Democratic lawmakers in WV call on Justice to allocate federal money to small business emergency relief fund

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Earlier yesterday, the Democratic members of West Virginia’s House Finance Committee sent a letter to the Governor calling on him to allocate a portion of the $1.25 billion the state has received in Federal stimulus money to the “West Virginia Small Business Emergency Relief Fund.”

“This fund was created through a bill that I was lead sponsor on back in 2014, to help small businesses recover from the chemical spill in the Elk River,” said Delegate Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha). “The framework for the Fund still exists in code, it just doesn’t have any money in it.”

The legislation (originally HB 4175) passed both the House and Senate unanimously. It gives the Governor wide latitude to distribute emergency relief funds for small businesses on a case-by-case basis whenever a state of emergency is declared.

“The Federal Government has issued guidelines on how the CARES Act fund must be spent, no matter what the Governor says in his press briefings,” said Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh), Minority Chair of the House Finance Committee. “And Secretary Hardy, in a response to me dated April 21, stated that the Governor has the express statutory authority to spend the funds without legislative appropriation.”

Section Five, Point 1 of the Federal Treasury’s guidelines — sent out on April 22 — states that the stimulus money may be used for “Expenses associated with the provision of economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as: Expenditures related to the provision of grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures.”

“Our stimulus money isn’t stimulating anything while it sits in a bank account,” said Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton). “While the Governor is waiting for the Federal government to change the rules to allow him to backfill the state’s revenues, our small businesses are deciding whether or not they can afford to stay in West Virginia.”

Additional Democratic members of the House Finance Committee who signed the letter are Delegate Jason Barrett (D-Berkeley), Delegate Brent Boggs (D-Braxton), Delegate Bill Hartman (D-Randolph), Delegate Linda Longstreth (D-Marion), Delegate Dave Pethtel (D-Wetzel), Delegate Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha), and Delegate John Williams (D-Monongalia).

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