine best uses for those sites. West Virginia has 31 counties with surface mine properties, and each plan evaluates up to five individual sites. Mined sites are being used for many uses including commercial and industrial developments, school construction, community facilities, federal prisons, and wind farms.
  • Local food systems: West Virginia farmers capture only 19 cents of every dollar spent on food in the state. A significant economic development opportunity exists in local and regional food farmers with consumers. West Virginia has experienced a surge in local food system growth, including the development of food to school initiatives, farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture, food hubs, agri-tourism, buying local, and culinary-based events and tourism such as the Cast Iron Cook Off. Further work needs to be done in identifying and addressing gaps in local and regional food infrastructure.
  • ARC POWER Initiative: The West Virginia Development Office (WVDO), through the ARC State Alternate and Program Manager, are providing technical assistance support for applicants to the ARC POWER Initiative. Support activities include reviewing potential projects, concepts and activities, providing outreach including conducting an informational POWER workshop in the state, and providing follow-up assistance for POWER applications under review.