I update you today hoping everyone is still in good spirits and weathering this pandemic. This is a very trying time for all mentally, physically, and financially. We will get through this just as we have other crises!
As a member of the WV House leadership team, House Majority Leader, I have had the opportunity to meet directly with the Governor on two occasions plus many more discussions with his staff related to constituent concerns. In fact, several of you I have connected directly to his chief counsel for specific needs. Over 60 members of the House have requested a special session of the legislature to offer input to the pandemic spending and powers but currently the Senate feels this is unnecessary. A session cannot take place if the Governor does not call it unless 3/5th of both houses of the Legislature agree. I do feel this would lead to an extensive, expensive session as the allowed appropriation of funds is complex in review of the massive rules attached to the funding. This would take time to review to make sure allowable and then for a majority to approve whom to allocate it to. As it stands now the Governor and his team are making these decisions. He is asking for input from all Legislators. When the leadership team met with him, we suggested he shift some CARES Act funding from roads to broadband. Previously he had $100 m in roads and he changed it to $50 m and moved $50 m to broadband enhancement which is so vital to healthcare and education. The remaining road funding will address two additional road projects in Taylor County identified by EMS as roads that are difficult to gain access to provide service. These are Ironton Rd. and Art Moore-Sidetrack Rd. We also asked that he open up the small business grants for businesses with 1-35 workers instead of 5-35. He did this as well. We have found though that this didn’t apply to sole proprietors because they said you had to have one employee. The Governor is working to address this now too.
The federal government also provided funding directly to other areas such as education. According to the Governor $94 million has been sent to the school systems in WV for the pandemic. Hospitals have also received direct funding. Cities, counties, health departments, and others receive reimbursement for expenses related to the pandemic if they apply. Next session we will see increased funding requests for entities who have been directly involved in the pandemic. Several years ago, when the State was $450 m in the hole health department budgets were decreased but we gave them the ability to bill for services. They had not been allowed to do that before. Their budgets were then increased but not to the full amount. Billing practices are established but the income is not as they had hoped. We will evaluate that.
We discussed other funding requests and many can be funded through the over $1 billion dollars in grant money the state received and does not have to be done through the CARES Act. To access this, go to WV grants portal grants.wv.gov to see if you can apply to fund a need you have. The Taylor County Collaborative recently reached out to me and are searching the site plus I have a staff member in the Governor’s office looking for them as well.
School opening decisions are made at the local level and our county has formed a task force to make decisions and are working in conjunction with the health department. Families can attend school board meetings and contact the members to express their views. I am excited to learn that the Taylor Co BOE is utilizing funding provided by the Legislature last year to hire an additional nurse at Flemington Elementary. All 5 schools will have a nurse on staff which is going to be crucial for reopening and monitoring the health of the school population.
If you have any further needs or concerns please contact me. Email is best if I need to forward it on to an appropriate entity but other ways can work as well.
Delegate Amy Summers
[email protected], 304-641-1159 cell or 98 Meadland Rd., Flemington, WV 26347