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Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and seven other senators have introduced a bill that could offer relief for people enrolled in a failed Obamacare exchange.

NASHVILLE - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on Wednesday lauded the Appalachian Regional Commission's approval of a $1.5 million grant for Marion County and another $750,000 for two projects in Northeast Tennessee.

The total $2.2 million for all three projects "is good news for economic growth in East Tennessee," the senator said in a news release. 

The $1.5 million for the Marion County Regional Institute of Higher Education is going toward building a 30,000-square-foot educational facility. The project seeks to train 109 people for advanced manufacturing and information technology careers.

As a result, Alexander said, the institute "will be able to help even more people in the region earn technical certificates and associates degrees so they can find good-paying jobs and provide for their families."

The remaining money is going into Unicoi County.

A $400,000 grant for Erwin Utilities will help install 35 miles of fiber-optic cable that will offer high-speed internet service to 680 homes and 30 businesses in Temple Hill and Bumpus Cove.

As a result, Alexander said, "students and businesses in Temple Hill and Bumpus Cove will soon have access to the same high-speed internet as those in Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga."

Another $353,036 for the Mountain Harvest Kitchen for the Community in Unicoi offers more resources "to help grow the local and regional food industry," he noted.

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced the Tennessee projects as part of its Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative:

ARC is an economic development agency that seeks to create a partnership between federal, state and local governments to spur economic development in the 13-state Appalachian Region, which includes 52 counties in Tennessee.

The POWER Initiative is a multi-agency effort to support areas that have lost jobs due to a decline in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries. The POWER Initiative supports efforts to strengthen the economy of coal-impacted communities by enhancing job training, creating jobs in existing or new industries and attracting new investment in the region.

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