CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials today for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.
REVENUE SURPLUS PROJECTED FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020 IN WEST VIRGINIA, DESPITE EFFECTS OF PANDEMIC
During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that he and state revenue experts now expect another historic revenue surplus in West Virginia when the books close on Fiscal Year 2020, despite the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the state’s economy.
The projected surplus comes in the face of long odds.
After setting the all-time state record for revenue growth in FY2019, those surpluses were built into initial budget estimates for FY2020.
“So for us to have met the budget estimates for 2020, we would have needed to have one heck of a good year,” Gov. Justice said Friday.
In March, revenue numbers were only slightly behind the record-setting FY2019 numbers. But the pandemic hit soon after.
“Not only did the pandemic put our economy in jeopardy, but we also moved the income tax filing deadline from April to July,” Gov. Justice said. “We had a tremendous deficit at that point in time.
“My revenue people told me that we could probably forecast a $525 million-dollar deficit,” Gov. Justice continued. “It was really, really difficult and we had to try to figure out what in the world to do.”
However, it was at this point that the Governor’s plan to guide West Virginia through the pandemic began to bear fruit. While non-essential businesses were closed, other aspects of the economy continued on.
With low case numbers paving the way for a swift recovery, businesses began producing better-than-expected results.
Additionally, Gov. Justice worked alongside revenue experts to utilize money from reserve accounts and the federal government’s move to raise the reimbursement rate on Medicaid provided another boost.
“Lo and behold, we’re going to run across the finish line on June 30th with a surplus,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s not going to be much – it’s probably going to be less than $10 million – but we’re going to go across the finish line with a surplus in a year that our experts predicted we were going to be $525 million upside-down.”
PLAN TO DISTRIBUTE FEDERAL CARES ACT FUNDING ANNOUNCED
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice announced how he is proposing to distribute $1.25 billion in federal funding through the CARES Act to benefit all West Virginians.
A breakdown of the Governor’s proposed use of the funding is as follows:
Local Governments – $200 million
This is the money that will reimburse West Virginia cities and counties for COVID-19 related expenses. A web portal is available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding: grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.
More information on these grants is listed further below in this release.
Small Businesses – $150 million
Calling West Virginia’s small businesses “the backbone of everything we do in this state,” Gov. Justice is proposing to give 15,000 of West Virginia’s small businesses $10,000 each to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any small business in West Virginia that was in existence as of February 29, 2020, that has anywhere from 5-35 employees will be able to apply for this funding. Additional information on the process for applying will be provided at a later date.
Fairmont Hospital – $10 million
This funding will reimburse Fairmont Hospital for expenses incurred while setting up as a COVID-19 surge hospital. WVU will continue to operate this hospital until a new hospital is built.
COVID-19 related highway projects – $100 million
This is limited to projects that will improve access to medical facilities. This will allow other money in the road fund to be redirected for other projects.
Department of Transportation officials have taken on this project as MARP – Medical Access Route Projects. Deputy Secretary Jimmy Wriston says the DOT is identifying eligible projects and plans to post them on an all-new online dashboard in the weeks ahead.
“We utilized asset management principals in a data-driven manner to identify and prioritize projects in this program,” Wriston said. “We vetted these projects with local EMS, first responders, and county OES.
“I want to stress that we’re going to continue to do these projects in the correct way,” Wriston continued. “Prior to paving, these roads will be ditched, drainage pipes will be replaced, and shoulders will be stabilized. As always, we’re going to do the work in a completely transparent manner.”
Local Public Service Districts – $25 million
This money will help keep Local Public Service Districts solvent.
“They’re having trouble collecting some dollars because they’re working with people on their water bills and things like that,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve got some extra money that we’re going to put over to them to assure that our public service districts are well taken care of.”
Reimburse contingency fund – $16 million
This is for the PPE and other equipment the State purchased prior to the federal stimulus coming in.
State COVID-19 expense reimbursement – $57 million
This is for reimbursements to State agencies for COVID-19 related expenses.
WorkForce West Virginia 2020 – $287 million
These funds are to help support unemployed West Virginians in the short term.
WorkForce West Virginia 2021 – $400 million
These funds are to help support unemployed West Virginians over the course of the upcoming fiscal year.
The Governor added that another $970 million in other grants have also been received in West Virginia.
