Bennet Introduces Legislation to Expand Opportunity in Coal Communities

Coal Community Empowerment Act Would Provide Incentives for Investment, Job Creation, and Training in Coal Communities

Greeley, CO - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet last week introduced legislation to spur investment, workforce training, economic growth, and job creation in rural coal communities in Colorado and across the United States.

"Colorado's coal communities have been hit hard economically by a long-term decline in coal demand that has accelerated over the last decade," Bennet said. "This legislation would help these communities by spurring investment, job creation, and economic growth through tax cuts and support for high-quality worker training. We have an obligation to provide our coal communities with the support they need to implement the strategies they've developed, so they can thrive again in today's economy."

The Coal Community Empowerment Act would designate 90 counties across the country as Coal Community Zones ("Coal Communities"), making them eligible for a powerful array of place-based incentives for investment, hiring, and workforce development. Six counties in Colorado qualify as Coal Communities - Delta, Gunnison, Las Animas, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt. These communities have been hit hard by the downturn in coal prices and demand in recent years, and this legislation will help local workers and leaders strengthen and diversify their economies as they deal with the broader market forces that continue to pressure coal production.

Counties designated as Coal Communities have either lost 50 coal mining jobs since 2011 (out of a total employed workforce of no more than 20,000) or have more than five percent of their employed workforce in coal mining and are therefore vulnerable to continued pressures on coal demand. The bill is designed to spur hiring, investment, and growth in Coal Communities through:

  • A $3,000 hiring credit for employers that hire individuals who live or work in a Coal Community;
  • $300 million in additional New Markets Tax Credits specifically dedicated to Coal Communities;
  • A $1 billion allocation of private activity bonds to allow for low-cost loans to build facilities in Coal Communities;
  • Tax incentives for building or revitalizing commercial buildings in a Coal Community;
  • Doubling the amount small businesses can immediately expense to $1,000,000 in a Coal Community;
  • Eliminating capital gains taxes on the sale of stock in a business in a Coal Community if the investment is held for five years, and allowing for a tax-free rollover of certain investments.
The bill also would support high-quality workforce training through grants and incentives that help individuals acquire the skills they need for in-demand jobs and support high-quality training institutions in Coal Communities. In particular, the legislation would:
  • Allow students living in coal communities to apply for an individual support account that would fund education and training at an institute of higher education that prepares people for good, high-paying jobs;
  • Offer development grants to colleges and non-profits to create or expand career training programs in Coal Communities, ensuring that students have the opportunity to learn new skills and prepare for the 21st century workplace;
  • Provide grants to local businesses to train and hire workers in Coal Communities.

Bennet has long supported initiatives to expand access to college and career and technical education (CTE). Recently, he secured year-round funding for Pell Grants to allow students to finish college with less debt, on their schedule. In March, he introduced legislation to support and expand innovative CTE programs.

A Fact Sheet for the bill is available HERE.

A copy of the full bill text is available HERE.