Blog Posts > State of Working West Virginia 2022: A Lost Decade and a Path Forward
December 16, 2022

State of Working West Virginia 2022: A Lost Decade and a Path Forward

Prior to the pandemic, West Virginia experienced a lost decade, with essentially no economic growth from 2009 to 2019. This happened despite years of so-called business friendly policies like tax cuts, right to work, repeal of the prevailing wage, and reductions in state spending that were promised to unleash growth and move West Virginia forward. Instead, working class West Virginians were left behind as the tax system became more unfair, public services were neglected, and the promised economic growth never materialized.

Our new report, the 15th edition of the State of Working West Virginia, looks back at the past decade, examining the most prominent policies that were enacted to promote growth, their uniform failures and consequences, and the need to avoid repeating past mistakes as the state emerges from the pandemic and recession. The report was authored by WVCBP senior policy analyst, Sean O’Leary.

The failure of the tax cuts and other policies mentioned above to create promised economic growth resulted in years of forced budget cuts and led to a decade of underinvestment in our state. Indeed, West Virginia has spent years unable to adequately address current needs or make new and necessary investments. But despite the failure of the past decade and the temporary nature of West Virginia’s current budget surplus, state leaders are pushing for more of the same: tax cuts that would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, while delivering large savings to the wealthy and businesses and comparatively little to everyday West Virginians.

Instead of doubling down on previous efforts that failed to achieve their promised results, we can choose to invest in our state and our people by:

  • Addressing the consequences of four years of austerity;
  • Helping West Virginians afford family costs; and
  • Supporting workers with policies that raise wages and strengthen worker power.

“To adopt further tax cuts would be to repeat the mistakes of the past,” says O’Leary. “They would deprive the state of necessary resources to address real needs and investments, while also failing to have a significant impact on the vast majority of West Virginia households and the economy. West Virginia doesn’t need more ineffective tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthy — it needs consistent revenue to provide additional support to currently under-resourced public services.”

You can read the full report here.

Keeping West Virginia Kids and Families Covered at the End of the Public Health Emergency

In West Virginia, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are critical health programs for low- and moderate-income families and kids. Before the pandemic, about four in nine children were covered through these programs, and this robust enrollment contributes to West Virginia covering 97 percent of kids with health coverage.

Since the start of the pandemic, Medicaid has had a continuous coverage requirement in place to make sure West Virginia families remain healthy and safe through health and economic ups and downs. Once the COVID-19-related public health emergency (PHE) expires in 2023, and the continuous coverage requirement ends, tens of thousands of West Virginians risk losing coverage – some who are now eligible for other health coverage and others who face disenrollment due to paperwork barriers even though they are still eligible. Children are at particular risk of losing coverage in 2023. Because they make up nearly 40 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries in the Mountain State, coverage losses will disproportionately impact children.

Policymakers and advocates can ensure that no child or family loses health coverage altogether by smoothing transitions to other coverage for those who will no longer be eligible for Medicaid and reducing bureaucratic barriers for those still eligible.

Learn more.

REACH Initiative Helps Returning Citizens Transition Home

Last month, the WVCBP released an issue brief in partnership with Race Matters that shares important insights from returning citizens, providing a vision for reentry from the people who live it. The piece explores the myriad obstacles formerly incarcerated people face when they leave prison, as well as the policies that could meaningfully address those obstacles. One such policy is a peer reentry program, where formerly incarcerated mentors provide support and guidance to people newly released from prison or jail as they transition home.

A recent article shines a spotlight on a Charleston-based peer reentry program ran by the REACH Initiative. Excerpt below:

Amber Blankenship, peer-entry program coordinator with the REACH Initiative, said most people typically have “zero support” after their often traumatizing experiences in the criminal justice system. She added that many are also struggling with substance-use disorders.

“When they’re released, we just expect them to make all these decisions and be responsible, and it’s just, their brain has to heal,” she said. “They have to train their brain back to do that.”

Housing, health care and employment all are challenging to find for people coming home. A survey this year by Race Matters and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found nearly half of respondents said their biggest worry after leaving prison was coping with the social stigma around their conviction and incarceration.

Blankenship emphasized that the mentorship program is a starting point for creating community and healing.

“People in West Virginia are hurting, they’re broken, and they need hope,” she said. “They need another individual that has, maybe, a similar story that can build that relationship, build trust.”

Sara Whitaker, criminal legal policy analyst at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, pointed out that prison sentences aren’t served alone.

“There are obvious ways that this hurts the people who live with them and who rely on them for care,” she said, “but it’s particularly bad for children.”

She added that one in 10 West Virginia kids has had a parent go to jail or prison. Research shows most incarcerated parents in the Mountain State have one or more children younger than 18 years of age.

Read the full article here.

Read our full issue brief here.

