Last week, the WV Center on Budget and Policy held our fourth annual Summer Policy Institute, which gathered over 40 students from around the state to strengthen their policy knowledge and network with policy professionals. This year’s SPI was held at West Virginia State University in Institute, West Virginia, with a theme of criminal justice reform.
We kicked things off with a welcome from WVSU’s incredible President, Dr. Anthony Jenkins. From there, attendees participated in “101 sessions” presented by WVCBP staff, to learn about the state budget, utilizing data, and the legislative process.
Representatives from the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia were on site to guide us through a reentry simulation, which had each participant assume the life of an ex-offender and attempt to navigate the first month of post-release life. The simulation replicates the challenges faced by individuals transitioning from incarceration back into society, and it was a powerful and eye-opening experience for attendees. It also set the tone for the weekend and served as a reminder as to why criminal justice reform is so necessary.
On day two of SPI, we held a panel discussion on ending mass incarceration in West Virginia with Gabrielle Chapman of the CARE Coalition, Rayna Momen of the WVCBP, Lida Shepherd of AFSC, and Loree Stark of the ACLU of WV.
Other sessions covered the drastic increase in female incarceration in West Virginia, restorative justice with Reverend Ron English, and message framing with Dr. Lauri Andress. Read more in this Charleston Gazette-Mail article.
Our keynote speaker was Michael Mitchell from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC. He presented on Structural Racism and Tax Policy, and students were able to participate in a gallery walk, highlighting state tax policy decisions throughout history that deepened the challenges faced by people of color and often sustained white dominance.
Throughout the weekend, participants worked in teams to develop their own policy proposals related to criminal justice reform. They were tasked with thinking through the issue, cost, politics, and potential unintended consequences of their ideas and ultimately came up with a detailed policy proposal. On the final day of SPI, each group pitched their idea to a group of judges including state legislators, policy professionals, and advocates.
The group with the most highly rated policy proposal pitched a plan for increasing access to higher education for individuals who are in state prisons. They will receive a $500 mini-grant and coaching from WVCBP staff to help turn their proposal into a reality! Other policy pitches included bail reform, sentencing reforms, reducing the number of women in incarceration, and many more.
Overall, it was an informative and uplifting 2 ½ days. With young people like these, West Virginia’s future is in good hands.
Proposals to force people who do not report a set number of hours worked per month would cause thousands of West Virginians to lose their Medicaid health coverage. The vast majority would become uninsured. This would lead to poorer health outcomes, more financial insecurity for low-income people, and reduced revenues for hospitals while raising health care costs for everyone because of increased emergency room visits and hospitalization. Arkansas is the only state to implement a Medicaid work requirement and over 18,000 people (or about a quarter of those subject to the requirement) lost coverage in six months. Most became uninsured.
Read more in our report released this week.
Save the date for the 2nd annual Food For All Conference taking place October 10 in Summersville, WV.
The Food For All Conference is a one-day summit for those fighting against hunger and food insecurity in West Virginia and an opportunity to work together towards bold ideas that secures food access and equity for our communities.
Registration is now open!
Earlier this week the Trump Administration proposed changes in a key SNAP (food stamps) rule which, if implemented, would take away basic food assistance from an estimated 3.1 million people, mainly working families with children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. The proposed rule would make it harder for struggling people to make ends meet. It comes in the aftermath of the President’s 2017 tax law, which conferred large new benefits on the highest-income households. The rule would also sidestep Congress, which rejected a similar harmful proposal when it enacted the 2018 Farm Bill.
Comment in opposition to this proposed rule today. Comments are due by September 23.
A new Trump administration proposal would change the civil rights rules dictating whether providers must care for patients who are transgender or have had an abortion. Fundamentally, the proposed rule would overturn a previous rule that forbids health care providers who receive federal funding from discriminating against patients on the basis of their gender identity or whether they have terminated a pregnancy.
The proposal would eliminate those protections, enabling providers to deny these groups care or insurance coverage without having to pay a fine or suffer other federal consequences.
That may mean refusing a transgender patient mental health care or gender-confirming surgery. But it may also mean denying patients care that has nothing to do with gender identity, such as a regular office visit for a bad cold or ongoing treatment for chronic conditions like diabetes. Erasing these protections from discrimination on the basis of gender identity is not only discriminatory but against the public health and the mission of HHS.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed a rule that allows consumers to be subject to a new level of harassment by debt collectors. Once again, the current CFPB is siding with abusive debt collectors instead of protecting consumers.
Let your voice be heard! Submit a comment to the CFPB and tell them to promote fair debt collection practices and protect consumers from abuse. Comments are due by August 19.