To our readers: This week’s issue of Budget Beat focuses heavily on the subject consuming all of us right now. While we take our usual policy-driven approach to the Coronavirus in these articles, please know that we all are keeping you and your loved ones in our thoughts, and hope that you all stay safe and well during these unchartered times.
WVCBP Staff and Board
West Virginia faces unique challenges in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, namely an at-risk population for serious illness and complications. This is due to the state’s aging population and large percentage of residents with chronic health conditions. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis put West Virginia at the highest percentage in the nation of adults at risk of serious illness from COVID-19: over 50 percent.
Despite the risks that our population faces, West Virginia has very few resources to provide diagnostic testing for the virus. According to the state’s public health commissioner, we currently have the resources to perform about 500 tests statewide. Our state has not been a priority to receive testing kits because our lack of current positive diagnoses, which puts us in a resource catch 22. We won’t be prioritized until we have more positive cases, but we can’t diagnose positive cases without access to tests. As of March 17, West Virginia has tested 136 residents, or 0.0076% of our state’s population.
Read more in Kelly’s blog post.
The Coronavirus is an unwelcome reminder of the failings of our safety net and its inadequacies to protect people not only during national emergencies but also in regular day-to-day life.
This week, this op-ed ran in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, co-signed by many of our coalition partners, to lay out just what needs to be done for today, and for the future, to ensure the health and well being of West Virginians.
The daily lives of West Virginians have already been impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak, with schools bars, restaurants, casinos, gyms, salon and other facilities ordered to be closed. The federal government is recommending to avoid groups of more than 10 people, and to practice “social distancing.”
All of this means there is much less economic activity going on than normal, to the point where we may already be in a recession. According to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, the country is likely to lose 3 million jobs this summer, even with a moderate fiscal stimulus. That would be the equivalent of 14,000 jobs lost in West Virginia, in just a few months.
To put that job loss in perspective, West Virginia lost about 22,000 jobs during the 2009 recession, but those losses happened over a period of 15 months. The impact from the coronavirus would be nearly as large in a fraction of the time.
Read Sean’s blog post for more on proactive policies that can be taken to lessen the pandemic’s impact on West Virginia workers and their families.
***UPDATE*** A new state by state analysis from the Economic Policy Institute shows that West Virginia could lose 24,255 jobs by the summer, or 4.3% of total private sector employment.
Governor Justice signed the FY 2021 budget last week, after the budget was completed before the end of the session. While there was some back and forth between the House and Senate versions of the budget, the final budget saw only small changes from the Governor’s proposal.
As noted before, several tax bills passed the legislature that required offsetting changes to the budget, as well as bills requiring new spending. The governor also made adjustments to the contributions to the Teachers’ and Public Employee Retirement Systems, freeing up $20.5 million.
Altogether, the final FY 2021 budget was $10.5 million less than the governor’s original proposal, and $61.4 million below the FY 2020 budget.
Read more in Sean’s blog post.
During this time of isolation, it’s important to stay connected any way we can so we wanted to share what we feel is an worthy piece of information.
Here is a staff recommendation on a recent publication with some helpful insights on what is facing us as a state, a nation, and a planet. From the Medium.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy is currently seeking an operations and communications manager. The operations and communications manager is responsible for a variety of duties including special event planning, communications, and office management. This position supports work that advances public policies that improve the quality of life for all West Virginians and includes media relations, public campaigns, publication design, and website and database management. Interested candidates are encouraged to forward their resumes to email@example.com.
This position has the flexibility to be part or full time depending on the applicant and the WVCBP’s needs. The WVCBP is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, or national origin.
Read full job announcement 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!
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