Google has given a million dollars to an organization devoted to helping coal communities as the industry declines. It’s part of a wider $50 million initiative announced Tuesday focused on the future of work.
The Just Transition Fund plans to use the money to support deeply rooted local organizations in Wyoming and 14 other states addressing local economic challenges like lost tax revenue and jobs.
Heidi Binko, executive director of the Just Transition Fund, said they’re looking at situations like in Arizona, where tribal communities will lose nearly a thousand jobs with the closure of the Navajo Generating Station. But in those areas, the transition to new jobs will be focused on sustainability and higher pay.
"If there’s a solution that doesn’t deliver prevailing wage jobs and isn’t friendly to the environment and is not sustainable. We’ve found that’s not helpful to the communities. And the problems are just going to repeat themselves,” Binko said.
Binko said new forms of work could be found in the solar industry, sustainable agriculture, or tourism. The million dollars will also go towards developing a guide for communities in the midst of transition.
Binko explained that there’s no one policy or workforce program that will solve everything. It’s a process that a guide could help direct.
"You need the right policies, you need to have the inclusive workforce development programs, and you need to have the right economic development approach. And so, we’re looking at what’s working in places around the country,” she said.
Binko said the money will be prioritized to the most in-need areas. The Just Transition Fund is already in talks with some Wyoming partners - there could be investments in the state within the next year.