Since the end of March, when unemployed West Virginians began receiving Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) payments – the $600 per week enhancement to unemployment benefits that were part of the CARES Act – West Virginia has received at least $753 million through the federally funded program.
However, that aid is set to expire at the end of this month, despite continued weakness in the economy and increasing cases of COVID-19. Without an extension of the PUC benefits from Congress, thousands of West Virginia families will be harmed and the state’s fragile economic recovery will be threatened.
Read Sean’s full blog post.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. The bill is a comprehensive infrastructure package that includes public money for broadband, water systems, renewable energy investments, and two critical components that would support well-paying jobs and the revitalization of coalfield communities across the country- the RECLAIM Act and the reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Fund.
The RECLAIM Act would release $1.6 billion from the AML 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. Meanwhile, renewal of the AML Fund would ensure that funding for valuable reclamation jobs stays consistent for years to come.
The historical economic and environmental problems brought about through extractive boom and bust industries will not be undone overnight. It will take significant up-front investment in the people and communities directly impacted by generations of coal mining. The RECLAIM Act and renewal of the AML Fund are the most logical starting points to provide coalfield communities with agency regarding their future economies and personal health outcomes. The United States Senate should pass both now.
Read Seth’s full blog post.
Urge your senators to pass the RECLAIM Act here.
Check out Kelly’s timely op-ed exploring how West Virginia’s CARES Act dollars can be strategically spent to target spaces facing immediate funding crises.
She was featured this week in the Beckley Register-Herald:
“Across our state, West Virginians are continuing to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. Food insecurity is spiking, families are facing eviction from their homes because they can’t afford rent, parents are struggling to balance child care and work, and officials are scrambling to figure out how schools can safely reopen in the fall.
“Black West Virginians and other residents of color face higher rates of infection and serious illness due to longstanding structural health and economic inequities. On top of it all, community spread is on the rise, with West Virginia seeing record new daily infection rates in the month of July.
“Fortunately, the state has a real opportunity to address many of these issues by targeting CARES Act funding to where it is needed most urgently.”
Read the full piece here.
Every 10 years after the decennial census, West Virginia, like every state, redraws its electoral districts in a process known as redistricting. While this process will take place once again after the upcoming census, 2020 redistricting will look a bit different in West Virginia.
West Virginia is one of the few states with multi-member districts for its state legislature. However, with the passage of House Bill 4002 in 2018, West Virginia will no longer have multi-member districts in the House of Delegates. This means that the current 67 House districts will increase to 100.
Redistricting for the House of Delegates will also be impacted by population shifts over the past 10 years. In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. Sims that state electoral districts must all contain approximately the same number of people, establishing what would become known as “one person, one vote.” As such, population shifts over the past decade will result in some areas of West Virginia obtaining more political representation in the House of Delegates while other regions lose seats.
Read Ryan’s full blog post and find the interactive population change map here.
Last week, we joined dozens of organizations across the state to submit a letter formally requesting that West Virginia’s Capitol Building Commission remove a statue of Stonewall Jackson– former Confederate general– from the Capitol grounds.
This request follows Kanawha County Board of Education’s decision last Monday to change the name of Stonewall Jackson Middle School. Throughout the country, calls are being made to end the glorification of Confederate figures.
While we recognize that symbolic gestures are only small steps in the ongoing fight for racial justice, they are necessary ones. We will continue to push for policies that work to translate these symbolic actions into tangible change for West Virginia’s Black community and our broader community of color.
Read more about our request here.
Read about an important update on the statue removal process here.
You can find our livestream here on Tuesday, July 21 at 6PM. See you there!
The next few weeks are critical for West Virginia. Please join us in urging Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin to continue their support of West Virginia’s workers and families during the COVID-19 crisis and throughout our economic recovery.
Sign the petition here.
The Center is proud to support this series diving into important dialogues that are too often neglected in our state. Join us and register here.
For more information on the impact of the pandemic on West Virginia’s economy, safety net, unemployment resources, and more, please visit our special website page.
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