FACT SHEET: The Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative
The United States is undergoing a rapid energy transformation, particularly in the power sector. Booming natural gas production, declining costs for renewable energy, increases in energy efficiency, flattening electricity demand, and updated clean air standards are changing the way electricity is generated and used across the country. These trends are producing cleaner air and healthier communities, and spurring new jobs and industries. At the same time, they are impacting workers and communities who have relied on the coal industry as a source of good jobs and economic prosperity, particularly in Appalachia, where competition with other coal basins provides additional pressure.
To help these communities adapt to the changing energy landscape and build a better future, the President’s FY 2016 Budget proposed the POWER+ Plan. The POWER+ Plan invests in workers and jobs, addresses important legacy costs in coal country, and drives development of coal technology.
This year, the Administration will make a down payment on the POWER+ Plan by beginning implementation of a key part of the Plan - the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative. POWER will be a coordinated effort, involving multiple federal agencies, with the goal of effectively aligning, leveraging, and targeting a range of federal economic and workforce development programs and resources to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector. The POWER initiative will coordinate use of appropriated FY 2015 funds from a range of federal programs, while following the relevant statutory and regulatory requirements for each program.
The POWER initiative will award grants on two parallel tracks to partnerships anchored in impacted communities. These grants will help communities organize themselves to respond on behalf of affected workers and businesses, develop comprehensive strategic plans that chart their economic future, and execute coordinated economic and workforce development activities based on their strategic plans. These activities will seek to: (1) diversify economies; (2) create jobs in new or existing industries; (3) attract new sources of job-creating investment; (4) and provide a range of workforce services and skills training, including work-based learning opportunities, resulting in industry-recognized credentials for high-quality, in-demand jobs.
These efforts in FY 2015 will lay the groundwork for a multi-year initiative with grants awarded in future years based on the availability of appropriations. The President’s FY 2016 Budget includes over $55 million for economic and workforce development strategies across a number of federal programs, which would be used to continue and expand the POWER initiative after it begins this year.
POWER Funding and Administrative Structure
POWER will award grants using $28-$38 million in FY 2015 funds from the Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Labor (DOL), Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The grants will be designed to assist communities regardless of their different levels of capacity, planning and preparation. A two-track grant-making process is described below, with an understanding that some communities will require some form of pre-planning technical assistance in order to effectively apply for either planning or implementation grants.
Track #1: Planning Grants
DOC and DOL will award planning grants to communities that have been or will be impacted by coal mining and coal power plant employment loss (or layoffs in the manufacturing or transportation logistics supply chains of either) and that do not have robust and/or recent comprehensive and integrated economic development strategic plans in place. Grant funds would be available to help organize community stakeholders, analyze and inventory community assets, evaluate needs and resources, and develop comprehensive economic development strategic plans. Grants would also go to State Workforce Agencies for in-depth labor market analysis and workforce development and dislocated worker planning connected with the provision of training and employment services.
- DOC – Economic Development Administration (EDA), Assistance to Coal Communities, Economic Adjustment Assistance, and Partnership Planning
- DOL – Employment and Training Administration (ETA), Dislocated Worker National Emergency Grants 
Track #2: Implementation Grants
DOC, DOL, SBA, and ARC will award implementation grants to communities that have been impacted by coal mining and coal power plant employment loss (or layoffs in the manufacturing or transportation logistics supply chains of either) and that have already done robust strategic planning. Grants would support the implementation of linked economic and workforce development strategies to develop high-potential industry clusters, assist impacted communities to accelerate job creation by leveraging local assets, train and place workers in family-supporting, high-demand jobs (including Registered Apprenticeship and other on-the-job training models), and to create linkages that drive regional economic growth.
- DOC -- EDA, Assistance to Coal Communities, Economic Adjustment Assistance, and Partnership Planning (up to $15 million total for both grant making tracks)
- DOL – Employment and Training Administration (ETA), Dislocated Worker National Emergency Grants (up to $10-20 million total for both grant making tracks)
- SBA, Regional Innovation Clusters and Growth Accelerators (up to $3 million combined)
- ARC, Technical Assistance and Demonstration Projects (up to $500 thousand for applicants from its region)
The implementation grants will be awarded through a single POWER Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) announcement that combines funding opportunities and activities and services from different programs and agencies but maintains the eligibility rules, permitted activities, and reporting requirements of the originating program and funding. Partnerships will be encouraged to apply for more than one funding source where appropriate, but that will not be required.
Additional Federal Agency Participation
A number of other federal agencies will also participate in the POWER initiative by providing technical assistance and education and outreach to POWER partnerships, coordination with existing resources, and/or preference points for agency funding for applications from the partnerships. The additional agencies will include:
- USDA-Rural Business Cooperative Service
- Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
- Department of Energy
- Department of Treasury, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund
- DOC, SelectUSA
- DOC, NIST-Manufacturing Extension Partnerships
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
EDA will be the administrative home for POWER given the economic development thrust of this initiative. EDA will manage the joint FFO announcement and overall process of competitive solicitation, provide a single staff point of federal contact (with staffing assistance from other participating agencies when needed) for the selected partnerships, and coordinate cross-agency activities at the regional level that direct additional federal resources to impacted communities. Grant selection, awards and execution will be managed by each authorized agency, with EDA playing a coordination role.
Eligibility for applicants for POWER awards will be dictated by the sources of the funds. Regardless of the primary applicant for Implementation Grants, POWER will encourage a broader partnership to participate, including (but not limited to) representatives from government, economic development organizations, workforce development boards, community and technical colleges, businesses, labor unions, and community groups.
April/May, 2015: Track #1 POWER Planning Grant announcement issued
April/May, 2015: Track #2 POWER Implementation Grant FFO issued
July/August, 2015: POWER Planning and Implementation Grant awards ready to announce
 The DOL-ETA will solicit applications for planning activities with implementation activities as part of the combined Implementation Grant FFO
 Regional Innovation Clusters funding will be $500,000 for the first year for one partnership, with an option to extend funding by another $2 million over the next four years.