In mid-March, at the same time that schools and businesses across the state were being closed due to COVID-19, households also began receiving invitations in the mail to complete the 2020 Census. As one could imagine, the timing was not ideal. For families scrambling to find child care solutions, put food on the table, and access unemployment insurance benefits, filling out the census was not at the top of the priority list.
But the census is no less important than usual this year. In fact, the public health and economic crisis that is likely driving our state’s low response rate is also an example of why the census is so critically important for every West Virginian. The census helps determine the share of federal dollars that West Virginia will receive to build and maintain roads, pay for schools, fund health care and food security of our residents, and so much more. The Census count also determines how much political representation our communities receive, and our elected officials are our voices and our advocates in times of crisis.
West Virginia is 49th in Census participation, with only Alaska lagging more. It is important that our state have an accurate count or we will lose vital federal funding for our schools, Medicaid, and safety net programs like SNAP. Few states rely on these programs more heavily than West Virginia.
Ensuring you are counted is easy:
Take the Census – Use your ID number from your official Census mailing. If you don’t have one, you can still fill out the online survey for your household. Other options include mailing in your Census questionnaire or taking it by phone at 844-330-2020.
Call or text 10 friends and family members and remind them to do the same.
Share on social media that you did it! Post to our state grassroots coalition page – Count Me in WV Coalition and use the hashtag #CountMeinWV.
Read more in Kelly’s blog post.
Over the past several weeks, Congress has passed three major bills in response to the coronavirus crisis: the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act which provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which provided for paid sick leave, insurance coverage of coronavirus testing, nutrition assistance, and unemployment benefits, and the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which provided direct assistance to individuals and families, expanded and supplemented unemployment insurance, provided business assistance, and fiscal relief to state and local governments.
But is it enough? Read more in Sean’s blog post.
If you have been impacted by incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’d like to hear from you. Please consider filling out this survey to help our Criminal Justice Reform coalition better understand what’s happening in our state’s prisons and jails and to advocate for reductions in our state’s jail population.
This week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report outlining the additional relief that state and local governments need to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, absorb increased program costs, and avoid sharp spending cuts that would deepen and prolong a recession.
West Virginia lawmakers are eyeing federal relief money to fill a projected $500 million budget gap that is expected by June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year. While over $1 billion is slated for West Virginia, as the pandemic continues with no certainty as to when businesses can reopen, it likely will not be enough.
WV Food ER is raising funds to help our neighbors around the state. If you can spare a couple of dollars, please consider donating. The project has delivered food and needed items to West Virginia families for the past few weeks all over West Virginia thanks to some amazing volunteers and neighbors. You can donate and learn more 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!
Note: We are closely monitoring public health best practices around COVID 19. For now, we plan to host the Summer Policy Institute in-person in July, so please do register if you are interested in attending. As the situation develops and evolves, we will keep you posted and reevaluate, if needed.
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