In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in the southeast corner of Kentucky sits a once-booming coal center. Today, Letcher County, home to 25,000 residents, is distressed; the community faces high poverty rates and poor health.
The story of Letcher County is all too familiar across rural America. About one out of five Americans, 60 million in total, live in places like Letcher County. Rural America has been hit hard in recent years. For half a century, coal mining and other industrial sectors drove the rural economy, and as a result these regions contributed greatly to our country’s overall economic health.