Blog Posts > The Case Against Austerity: Why Protecting Investments in West Virginia Families and Communities is Key to COVID-19 Recovery
December 18, 2020

The Case Against Austerity: Why Protecting Investments in West Virginia Families and Communities is Key to COVID-19 Recovery

As Gov. Justice and legislative leaders signal desire to implement new tax cuts during the upcoming legislative session, our new issue brief explains how such cuts would harm West Virginia’s economic recovery and benefit the wealthy at the expense of all others.

Decades of research and West Virginia’s own experience show that cutting taxes will lead to budget cuts, which during a recession will delay the state’s recovery. West Virginia’s twin problems of looming deficits and stalling recovery are not a signal for more tax cuts. Instead, they call for the generation of new revenue to protect the economy-boosting jobs and investments that keep money flowing to workers, families, and communities.

Key findings:

  • Months into the COVID-19 pandemic recession, West Virginia is down tens of thousands of jobs and tens of millions in tax revenue.
  • Even before the pandemic, West Virginia was facing structural revenue challenges and significant budget shortfalls in the years ahead.
  • Experience shows that budget cuts will only slow down the state’s recovery, hurting families and making the recession worse.
  • Experience also shows that more tax cuts will fail to produce growth, and in fact will lead to budget cuts that will further harm the economy.
  • The pandemic recession has disproportionately impacted low-income workers, while high-income earners have nearly fully recovered.
  • By abstaining from ineffective tax cuts, and instead raising the revenue necessary to prevent harmful budget cuts, West Virginia can keep money flowing to families and communities, and recover faster, benefiting residents and businesses.

Read Sean’s full issue brief.

School Enrollment is Falling During the Pandemic, Which May Lead to Budget Cuts

Statewide enrollment in West Virginia’s public schools fell by 9,300 students this past year, as states across the country are seeing declining school enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Declining enrollment could mean budget cuts for school districts, even as schools struggle with the extra costs of improving remote learning offerings and adopting safety procedures that allow buildings to open for in-person classes.

Like in many states, state funding for public K-12 education in West Virginia is based, in part, on enrollment. Fewer students means less state funding through the school aid formula, which could mean laying off employees and moving children to different classrooms, causing even more instability during a time when children are desperately seeking routine and reassurance.

According to estimates from West Virginia’s Department of Education, the drop in enrollment this past year could mean a $42.7 million funding cut through the school aid formula.

Read Sean’s full blog post.

Tax Plan Would Hurt Those Still Reeling from Pandemic

WVCBP executive director Kelly Allen’s recent op-ed was featured in the Charleston Gazette-Mail last Friday. Check out an excerpt below.

Since the pandemic began, America’s billionaires have grown their wealth by a staggering $1 trillion. At the same time, families in West Virginia and across the country are facing increasing hardship and difficulty meeting their basic needs as the health and economic effects of COVID-19 drag on.

In November, 27% of all West Virginia households, and 45% of households with children, reported difficulty paying for basic household expenses.

In addition to longstanding poverty and need in West Virginia, the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on low-wage workers. Those making less than $27,000 a year were much more likely to lose their jobs than those making over $60,000 a year earlier this spring. And now low-wage workers (those making $27,000 or less per year) are the least likely to have seen their jobs return.

While those making $60,000 or more are almost back to where they were pre-pandemic, low-wage jobs are still down by 11%. This unequal or “K-shaped” recovery could worsen income inequality — the gap between the rich and everyone else — if state and federal policymakers don’t adequately respond to the crisis.

In the coming months, we must focus on helping communities and families emerge from the crisis by reducing inequality at a time when the rich are thriving while most others are suffering.

Read Kelly’s full op-ed.

Urge Governor Justice to Spend CARES Act Funding on Immediate Needs of Our People

In March, the U.S. Congress and President Trump passed the CARES Act, which provided Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to states to help address the health and economic costs of COVID-19. West Virginia received $1.25 billion in April, of which over $750 million is allocated but remains unspent. Under federal treasury guidance, the funds must be used to cover costs that are necessary expenditures due to the public health emergency, not accounted for in state budgets, and incurred during a period between March 1 and December 30, 2020. This means that West Virginia has half of a month to spend over $750 million in a way that targets remaining funds to those West Virginians who need them the most.

The remaining allocated but unspent CARES Act funds represent a significant opportunity to address the extreme hardship present throughout the state. It has now been months since federal unemployment support expired. In a recent survey,42 percent of West Virginia households with children reported having difficulty paying for basic household expenses.

