As state and local officials finalize plans for children to resume learning in the coming days, a major concern for families is how parents are supposed to balance changes to the traditional school format with their work obligations. Federal COVID-relief packages passed earlier this year provide a bit of help for some families, but the fact remains that working parents, particularly low-income parents and parents of color who are more likely to work in essential frontline jobs and less likely to be able to telework, are in a difficult position with far too few resources.
While paid leave and unemployment benefits may be available to some parents who are struggling to balance child care and work, there is far too little support available overall. Most of the federal COVID-relief provisions passed in the spring to help families have expired, including expanded unemployment benefits, $1,200 stimulus payments, and the federal eviction moratorium. Meanwhile the US Senate has adjourned until after Labor Day, just as parents are struggling to come up with workable back-to-school plans.
Further, this pandemic has only exacerbated long-standing issues that working parents face. Enacting a permanent paid family and medical leave program, ensuring fair scheduling, investing in our state’s child care infrastructure, and making sure families earn a living wage, would improve racial equity and ensure that families can more easily balance work and life going forward.
Read Kelly’s full blog post.
West Virginia’s economy added only 200 jobs in July, according to the monthly jobs report from Workforce WV, after adding 35,600 in June. West Virginia’s overall jobs picture has been heavily skewed the past two months due to the temporary hiring of poll workers for June’s primary election. Government jobs increased by 11,200 in June, followed by a loss of 5,500 in July. However, looking at the private sector alone, West Virginia is showing signs of a significant stagnation in the recovery of its job losses suffered early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report from Workforce WV also showed that the state’s unemployment rate, which is calculated in a different survey from the jobs report, dropped from 10.5 percent in June to 9.9 percent in July. However, this decline can mostly be attributed to workers leaving the labor force, not unemployed workers finding jobs.
The July downturn in jobs recovery happened just as the boosted $600 per week unemployment benefit known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) expired for West Virginians receiving jobless benefits. Over the last several months, the enhanced benefit has helped to boost consumer spending, prop up the state budget and enable tens of thousands of out-of-work West Virginians to make ends meet. The fact that the economy is still in such a deep hole, and showing signs of slowing down, makes it more urgent than ever that an adequate and comprehensive relief package passes Congress.
Read Sean’s full blog post.
As jails remain overcrowded and at high risk of COVID-19 outbreak, the West Virginia Criminal Law Reform coalition sent out a press release this week calling on key actors to use the full force of a new bail law to reduce the number of people incarcerated.
57 percent of West Virginia’s jail population are pre-trial defendants who have not been convicted of a crime.
“The bill provides a presumption of release for a person charged with a non-violent misdemeanor or felony offense unless good cause is shown that the person should not be released or when the person is charged with a more serious offense as outlined in the legislation, for example crimes involving a child or a deadly weapon.”
“‘As West Virginians, we look out for one another,’ says Lida Shepherd with American Friends Service Committee, ‘and a COVID-19 outbreak anywhere undermines our state’s ability to reduce community spread. A person should not be put at greater risk of exposure to the virus because they are too poor to afford bail. From both a public health and moral perspective, we implore our state’s judges and prosecutors to use every alternative to incarceration.'”
Read the full press release here.
Read our board member Rick Wilson’s related op-ed on jail overcrowding and the adverse and biased impact of the cash-bail system here.
With West Virginia schools scheduled to begin in-person classes on September 8, the Our Students First Coalition held a demonstration and press conference last week calling for the school year to begin remotely in order to prioritize student and staff safety.
This demand was just one of a series of recommendations the coalition released regarding measures both to increase the effectiveness of virtual learning and to ensure a safe return to in-person schooling.
Find the recommendations in their entirety here:
Learn more about the coalition’s demonstration here:
As a result of the Trump administration’s decision to cut the collection of 2020 census data short, the self-response deadline to complete the census in West Virginia is now September 30.
From reduced FMAP and CRF funding to lost congressional seats and business opportunities, an incomplete and inaccurate census will have a harmful impact on our state.
A recent article dove into just how damaging this impact will be:
“…unless the deadline for the census is extended, West Virginia stands to lose millions of dollars in federal funding every year until the 2030 census is complete.”
As of August 4, the national census response rate was 62.9% and the response rate in West Virginia was only 54.6%.
If you have not done so already, please make sure that you and those in your household are included. Each person accounted for means more funding for much-needed public services!
You can complete the census online here.
The Senate-proposed HEALS Act and Trump’s executive orders fail to include the much-needed 15 percent increase in the maximum SNAP benefit for all households. As Congress resumes negotiations for the next federal package, it is imperative that policymakers include this essential boost to SNAP.
The number of people struggling to put food on the table has increased dramatically as a result of the pandemic and recession, particularly in households with children.
SNAP is America’s most successful anti-hunger program. It has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms available both to reach low-income households and to provide counter-cyclical help in recessions. The modest boost described above would help millions of American families, resulting in about $25 more per person per month.
Watch the video below to learn more about why SNAP matters now more than ever.
West Virginia’s coal-impacted communities have been heavily burdened with economic, environmental, and public health problems as a result of the mining industry. The RECLAIM Act would release $1.6 billion from the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund to jumpstart the reclamation of mine land abandoned before 1976. In West Virginia, the RECLAIM Act would make available approximately $200 million over five years to support reclamation projects that would work to clean up our communities.
Urge your senators to pass the RECLAIM Act here.
The President’s recent executive actions leave out too many critical needs faced by West Virginia’s public servants. The actions don’t protect public service jobs and they don’t address the crisis that parents are facing by failing to include funding to safely reopen school and child care centers.
Only Congress can enact a package that meets the needs of public employees and the infrastructure that makes our cities, states and country run effectively.
Tell Senators Capito and Manchin to urge their Congressional colleagues to take action now.
Sign the petition here.