WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVNS) — After Congress passed the $900 billion stimulus relief package, WV Congressional leaders are commenting on how West Virginia will benefit from this package.
“After months of negotiations, I am glad that Congress could come together to pass much needed COVID-19 relief and critical government funding,” said Congresswoman Carol Miller (R-WV). “This package provides critical resources for increased access to vaccinations, small business loans, and direct payments to Americans. The legislation goes further to end surprise medical billing, provides permanent tax relief for families, and allows for more access and flexibility in rural hospitals and clinics.”
While many residents are concentrated on the direct payments of $600 that could be seen as early as next week, state leaders were focused more on what was needed most across the Mountain State. West Virginia will benefit from multiple provisions within the relief package. On top of the designation of the New River Gorge as a National Park and Preserve, funds have been put forth to improve broadband in rural areas to close the technology divide.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement:
“Late last night, Congress passed a year-end spending package that contains long overdue COVID-19 emergency relief funding, the first comprehensive national energy package in 13 years, designation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve and additional West Virginia priorities. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation I introduced last week served as the foundation for the final COVID-19 relief bill and while some of our priorities were unfortunately not included in the final package, I am pleased this final bill supports programs that will help our workers, families and small businesses make it through the difficult months ahead,” Senator Manchin said. “This year-end package also includes the designation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve which creates a 7,021 acre National Park and 65,165 acre National Preserve in southern West Virginia and an all-of-the-above update to our national energy policy that focuses on innovation, rather than elimination, by providing a down payment on the research, development and demonstration of technologies to ensure that all of our abundant energy sources are used in the cleanest way possible. This legislation includes many great provisions for the Mountain State and I urge President Trump to sign the year-end spending package immediately.”
These provisions have been put in the relief package to ensure West Virginia continues to thrive. Funds will also be put toward fighting the opioid epidemic in the hardest hit states across America, including West Virginia.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) released the following statement:
“These funding bills are full of provisions beneficial to West Virginia, including support for broadband expansion, transportation and water infrastructure, and opioid recovery. Also included in this package—and something I am incredibly proud of—is my legislation to redesignate the New River Gorge National River as a National Park and Preserve, which will bring significant economic benefits to our state. Congress was able to pass all 12 appropriations bills last year, and I am very pleased we are able to do so again. Funding of the federal government needs to return to regular order. I will continue working with my colleagues on the committee and in the full Senate to ensure this necessary Congressional duty is no longer used as a partisan tool and delivers for the American people,” Senator Capito said.
Provisions in the relief package that will benefit West Virginia are as follows:
Water Resource Development Act of 2020
- Southern WV Economic Development: A provision directing the Army Corps of Engineers, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and other relevant federal agencies to work together on a comprehensive report that would help identify the potential for Corps of Engineers Facilities that could be improved for recreation, economic development, and hydropower in the Appalachian region.
- WV Water Infrastructure: Two provisions expanding the project caps for the Central and Southern West Virginia Environmental Restoration programs by $80 million each, keeping these programs viable and able to continue providing clean water and sanitary waste systems to West Virginia communities.
- Bluestone Dam: Continues support for the Army Corps to expedite the final bolstering of Bluestone Dam.
Other West Virginia priorities included:
- Broadband: The agreement includes $7 billion in funding to close the digital divide, including $65 million to update the national broadband maps. Also included is $635 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Broadband ReConnect program, which Senator Capito helped create.
- Opioids ($3.95B): Billions in dedicated funding to combat opioids including $1.5 billion for the State Opioid Response Grant program with 15% set aside for the hardest hit states, including WV.
- Clean Drinking Water ($2.74B): Supports nearly $2.74 billion in appropriations toward water infrastructure, as well as $43 million directed to address PFAS chemicals, which have impacted several cities in WV.
- Suicide Prevention ($757.6M): Includes Senator Manchin’s Crisis Care Improvement & Suicide Prevention Act, which provides an increase of $35 million to the Mental Health Services Block Grant, including a 5% set aside for evidence-based crisis care programs.
- Youth Homelessness ($303.3M): $106.5 million for McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children & Youth, $116.8 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program at the Administration for Children & Families and $80 million to stop youth homelessness through HUD.
- Appalachian Economic Development ($198.5M): $115 million for AML Economic Development Grants, $50 million for ARC POWER Grants, $33.5 million for EDA’s Assistance to Coal Communities.
- Rental assistance: The agreement includes $25 billion in critically needed rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes, and an extension of the eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.