A new congressional caucus is being formed to center on issues affecting the Appalachian region, according to a Thursday afternoon news release.
The Congressional Appalachian Caucus — formed by U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., and Pennsylvania U.S. Rep Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District — will focus on key topics for the region, including energy, health care, transportation and broadband expansion.
Miller and Reschenthaler will co-chair the new caucus, and members will include representatives from the 423 counties that make up Appalachia across 13 states.
“This caucus will serve as a voice for the small towns in Appalachia who have been overlooked and left behind,” Reschenthaler said in a news release. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to promote policies that will create jobs, strengthen families, protect senior citizens, and generate economic growth throughout the region.”
Some of the key issues to be tackled by the caucus include domestic energy production, broadband expansion and improving access to health care and transportation, two issues that often go hand-in-hand.
According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, 82 Appalachian counties are considered to be economically distressed areas. Most of those areas are in central Appalachia, specifically West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.
A little more than 26 million people live in Appalachia, accounting for nearly 8% of all people in the United States, per the U.S. Census.
The region faces higher rates of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity and mortality than the country as a whole. Compared to other, non-Appalachian rural areas, populations within Appalachia generally are older. Population decreases also hit the region harder and occur more often, according to the ARC.
“Appalachia is a beautiful part of the United States,” Miller said in the release. “Abundant with natural resources, we supply America with energy resources, agriculture, and the hardest working people in the country.”
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