Ohio Valley ReSource

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the seven stations involved in the Ohio Valley ReSource will be taking a look at the big stories in a regional community, from large focus issues in economy, energy, environment, infrastructure, health and agriculture. Each station has a reporter collaborating to this initiative, working together to tell these stories.

The region is undergoing huge changes in all of these large focus areas. OVR Managing Editor Jeff Young states, "Just look at how dramatically the energy marketplace has changed or what a crisis opiate addiction has become affecting healthcare. Some communities are really struggling while others are finding creative approaches for new economic development, or coming up with new ways to deliver health services in rural areas."

Young says he hopes the resource will offer storytelling that allows people in one community to learn from people in another.

http://ohiovalleyresource.org/

coal
Mead Gruver / AP Photo

The House of Representatives Wednesday passed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that includes two provisions that would specifically help coal-reliant communities in the Ohio Valley.

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

A new report by the Trump administration suggests the Ohio Valley’s growing petrochemical industry could be an unprecedented source of economic opportunity and growth when the county, and region, eventually emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. But the assessment is drawing criticism from environmental groups and some financial analysts that warn the risk is growing for plastics and petrochemical manufacturers. 

Kudzu grows near a coal preparation plant in eastern Kentucky.
Jeff Young / Ohio Valley ReSource

Environmental and economic advocacy groups from coal-producing parts of the country unveiled a policy agenda on Monday to help coal-reliant communities make a transition to a more sustainable future.

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


On a recent sunny weekday, Bill Currey proudly walks among 30 neatly stacked, brightly colored plastic kayaks. Birds chirp merrily, and the soothing sounds of the meandering Coal River permeate the background — nature’s version of a white noise machine. 

 

For the tanned Currey, who also owns an industrial real estate company, being here, on the river, is as good as it gets. His goal is to share this slice of paradise with as many people as will listen. 

Oakley Fugate

The courtroom was silent as 19-year-old Dayjha Hogg approached the lectern at a Letcher County fiscal court meeting, stared down a panel of county magistrates, and spoke.

“I know COVID’s going around right now, so just imagine, there’s no COVID, normal society, and imagine you walk around and it’s like you have the plague.” 


Liam Niemeyer/ Ohio Valley ReSource

Toddlers yelling, running around the hardwood floors and leaving cracker crumbs on the ground. A laptop screen dented by a soup can dropped by a kid. At one point, a room covered from ceiling to floor with hand prints after kids were left alone with a paint can. 

But for the moment, Sherman Neal’s kids — two-year-old Skyler and three-year-old Jett — are on the leather couch, fixated on another "Max & Ruby" cartoon. 


Formerly Disenfranchised Kentucky Voters Cast Their Ballots

Jun 25, 2020
WFPL

 

For many in the Ohio Valley, voting is a choice, a right they are free to exercise if they want to. But for Jackie McGranahan and the more than 175,000 other formerly disenfranchised Kentuckians, this primary election is special. It’s her first chance to vote since 2008. 

She won’t be going to a voting booth. Elections are a bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and most voting in Kentucky is happening by mail. But even though she couldn’t go to the polls with her friends or be handed her ‘I Voted’ sticker, that didn’t stop McGranahan from savoring the moment of voting.

 

USDA

As the economies of the Ohio Valley gradually reopen from the pandemic closures, state officials are still reporting hundreds of coronavirus cases each day in the region. In Kentucky, coronavirus cases are again on the rise, with a week-long average of daily cases approaching the highest level yet. Public health officials are concerned about a spread of coronavirus into more rural parts of the region. 

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


It’s a sweltering hot Monday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and the kitchen at Community Agricultural Nutritional Enterprises, or CANE, is buzzing with activity. 

In an industrial kitchen that was once a high school cafeteria, Brandon Fleming is chopping onions and sliding them into a massive aluminum tray of beans. Once the beans are in the oven, Fleming mops his brow and heads outside to the parking lot, where a small army of teenagers is loading bags and boxes of groceries into the trunks of waiting cars. 

Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

Ohio Valley farmers have received more than $100 million so far in federal relief payments to offset the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with potentially more payments on the way.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistance program plans to distribute up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, with farmers able to apply for relief through August. USDA data released Monday show 220,280 farmers across the country have already received $2,895,127,039 in total.

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


By now it’s become a familiar scene: Marchers fill the streets with placards proclaiming “Black Lives Matter,” and chants fill the air as the demonstrators recite the names of those lost. 

But there’s something different about some of these protests around the Ohio Valley in the past week. They’re not just happening in the larger cities such as Louisville, Lexington, Columbus and Cincinnati. Smaller college towns such as Athens, Ohio, and Morgantown, West Virginia, have seen marches. Communities in Kentucky farmland and the heart of Appalachian coal country, such as Hazard and Harlan, Kentucky, have seen people protesting against racial injustice and police violence. 

 

Ohio Valley Weekly Unemployment Claims Down Slightly To 82K

Jun 4, 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

As the Ohio Valley continues its phased-in reopening, unemployment insurance claims are down slightly compared to the week before. The region is still reporting high levels of unemployment assistance applications.

At least 82,011 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Questions And Anxiety Mount Over COVID-19 Workplace Safety As More Businesses Reopen

May 31, 2020
Workers sort envelopes at the Amazon fulfillment center.
J. Tyler Franklin / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


Gail Fleck is a school cafeteria worker in the greater Cincinnati area and lives with her 90-year-old father. She loves her job because she gets to work with kids. But she is worried she won’t be able to keep her dad safe if her work exposes her to the coronavirus and she unknowingly brings it home. 

