CHARLESTON, WVa. — Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials Monday for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.
During Monday’s briefing, Justice discussed the new COVID-19 economic relief bill, signed by President Donald J. Trump Sunday night, which will provide $900 billion in aid across the country for those affected by the pandemic.
While Justice expressed disappointment that individuals and businesses struggling because of the pandemic were not given more in the package, he also added that he appreciates that a deal finally got done.
Some of the most significant components of the stimulus bill include:
— CARES Act spending extension to Dec. 31, 2021 for state and local governments.
— Direct payment of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year, and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year, plus an additional $600 per child.
— Enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 per week for 11 weeks.
— $319 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program.
— $25 billion in rental assistance with an extension of the eviction moratorium.
— $82 billion for schools and universities, with $10 billion dedicated to childcare.
$7 billion for increased access to broadband.
— Additional funding to support vaccine distribution.
WorkForce West Virginia announced Monday it is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on the CARES Act unemployment extension provisions contained in the bill.
“While we wait on additional federal guidance, I have directed WorkForce West Virginia to be prepared to respond as quickly as possible and deliver this much-needed relief to eligible West Virginians,” Gov. Justice said.
“As we always have been, we are all in, and will be a leader in turning this legislation into resources for West Virginia.”
Until WorkForce receives this guidance from the federal government, WorkForce West Virginia recommends eligible claimants do not file a new claim.
Filing a new claim may delay eligible claimant benefit payments.
“We are diligently working to build additional programs and adjust our unemployment computer system to deliver these benefits,” said Scott Adkins, Acting Commissioner for WorkForce. “Until we receive additional clarification and guidelines, those who feel they are eligible for these benefits should pause until Workforce West Virginia provides additional information.”
When implemented, these provisions will bring additional unemployment compensation to tens of thousands of West Virginians. These programs use existing funding structures already established by labor agencies.
As a result, WorkForce West Virginia expects most claimants will avoid an interruption in benefits.
Once again, Justice reported that West Virginia continues to lead the nation in the rate of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration.
As of Monday, 30,737 of 60,875 total doses delivered in West Virginia to date have been administered. This 50.49 percent vaccination rate is the highest of any state in the nation according to Bloomberg.com, with Maine ranking 2nd in the nation at approximately 37%.
“The closest state to us, as far as getting it done fast, is Maine, and they’re so far behind we can’t even see them back there,” Justice said.
West Virginia also continues to lead the nation in terms of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“We are making significant progress in our plan to offer vaccination to all long-term care facility residents and staff, and we should be complete with all 214 facilities in the state today,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s amazing and it’s far ahead of any other state in the nation. That’s 100 percent of our long-term care facilities that we will have offered vaccines to in our state and before some other states have even gotten started.”
The governor noted that a combined total of 25,925 additional doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are expected to be delivered in West Virginia this week.
“When these vaccines are offered to you, you’ve got to take them,” Justice said. “We want, absolutely, to get all of you vaccinated.”
Also on Monday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 to offer his condolences and to honor the life and legacy of Senior Airman Logan Young of the West Virginia National Guard, who was fatally injured on Sunday during a mutual aid response call to a structure fire with the 167th Airlift Wing Fire Department. Young was 30 years old.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office has determined the cause of the fire to be arson and continues to investigate with the help of the West Virginia State Police.