15 W.Va. counties considered economically distressed by ARC

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Appalachian Regional Commission says more than one-fourth of West Virginia’s counties are economically distressed.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the commission has added Fayette, Summers and Wetzel counties to the distressed category, moving them from at-risk counties.

The commission said 15 of West Virginia’s 55 counties are now considered economically stressed. The others are Braxton, Boone, Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Roane, Webster and Wyoming counties. The commission said that includes about 273,000 of the state’s 1.8 million residents. Lewis, Monroe, Raleigh, Randolph and Upshur counties were downgraded from transitional counties to at-risk counties.

“I think what’s happening is the data is catching up with the reality of the situation,” commission spokeswoman Wendy Wasserman said.

Despite the increase in West Virginia, the commission said the number of distressed counties in Appalachia as a whole dropped by three to 81. The Appalachian region includes 420 counties in 13 states.

“I think this is just another reason and another tipping point for West Virginia communities to diversify their economy, and another opportunity,” Wasserman said.

The commission uses five economic designations for counties to set rates for its funding contributions for projects. Distressed counties are eligible to have as much as 80 percent of project costs paid for by the ARC.

Kentucky has 38 economically distressed counties, more than any other Appalachian state. Tennessee has 10 and Mississippi nine.

Appalachia extends more than 1,000 miles from southern New York to northeastern Mississippi.