Congress Must Prioritize Children and Families by Renewing the Child Tax Credit Expansion

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion included in last year’s American Rescue Plan Act gave millions of low-income families with children additional money in their pockets, helping them afford the rising costs of basic needs while driving child poverty down to a record low. Now that the expansion has expired, 19 million children nationwide are at risk of being pushed back into poverty or facing greater hardship if Congress doesn’t act. Our colleagues at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently released a report detailing the success of the enhanced CTC and the importance of prioritizing readoption of the expansion in the federal end-of-year spending package over tax breaks for wealthy corporations. Excerpt below:

The American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which made the full credit available to children in families with the lowest incomes for the first time, succeeded in driving child poverty sharply downward in 2021, recent Census data showed. But that expansion has expired, once again leaving an estimated 19 million children in the lowest-income families — or more than 1 in 4 children under age 17 — ineligible for the full Child Tax Credit.

The Rescue Plan’s temporary expansion of the credit — which made the full credit available to all children except those with the highest incomes, increased the maximum credit amount, and included 17-year-olds — produced historic results. The expanded credit in combination with other relief efforts drove the child poverty rate to a record low of 5.2 percent. Without the Child Tax Credit expansion (but with other pandemic relief measures in place), the child poverty rate would have been 8.1 percent.

The success of the 2021 expansion showed us that high child poverty rates are a policy choice, not an inevitability. In the congressional lame duck session, policymakers will have the opportunity once again to expand the Child Tax Credit, so that more families get help they need to afford the basics. Indeed, Congress will likely consider tax legislation during this time, as business interests are pressing for corporate tax breaks that would undo some of the modest business tax increases that were enacted as part of the 2017 tax cuts, which gave extremely large net tax cuts to corporations. Expanding the Child Tax Credit is more important than undoing a few provisions of the 2017 tax law that were used to offset some of the massive corporate tax cuts. At a minimum, policymakers should not enact any year-end corporate tax breaks without expanding the Child Tax Credit.

Making the full credit available to children in families with the lowest incomes should be the priority in year-end tax legislation because they stand to benefit the most from an expanded credit. Living in a family with income below the poverty line as a child is associated with lower levels of educational attainment, poorer health in adulthood, and lower earnings. But research also finds that providing families with low incomes additional income significantly improves children’s long-term health and school performance, making it more likely they will finish high school and attend college and earn more as adults.

Without an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (and with the expiration of various other relief measures), child poverty is likely to return to about the same level as it was pre-pandemic — pushing millions of children back into poverty.

The stakes are high. Policymakers can expand the Child Tax Credit, or they can fail to act and see the Rescue Plan’s historic gains against child poverty evaporate. During year-end deliberations, they should choose on a bipartisan basis to expand the Child Tax Credit for children in families with low incomes.

Read CBPP’s full report.

Join the WVCBP at Our 10th Annual Budget Breakfast!

As the 2023 legislative session approach, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy staff would like to invite you to join us at our 10th annual Budget Breakfast, taking place on January 20, 2023.

Each year, the WVCBP holds this event to provide analysis of the Governor’s proposed budget. You’ll hear from our executive director, Kelly Allen, our senior policy analyst, Sean O’Leary, and our chosen keynote speaker, to be announced closer to the event.

Please find further event details below. You can register for the event here.

WHAT: WVCBP’s 10th Annual Budget Breakfast

WHEN: January 20, 2023. Breakfast will be available starting at 7:30am. The WVCBP’s analysis of the Governor’s 2024 proposed budget will begin at 8am, followed by keynote speaker presentation and time for Q&A. 

WHERE: Charleston Marriott Town Center (200 Lee Street East, Charleston, WV 25301)


  • Kelly Allen, WVCBP executive director
  • Sean O’Leary, WVCBP senior policy analyst
  • Keynote Speaker: Michael Leachman, Vice President for State Fiscal Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

PLEASE NOTE: The cost of a single standard ticket is $50, but if you take advantage of our Early Bird Special (available to all who register by 12/31/22), you will receive $10 off.

We appreciate your ongoing support of the WVCBP and we hope you can join us at next year’s event!

Share Your Medicaid Experience with Us!

The WVCBP’s Elevating the Medicaid Enrollment Experience (EMEE) Voices Project seeks to collect stories from West Virginians who have struggled to access Medicaid across the state. Being conducted in partnership with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, EMEE Voices will gather insight to inform which Medicaid barriers are most pertinent to West Virginians, specifically people of color.

Do you have a Medicaid experience to share? We’d appreciate your insight. Just fill out the contact form on this webpage and we’ll reach out to you soon. We look forward to learning from you! 

You can watch WVCBP’s health policy analyst Rhonda Rogombé and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care’s Mariah Plante further break down the project and its goals in this FB Live.

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