Gov. Jim Justice details plans for $1.25B coronavirus aid package

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CHARLESTON, WV (AP) – Gov. Jim Justice has unveiled his plans for a $1.25 billion coronavirus aid package after months of questions over how he would spend the money.

The Republican governor’s strategy for the federal CARES Act relief fund was disclosed Friday after local, state and federal officials urged him to start doling out the cash as widespread business shutdowns hammered the economy.

He has dismissed the demands as politically driven. Justice had long said he wanted to use the package to fill holes in the state budget, though federal rules limited spending to costs incurred due to the pandemic. He said attorneys have determined that his plans for the federal aid are legal.

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: 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.

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