More than five months after the declaration of a national emergency due to COVID-19, legitimate concern is growing that the burden placed on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to comply with the excessive paperwork needed to maintain their food assistance benefits could be heightening food insecurity in West Virginia.
Last spring, West Virginia applied and was granted waivers from USDA to keep SNAP households automatically connected to their benefits from April through June 2020 without need for review or additional applications. These waivers were critical in helping to reduce the significant administrative burden on DHHR, thus providing the agency more bandwidth to focus on adapting operations to socially distant practices while it saw significant increases in SNAP applications in the weeks and months following the declaration of the national emergency.
Despite food insecurity rates that remain alarmingly high, with the June 30 expiration of West Virginia’s waiver, many families relying on SNAP benefits were forced to return to navigating an already overburdened system to prove that they still qualify for SNAP benefits.
Read Seth’s full blog post.
Over a month after the $600/week boost to unemployment insurance (UI) expired, West Virginia has been approved for funding of the federal enhanced UI benefit of $300/week created by Trump’s executive action. Including the additional $100/week that the state will contribute, the Lost Wages Supplement comes out to just $400/week.
Our senior policy analyst Sean O’Leary was interviewed last week regarding the sufficiency of this supplement. He stated:
“Not only is the Lost Wages Supplement providing smaller benefits to workers, the $68 million grant West Virginia has received is only enough to provide benefits for three to four weeks at best.
“The $400/week Lost Wages Supplement is an inadequate replacement for the $600 in emergency unemployment benefits that more than 60,000 West Virginians were receiving until the program expired last month.”
Read the full article here.
The expiration of the CARES Act’s $600/week unemployment insurance (UI) benefit has led to incalculable struggle and loss for many. Approximately 15,000 West Virginians who are unemployed due to COVID have a UI benefit of less than $100/week and are excluded from the President’s Lost Wages Assistance Program. If you are one of them, we want to hear from you about how this is impacting your life.
Our people deserve better. We are collecting stories to share with media and lawmakers to advocate for a robust Congressional COVID relief package, and we welcome you to join us in this effort.
Learn more and share your experiences with us here.
Despite ongoing pressure, Gov. Justice has yet to agree to use a portion of the $1.25 billion in West Virginia’s CARES Act funds to help schools reopen safely or provide computer and internet access to those students who will be starting classes remotely.
A Huntington Herald-Dispatch article states:
“Justice plans to put over half of the $1.25 billion toward an Unemployment Fund that the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy says isn’t actually an immediate concern, unlike opening schools. The governor is putting $50 million toward highway projects.
“Since July 20, announcements and revelations seem to indicate that schools – opening a week from now – do, in fact, need more money. How much more is unclear, but county school systems are currently forgoing safety measures and educational and support services.”
Our schools simply do not have the necessary resources to provide safe and effective learning environments for our students without additional support from our state government.
Read the full article here.
ReImagine Appalachia is a broad and inclusive coalition of individuals and organizations that was born out of a broad recognition that the economy has not been working for most people and places in the Ohio River Valley.
Join us for a brainstorming session on how a revived Civilian Conservation Corps, as part of climate change legislation or a green new deal, could be designed to meet the needs of people ensnared in our criminal justice system.
In addition to the Civilian Conservation Corps, the town hall will touch on topics such as regenerative agriculture practices, collateral sanctions, and economic recovery through inclusive green job opportunities, as well as provide a platform for individuals to share their personal stories dealing with the criminal justice system.
This free event will take place on Monday, Sep. 14 from 6-7:30pm EST.
Learn more and register here.
Waging Change is a documentary shining a light on an American struggle hidden in plain sight: the women-led movement to end the federal tipped minimum wage for restaurant workers.
It weaves together the stories of workers struggling to make ends meet with the efforts of Saru Jayaraman and others at One Fair Wage. Together they face off against the powerful National Restaurant Association lobby and fight for just pay.
for this free screening and live panel discussion on Thursday, Sep. 10. Hear from those on the frontlines of the movement to end the unjust two-tiered wage system and learn how you can get involved.
Watch the trailer here.
Learn more and register for the event here.
Are you tired of struggling — or watching friends and family struggle — to get lifesaving health care? Do you think health care is a human right? Do you agree that West Virginians deserve better? We do and we need your help.
Please join us to hear from expert panelists; learn about the Health for All campaign, our three big victories so far this year, and the changes we believe we can win together in 2021; and tell us how you think we can improve.
You can register here. We value your input and would love to see you there!
This summit seeks to “discuss race in a comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate manner designed to build the Beloved Community in West Virginia.” It kicked off to an incredible start last month, and we encourage you to keep engaging in this conversation and join us for this month’s session, which focuses on criminal justice and features keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine and the creator of the landmark 1619 Project.
This free event will take place on September 10 at 4pm ET. Register 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.
We have a great newsletter, join below: