The health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have had profound consequences for West Virginia families and communities, and structural and longstanding health and poverty challenges have been magnified. Before the crisis, West Virginia had the fourth highest poverty rate in the country and among the worst health outcomes and indicators. This made our population more vulnerable to the virus itself and to economic ruin given interruptions in income, food availability, and social programs.
You can access the full report here.
Fortunately, charitable organizations and nonprofits throughout the state have a long history of getting food into communities, providing social and economic supports for families and children, and addressing housing needs. Additionally, the robust state and federal government response throughout 2020 provided many families with the lifelines needed to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.
Through funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Benedum Foundation, 16 West Virginia organizations were able to supplement their normal operations when the pandemic spiked the level of need in communities around the state. Grantees served over 50,000 West Virginians, providing critical food resources, rental and housing assistance, child advocacy services, and case management.
While this project has concluded, the impacts of the pandemic in West Virginia are far from over. The state has seen a divergence in its jobs recovery, with high-wage earners almost fully recovered, while low-wage earners are still facing major job losses. Additionally, the virus itself is having a disparate impact, hitting communities of color and low-wage workers who are often in jobs that do not allow physical distancing the hardest. In the most optimistic scenario, West Virginia won’t be back to where it was pre-pandemic until the end of 2022. And that baseline was not one that left most West Virginians economically secure. Without continued focus on the people in our state from charitable and philanthropic organizations and state and federal policy that recognizes that the impacts are ongoing, our state could see worsening economic and racial inequality.
This report reviews the scope of impacts of both the pandemic and the policy response in West Virginia, highlighting available data on food, housing, and economic security and how state and federal policy has been critical in addressing the need. Even with policy interventions, given structural challenges in West Virginia like its rural nature, lack of transportation, and limited broadband access, the work of the grantees in
making West Virginians aware of policy changes and filling in where need remained was absolutely critical.
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