Buried in the 2,702-page bipartisan infrastructure plan that senators could pass as soon as this week is $1 billion in funding for a commission run by the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the key Democratic negotiators.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would allocate $1 billion for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development partnership agency between the government and 13 states in the Appalachian region that's co-chaired by Gayle Connelly Manchin.
President Biden tapped Gayle Manchin for the role in March, and she was unanimously confirmed by the Senate one month later.
The proposed legislation envisions spending $1 billion over the course of five years in order to fund the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative, a program that provides grants to communities affected by coal-related job losses. Biden initially proposed the funding increase as part of his $4 trillion "Build Back Better" economic agenda.
In a May statement, Gayle Manchin said the $1 billion – which will roughly double the commission's current funding level – will allow it to "more adequately meet the overwhelming needs of communities impacted by job losses resulting from the decline in the coal industry. These grants will be instrumental to the long-term diversification and economic growth in Appalachia."
Before joining the commission, Gayle Manchin had years of experience in community development projects, including working as an educator and director of Fairmont State University's Community Service Program. She also served as West Virginia’s secretary of education and the arts under Republican Gov. Jim Justice.
Her husband, Joe Manchin – a moderate Democrat who this year emerged as one of the most powerful members of the 50-50 Senate – helped craft the $1 trillion bill alongside a group of 20 bipartisan lawmakers.
His office did not immediately respond to a FOX Business request for comment, though he previously said his wife "will bring the experience and skills to successfully lead the commission."
The infrastructure bill includes about $550 billion in new funding for roads, bridges, rail, transit, water and other "traditional" infrastructure programs. It will be paid for by repurposing unspent coronavirus relief funds, along with recouping fraudulently paid unemployment money, unemployment money returned by states that prematurely ended a federal $300-a-week benefit, targeted corporate users fees, strengthened tax enforcement for cryptocurrencies and economic growth created by the investments.