West Virginia Non-profits Call on Governor Justice to Reallocate Remaining CARES Act Funding

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – As part of federal COVID-relief legislation passed in March, West Virginia received $1.25 billion to address the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As of October 19, there is still over $969 million remaining unspent with the December 30 deadline for utilizing the funds approaching. Governor Justice’s current proposal would send over half of the remaining funds, or $587 million, to the state’s unemployment trust fund, despite WorkForce WV”s projections that the trust fund will only have a $216 million shortfall at the end of the calendar year. Allotting such a large share of the CARES Act funding to the trust fund when we have access to other funds to replenish it means that urgent priorities including housing insecurity, hunger, and testing and tracing, are not addressed.

WV United, a group of nonprofits and community advocates in the state, have been advocating  for better targeted use of these funds. Recently, members of the group sent a letter to Governor Justice, asking for him to re-evaluate his plan and offered  a people-centered proposal on how this money can be spent to address the hardships so many West Virginians are facing.

The full letter to governor Justice can be viewed here.

“Our state’s most vulnerable citizens are facing hunger and homelessness through lay-offs and evictions,” commented Gary Zuckett, Director of WV Citizen Action, “Federal CARES funds now in the hands of our governor need to make it to these folks to avoid preventable Covid casualties and human suffering.”

This People’s proposal to spend the remaining CARES Act funding includes:

  • Rent and mortgage relief for West Virginians facing eviction and foreclosure.
  • Utility assistance to prevent service cut-offs.
  • COVID-19 testing, tracing efforts, and hazard pay. West Virginia’s current testing capacity falls short of the need to successfully suppress or mitigate the virus.
  • Funding to support child care centers and parents with child care needs, including reimbursing child care options for families unable to find state-supported child care.
  • Increased payments to unemployed workers.
  • Food assistance and transportation needs for rural West Virginians.
  • Emergency Home Repairs.
  • Increased clothing vouchers.
  • Funding for Marshall University’s Minority Health Institute to study the disparate impacts of the crisis on Black and brown communities across the state.

The proposal also outlines that each of these areas must be funded with a recognition that Black, Brown, and low-income communities are disproportionately negatively impacted by this virus. The resources must be prioritized to these communities as they continue to face the most significant health and economic costs from the pandemic.

“Even before COVID-19 hit West Virginia, working-class communities have been overburdened by expensive utility bills while out-of-state investors racked in huge amounts of profit.” said Karan Ireland, WV Sierra Club’s Senior Campaign Representative. “At a time when West Virginians are getting hit the hardest and as the weather gets colder the Governor must act to ensure all utility debts be forgiven and no family loses water orpower. Everyone must have access to their utilities so they can safely socially distance during this unprecedented pandemic.“

“Though time will tell how effective the CARES Act has been in relieving the hardship faced by West Virginians, we know that there are West Virginians still suffering the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jessica Ice, Executive Director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. “Our Governor has the opportunity to direct funds to alleviate suffering in many areas. Our hope is that he chooses West Virginians when distributing funds and chooses them quickly before time runs  out.”
The full letter to governor Justice can be viewed here.

Groups who signed onto the People’s Proposal sent to Governor Justice are:  West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, West Virginia Citizen Action Education Fund, West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, WV Sierra Club, WV FREE, American Friends Service Committee, WV Charleston Branch of the NAACP, Fayette Fair Share, National Association of Social Workers, West Virginia Chapter Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Rise Up WV, Southern Appalachian Labor School, Tuesday Morning Group, West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections, West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign, WVU Food Justice Lab- Center for Resilient Communities, Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women, and community members across the state.

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