“Economic security is part of our public health defense. In response to spiking COVID cases, we should be utilizing our remaining CARES funds to ensure that families are safe, housed, and fed, and that they don’t have to risk eviction or utility shutoffs,” said WVCBP executive director Kelly Allen in a recent article on the topic.

Take action today and join 30+ organizations urging Governor Justice to support the People’s Proposal to help West Virginians by providing rental and utility assistance, support for child care centers and parents with child care needs, increased payments to unemployed workers, food and transportation assistance, and more. 

Read the full People’s Proposal here.

Sign our petition here.

You can also call Gov. Justice and urge him to extend utility relief and allow households to apply for relief funds to cover August – December bills at 304-558-2000.

Crucial Harm-Reduction Effort Forced to Temporarily Pause in Charleston

Solutions Oriented Addiction Response (SOAR) WV
 is a volunteer-run harm reduction group working to promote the health, dignity, and voices of people who are impacted by drug use. One piece of their work involves distributing clean syringes to people who inject drugs in the effort to prevent the spread of disease, such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

To the detriment of the community, the group’s crucial syringe distribution work has been forced to temporarily pause after local police claimed they were violating a municipal ordinance. This claim is highly disputed, with some legal experts arguing that the ordinance does not in fact prohibit syringe distribution without a license.

Decreases in access to clean syringes lead to heightened risk of transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. And while one currently certified harm-reduction program does already exist in Charleston, experts say that the program has requirements in place that “contradict best practices and reduce participation.”

From a recent Mountain State Spotlight article exploring the topic:

Mountain State Spotlight contacted 21 experts across the country working in fields including epidemiology, public health and specializing in substance use disorder. Not one said the current certified program in Kanawha County is meeting the need for clean syringes.”

WVCBP supports the people-centered and evidence-based work done by SOAR.

Read more about the halt to syringe distribution services and its impact here and here.

Learn more about how harm reduction efforts serve as a both a compassionate and economic response to drug use from our recent blog here.

Executive Director Opening at Our Future West Virginia

WVCBP has long partnered with Our Future West Virginia in the ongoing effort to advance the well-being of all West Virginia communities. If you’re looking to have a leading role in this fight, consider applying for their executive director position. Details below.

Our Future West Virginia (OFWV), is a non profit organization based in Charleston. We work across the state on four main initiatives:

  • Economic justice
  • Educational justice
  • Racial justice
  • Civic engagement

 The Executive Director’s main job is to build power alongside West Virginia families to win local and statewide social change. 

Qualified candidates will have excellent skills in community engagement, fundraising, management and communication skills.

Find the full job posting here.

Coming in January: West Virginia Criminal Justice Reform Summit – Poverty and the Criminal Justice System

Save the dates!

The West Virginia Criminal Justice Reform Summit, being held Jan. 27 – 30, will explore the system from start to finish, from pre-arrest to re-entry. Through informative speaker sessions, the summit will engage directly impacted people and a variety of other experts to explore the connections between poverty and the criminal legal system. The summit will also offer skill-building workshops on how we advance nonpartisan policies to reduce mass incarceration and promote public safety.

This summit is being hosted by the West Virginia Criminal Law Reform Coalition, of which WVCBP is a proud member.

Check out the Facebook event for further details and registration to come.

Register for WVCBP’s 2021 Budget Breakfast

Join us for our 8th annual Budget Breakfast! 

Due to COVID-19 considerations, this year’s event will be held virtually via Zoom.

WVCBP’s analysis of the Governor’s 2022 proposed budget will start at 8:00am, followed by keynote panel presentation and time for Q&A. 

Our keynote panelists, Rep. Don Hineman and Duane Goossen, will highlight the failed Brownback tax experiment in Kansas and why West Virginia lawmakers should avoid going down the same path. Don Hineman is a Republican member of the Kansas House of Representatives, representing the 118th District. He has served since 2009. He was the Majority leader from 2017 to 2019. Duane Goossen is the former Kansas Secretary of Administration and the Director of the Kansas Division of the Budget. Goossen has served as the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration since 2004 and Director of the Kansas Division of the Budget since 1998. Goossen also served in the Kansas House of Representatives 1983 to 1997.

While attendees are welcome to join the webinar at no cost, we hope you will consider supporting the WVCBP’s work and contributing to our annual fundraiser by donating the usual cost of an in-person ticket ($40 before the end of year or $50 beginning Jan. 1, 2021).

Register here.

We hope to see you there!

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