2023 Year in Review
As we bid farewell to 2023 and welcome the hope and opportunity of 2024, I reflect on this past year with immense gratitude for the successes we shared in Eastern Kentucky throughout the last year. Together, we are getting things done in Kentucky’s Appalachian region. Here are a few highlights from 2023:
KENTUCKY’S FIFTH DISTRICT
Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District is larger than it’s ever been, now encompassing 33 counties – nearly one-third of the state. I was honored to welcome all of Boyd County and the City of Ashland to the district for the first time, as we also celebrated the opportunity to serve our friends again in Menifee, Wolfe and part of Bath counties.
In an effort to help extend the reach of our casework and field staff in the northeastern region, I was proud to open a new congressional office this year in Downtown Ashland at 341 16th Street. Stephanie Marsh, a delightful local resident, manages our Ashland office and is available to help constituents navigate assistance with federal agencies.
I am proud to boast having one of the most active staff in the country. My casework staff responded to nearly 20,000 constituent emails and letters this year alone, in addition to thousands of calls throughout the year, helping individuals with VA, Social Security, Medicare, Black Lung, FEMA, IRS, passport issues and much more.
FLOOD CONTROL PROGRESS
My staff and I have met several times with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local leaders in Beattyville to discuss next steps in protecting the City of Beattyville from continued flooding. So far, $3.3 million has been secured in federal and state funding, with $2.05 million coming directly from federal earmarks that I requested. The Army Corps is actively working on a comprehensive study to determine the best way to protect downtown Beattyville from future flooding.
In addition to the Beattyville Flood Control Study, I also asked the Army Corps to conduct a holistic study of the entire Kentucky River after the deadly flood in July 2022. In August, I announced a $1 million grant from the Army Corps’ Section 531 program for the City of Jackson, which will enable the city to extend water and wastewater to the northern part of the city where new homes will soon be built for flood survivors. I have also requested a $3 million federal earmark for the Housing Development Alliance to build new affordable homes for flood survivors.
REVITALIZING DOWNTOWN MANCHESTER
I was honored to be a part of a major celebration in Clay County, announcing more than one dozen projects in Downtown Manchester and more than $20 million in investments. I secured a $2.2 million Community Project Funding earmark for the Downtown Manchester Marketplace, which will serve as the centerpiece for all the projects. Click here to learn more about the announcements.
SOAR & AMLER GRANT ANNOUNCEMENTS
The SOAR organization – Shaping Our Appalachian Region, an initiative that I cofounded in 2013, continues to spur regional collaboration and strengthen our rural economy through key investments, training sessions, and helping expand new opportunities. Click here to learn more about what SOAR is doing.
During the SOAR Summit, Governor Beshear and I announced more than $26 million in Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) grants to support economic development projects in nine Eastern Kentucky counties, including Boyd, Pike, Whitley, Perry, McCreary, Johnson, Letcher, Floyd and Estill counties. The 14 recipients are projected to retain or create more than 200 jobs, train up to 240 Kentuckians annually and serve more than 100,000 people via tourism, infrastructure development or training opportunities. Click here to see which competitive projects were awarded an AMLER grant in 2023.
Operation UNITE + the National Rx & Illicit Drug Summit
Operation UNITE welcomed Harlan County native Tom Vicini as the new President and CEO of the 20-year-old nonprofit’s efforts to combat the region’s drug abuse epidemic. As the founder of UNITE, I’m incredibly proud that Eastern Kentuckians are leading the national discussion to enhance education, recovery and law enforcement efforts across the country at the annual National Rx and Illicit Drug Summit – now the largest and most effective conference of its kind.
Our region was the epicenter of the drug abuse epidemic 20 years ago and we’re now becoming the epicenter of recovery. Six Kentuckians die every day from opioid overdoses and more than 70 percent of those involve fentanyl. Last year in Kentucky, we had a five percent decrease in overdose deaths, according to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center. And I can say with confidence that we have the ability to ignite a sharper dive in those numbers, because we have a multi-pronged formula that works, with passionate individuals leading the way.
SEED CONTRACTING SYMPOSIUM
The Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation hosted the Fifth Annual Eastern Kentucky SEED Contracting Symposium in October at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, providing an opportunity for advanced manufacturers from across Eastern Kentucky to meet with some of the world’s biggest prime defense contractors.
Representatives from 10 different aerospace and defense contracting companies, including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, attended this year’s event, holding a panel discussion on the best way to do business with the federal government.
Since SEED was initiated in 2017, more than 500 workers have been trained, many achieving the necessary certifications needed to acquire government contracts, and more than $50 million in new investment by local manufacturers have been invested back into the communities of Eastern Kentucky.
SPACE SCIENCE IN THE MOUNTAINS
In September, I brought my good friend, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to our region to visit Morehead State University’s Space Science Center. We drove to the top of the hill to see MSU’s brand new satellite tracking station. I have requested an earmark for nearly $10 million to advance the MSU’s work in space science for future NASA activities. Click here to learn more about Administrator Nelson’s visit.
As Dean of the House, I was honored to give the oath of office to our new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). I wish former Speaker Kevin McCarthy the very best in his retirement, and it is my sincere prayer that Speaker Johnson will navigate the challenges of 2024 with great success on behalf of the American people.
I have had the great privilege of serving as a senior appropriator for four decades, and this year, I was elected Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) for the 118th Congress. I am diligently working to improve our economy and pushing back on the failing “Bidenomics” that have steered this great nation deeper into debt and farther toward socialism.
At the same time, I have ensured critical projects in rural America receive necessary funding to strengthen our regions most in need. It’s an honor to work in Washington on behalf of Eastern Kentuckians to ensure vital programs are protected to expand job opportunities, invest in our infrastructure, extend high speed broadband through the mountains, improve healthcare and education, construct homes that are safe from flooding, and shape a better future in our Appalachian region.
KENTUCKY NATIONAL GUARD – MONTICELLO ARMORY
300 soldiers from our Kentucky National Guard will begin the new year in Southwest Asia as part of the U.S. Army Central Command’s Operation Spartan Shield, including 79 soldiers from the 1-623rd Field Artillery battalion in Monticello. Earlier this month, I had the honor of speaking to the soldiers from my former unit before they deployed. These soldiers have provided invaluable support during recent natural disasters across the Commonwealth, and now they will use their skill and training for this key mission overseas. They are not only highly trained to be a part of Task Force Spartan, but they are equipped with the most high-tech artillery and intelligence that this nation can provide. May God bless our soldiers and their families as they serve overseas.
We’ve won many victories together in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District, despite our challenges, and I’ll stay on the frontlines for Eastern Kentucky as we move forward into the new year.
|Happy New Year!