“I’m scared, I’m worried. I feel like, we’re talking about life and death here and this is my father,” she said. 

Food is ready for loading and distribution the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington, West Virginia..
Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting file photo

A new federal program is buying more than $1 billion in farm products such as dairy, produce and meat unable to be sold due to the pandemic’s disruptions to the food supply and send “food boxes'' to needy families. But some anti-hunger advocates worry that parts of the Ohio Valley may be overlooked in getting this aid.

Ohio Valley Unemployment Claims Exceed 100,000

May 28, 2020
Unemployment Line
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

As some businesses in the Ohio Valley reopen and welcome back both customers and employees the region continues reporting high levels of unemployment claims.

At least 100,863 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic..

Kudzu grows near a coal preparation plant in eastern Kentucky.
Jeff Young / Ohio Valley ReSource

Executives with Indiana-based coal company American Resources Corporation will face daily fines of $2,500 if they continue to flout court orders, according to filings in the bankruptcy case of Cambrian Coal. 

Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

A new study shows the Ohio Valley has some of the nation’s highest rates of food insecurity among older adults, and anti-hunger advocates say that situation could be made worse by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.


Cattle farmers are seeing increased local demand amid the pandemic.
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


Debby Dulworth has a lot of conversations with her cattle each day. She swings open a gate, driving the herd with repeated calls and the Hereford cattle, respond in kind with groans and snorts.

“They talk to me,” Dulworth said with a laugh, as the cows come bounding out into a fresh field of Kentucky fescue and buttercups. She’s been corralling them from pasture to pasture on her farm for decades near Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, nestled in a bend of the Ohio River.

Another 99,000 Join Unemployed In Ohio Valley As U.S. Jobless Total Tops 38M

May 21, 2020
Courtesy Bytemarks via Creative Commons.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported close to 99,000 additional unemployment insurance claims in the last week from Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, as state unemployment offices worked their way through a backlog of millions of claims filed since the coronavirus pandemic forced business closures beginning in March.

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Just 15 percent of Kentucky counties meet minimum recommended coronavirus testing levels, according to a new report from health care company Castlight. Sixty-seven percent of West Virginia counties and 31 percent of Ohio counties met the threshold. 

 

coal truck
Brittany Patterson / West Virginia Public Broacasting

Coal company American Resources Corporation, which owns mines in Kentucky and West Virginia, is facing sanctions after failing to comply with a bankruptcy court’s orders, even after the company received $2.7 million in government aid meant for companies harmed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

 


 


 

West Virginia officials moved the state’s primary election from May 12 to June 9 out of safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, and have expanded options for mail-in voting.

 

Registered voters can vote in person during early voting or on Election Day at a polling location, or by absentee ballot.

 

The last day to register to vote in the primary is May 19. Early in-person voting begins May 27 and ends June 6. You can also vote in person on Election Day, June 9. 

Ohio Valley Making Progress On Unemployment Backlog

May 14, 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are making progress on unemployment claims filed in March as states begin a phased-in reopening.

New unemployment insurance claims are still reaching unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region.

Screenshot

It’s the uncertainty that gets to Darlene Davis. The uncertainty of when she’ll see her 87-year-old mother in person again. The uncertainty of her co-workers’ health. The uncertainty that comes with the novel coronavirus.

When a co-worker of hers at the JBS Swift meatpacking plant in Louisville died from COVID-19, she said that uncertainty turned into fear for many of the 1,200 employees at the plant. The Louisville Metro Health Department was made aware of the death on April 4.

How Ohio Valley States Are Reopening Their Economies

May 8, 2020
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

This story was updated on May 11, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the Ohio Valley Region. But stay at home orders and social distancing restrictions reduced the number of cases modelers projected without them. 

Now there is pressure to ease the restrictions and open states’ economies back up as the businesses that were closed struggle to find relief and record numbers of people apply for unemployment.

Here is a brief rundown of how West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky plan to reopen businesses.

Ohio Valley Hitting Plateau Of Unemployment Claims

May 7, 2020
Courtesy Bytemarks via Creative Commons.

New unemployment insurance claims are starting to reach a plateau, but are still hitting unprecedented levels across the Ohio Valley region.

Mackie Branham views a lung X-ray with Dr. James Brandon Crum, who was among the first physicians to note an uptick in black lung diagnoses.
Howard Berkes / NPR

Underground coal miners start their shifts getting changed in closely packed changing rooms. They ride rail cars to their worksite, shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes for more than an hour. And once they’re underground, ventilation designed to tamp down coal dust blows air through the mine. All that makes a coal mine  the kind of place where the coronavirus could spread like wildfire. 

Unemployment Line
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

New unemployment insurance claims in the Ohio Valley began to taper off this week as states make their way through the backlog of applications amid business closures forced by the coronavirus pandemic. But local economies still face a staggering number of unemployed, and many of those who are out of work are still awaiting help.

About 211,000 people in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia joined those seeking help during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

With hog prices dropping, will these little piggies go to market?
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

This story was updated on Thursday,  April 30, 2020 at 9:00 a.m., to include Gov. Beshear’s comments and information about public health inspections at the JBS facility.

As President Trump ordered meatpacking plants on Tuesday to keep operating amid the coronavirus pandemic, more details are emerging about the concerns workers had about their safety at a facility in Louisville, where dozens of workers were infected and one died. 

With hog prices dropping, will these little piggies go to market?
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

This is breaking news; this article will be updated.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health has confirmed 220 employees at meatpacking plants across Kentucky have tested positive for the coronavirus, with one employee death related to the virus in Louisville.

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