“Working those grants, there are many different buckets we can put this additional money into,” Gov. Justice said.
These grants, combined with the $1.25 billion in funding from the CARES Act, mean West Virginia has now received a combined total of $2.22 billion-worth of support from the federal government to use in the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
MYRTLE BEACH OUTBREAKS
Once again on Friday, Gov. Justice discussed the recent surge in COVID-19 cases being seen at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, again cautioning residents who are considering traveling to the popular vacation destination that there are now cases in 18 West Virginia counties that are tied residents traveling to the Myrtle Beach area. This number is up from 11 counties experiencing cases as of Wednesday.
The following counties that have reported to DHHR that they are investigating cases:
“Of course, we’re probably going to end up with all 55 counties, because everyone loves Myrtle Beach,” Gov. Justice said. “All I can say to you, over and over, if you’ve gone to Myrtle Beach, get yourself tested.”
FREE COMMUNITY TESTING CONTINUES ACROSS STATE
Gov. Justice also offered a reminder that additional free community COVID-19 testing is being provided in Cabell, Hancock, Lincoln, and Mingo counties at various times and dates, including today and continuing into next week.
Testing is scheduled as follows:
Saturday, June 27
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
A.D. Lewis Community Center: 1450 A.D. Lewis Avenue, Huntington, WV
Saturday, June 27
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Mountaineer Casino: 1420 Mountaineer Circle, Track Side Building, New Cumberland, WV
Monday, June 29
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Lincoln County High School: 81 Lincoln Panther Way, Hamlin, WV 25523
Saturday, June 27
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
183 East 2nd Avenue, Williamson, WV
UPDATE ON CHURCH OUTBREAKS
Once again Friday, Gov. Justice provided an update on several church-related outbreaks of COVID-19 across West Virginia.
Gov. Justice reported that three church-related outbreaks still remain active at this time. They are associated with churches located in Greenbrier, Ohio, and Boone counties.
“I want to strongly encourage all West Virginians, especially when in church settings, to follow the guidelines and use every other pew, maintain social distancing, and please wear masks,” Gov. Justice said.
THE COMEBACK | GUIDANCE DOCS | SAFER AT HOME ORDER
Week 9 of the Gov. Justice reopening plan – West Virginia Strong – The Comeback – is now underway and announcements regarding future reopenings have been made. Guidance documents for all businesses and other entities permitted to reopen can be found online.
The Governor’s Safer At Home order remains in effect.
GRANT FUNDS TO CITIES AND COUNTIES UP TO $16 MILLION
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice provided an update on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that more than $16 million has now been distributed all across the state.
A web portal is available for city and county government officials to apply for this grant funding: grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.
Each of the recipients of CARES Act funding, along with grant amounts, are now available to view through the COVID-19 transparency web portal provided by West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.
WEST VIRGINIA STRONG SUMMER FOOD ASSISTANCE MAP
Also on Friday, Gov. Justice reminded West Virginians that an interactive free-feeding location map, designed to help connect citizens in need to food resources across the state, is now available online.
More than 690 free-feeding locations have now been made available through a multi-agency effort between the West Virginia National Guard, the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD), and the United Way.
If food distribution locations aren’t available in some communities, individuals are encouraged to call 211 for further assistance.
STATEWIDE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES TESTING UPDATE
Additionally Friday, Gov. Justice provided another update on his initiative to test all inmates and employees within the State’s network of correctional facilities for COVID-19.
The most recent testing results showed there were a total of two active COVID-19 cases among all inmates and residents across West Virginia. The cases are all at Huttonsville Correctional Center and Jail. There also remain two active COVID-19 cases among corrections employees and contract staff.
More than 10,000 inmates and 4,000 employees were tested in total.
TUCKER NAMED CHANCELLOR OF WV HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY COMMISSION
Gov. Justice also took time out of today’s briefing to announce that members of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker as the Commission’s new Chancellor at their meeting today.
Tucker had been serving as the HEPC interim chancellor since April 2019.
“I want to congratulate her on this appointment in every way,” Gov. Justice said. “I am confident she will do a tremendous job.”
WEST VIRGINIANS URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN CENSUS
Once more today, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.
Every West Virginian who does not respond to the Census represents a loss of $20,000 in federal funds over the next 10 years for the state and its local communities. The funds can go toward things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.
Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.
Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.
For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.