I/DD Waiver Waitlist– SB 150, the FY 2021 budget bill, was finalized on the last day of the legislative session. The budget sets aside $19.8 million to clear the I/DD waiver waitlist to provide services to the 1,084 individuals currently on the waitlist. This victory comes after years of cuts to the home- and community-based services waiver, some of which are responsible for our current Medicaid surplus.
Insulin Copay Caps– After passing the House overwhelmingly and then stalling in the Senate for several days, a bipartisan group of Senators worked together to pass HB 4543, which caps the maximum monthly copays at $100 for insulin for West Virginians who have private health coverage.
Dental Coverage for Medicaid-enrolled Adults– SB 648, which provides for dental coverage to over 300,000 Medicaid-enrolled adults over 21 years old, passed the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The Bad (all defeated):
Medicaid Work Reporting Requirements– A perennial bill to take health coverage away from adults who struggle to meet and document a set number of work hours, HB 4018, was quietly defeated without ever being considered. Enacting this policy in West Virginia would lead to at least 37,000 West Virginians losing health coverage and hundreds of millions of federal Medicaid dollars lost.
Harm Reduction Bans– SB 286 would have enacted a statewide ban on evidence-based syringe exchange programs, which are a critical aspect of harm reduction. Syringe exchange programs have been proven to reduce the risk of getting an transmitting HIV, viral hepatitis, and other bloodborne infections.
Sham Pre-existing Condition Protection Bill– SB 284, which was put forth by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, purported to protect West Virginians with pre-existing conditions in the event that the Affordable Care Act is struck down in the courts. You’ll remember that AG Morrisey has signed West Virginia onto that lawsuit and is arguing that the entire ACA should fall, including pre-existing condition protections, the Medicaid expansion, and other popular provisions of the law.
Please read Kelly’s blog post for more!
While most of the tax bills passed during the 2020 Legislative Session are awaiting the governor’s approval, most of the large tax cut proposals failed to make it across the finish line but will likely return next year.
Specifically, the legislature failed to place on the November 2020 ballot a constitutional amendment to repeal part or all of the state’s personal property taxes ($578 million) and they also stopped short of passing a bill to eventually eliminate the state’s personal income tax ($2.2 billion) by replacing it with online sales tax revenues and lottery funds.
Another bill that passed the Senate but died in the house would have reduced natural gas property taxes by an estimated $50 million per year.
Read more on the fates of the multiple tax proposals put forth by the Legislature this year in Ted’s blog post.
Improving food security outcomes for West Virginia seniors and bolstering the capacity of our food pantries marked two big policy wins advocated for by the Food For All Coalition.
HB 4447 creates the Senior Shared Table Initiative which will give more options for Senior and Community Centers when it comes to how they can use leftover food from congregate meal programs. This bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
West Virginia’s two major food banks and coalition partners, Mountaineer Food Bank and Facing Hunger Food Bank, will see an increase in their funding line item in the state budget, a major boost for food pantries across the state.
For smaller food pantries, the ability to purchase a refrigeration unit can make a big difference in the foods they can offer their communities. Making sure our larger food banks have the ability to make two deliveries each month instead of just one will make a big difference in reducing food insecurity throughout the state.
The Food For All Coalition wishes to thank Governor Jim Justice for including this commitment in his State of the State address and continuing to fight for it throughout the often-perilous budget process.
Despite these successes, there is still work to do. Legislation targeting summer hunger among West Virginia’s children once again languished in both chambers and poverty remains some of the highest in the country. Stay tuned for more coalition updates including the 2020 Food For All Coalition Summit.
With jails and prisons twenty-five percent over capacity, stretching county and state budgets, the West Virginia legislature made significant strides this session to reduce the impact the criminal justice system has on West Virginia families.
One bill that will likely impact the most people is HB 4958 which, if signed by Governor Justice, will end the practice of suspending people’s driver’s licenses for unpaid courts fines and fees. Instead of suspending driver’s licenses, which has the perverse effect of locking people in a cycle of debt and unemployment, the courts will be mandated to offer payment plans for those who cannot pay the entire sum up front.
Not only will the bill assist people who accrue fines and fees in the future, but it will retroactively allow people who are already suspended to pay a $25 fee, have their driver’s license reinstated, and enter into a payment plan with the courts where they can pay back their fines and fees at a monthly rate they can afford.
We were fortunate to work so closely with Lida Shepherd (on the WVCBP advisory committee) and Rick Wilson (on the WVCBP board) with the American Friends Service Committee as they led the Criminal Justice Reform Coalition to many legislative victories this session.
Please read more in Lida’s guest blog post.
Like many things, the coronavirus is exposing the disproportionate impacts that disease has on those with the least in our country. “Just stay home if you’re sick” is much easier said than done.
The ability to stay home when you are sick is heavily dependent on whether your employer offers paid sick leave. Across West Virginia, over 250,000 workers, nearly half of the state’s private-sector workforce, lacks paid sick days as a work benefit. These workers are generally front-line, low-wage workers, and are disproportionately people of color. Nationally, 93 percent of managers compared with just 46 percent of service workers, have paid sick leave benefits.
Our current system is almost designed to spread diseases like coronavirus. Service workers, among the least likely to have paid sick days, are also among those most likely to be impacted by the spread of communicable disease. There is no teleworking and no way to avoid people if you work in food service, child care, home health or retail. Those in service industry jobs already face low pay, few benefits, lack of health insurance and irregular schedules.
Read more in Kelly’s op-ed in this week’s Beckley Register-Herald.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy is currently seeking an operations and communications manager. The operations and communications manager is responsible for a variety of duties including special event planning, communications, and office management. This position supports work that advances public policies that improve the quality of life for all West Virginians and includes media relations, public campaigns, publication design, and website and database management. Interested candidates are encouraged to forward their resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This position has the flexibility to be part or full time depending on the applicant and the WVCBP’s needs. The WVCBP is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, or national origin.
Read full job announcement here.
Registration is open for this year’s Summer Policy Institute! Join us at Fairmont State University this July for a great weekend of policy discussion and networking!
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