Gov. Justice Calls Special Legislative Session For Monday
Gov. Jim Justice announced that he’s calling the West Virginia Legislature into a special session Monday to fund state programs and agencies through federal dollars.
Justice says the money will go to fund the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Education. West Virginia has received $677 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan, which was passed by Congress in March.
Guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury dictates that those funds are to be used to cover public health expenditures, address negative economic impacts from the pandemic, replace lost public sector revenue, provide premium pay for essential workers and invest in infrastructure like water and sewer and broadband projects.
Lawmakers were already scheduled to be in Charleston for a series of interim committee meetings, which will run Sunday through Tuesday.
“I do not anticipate we’ll need to go over extra time,” Justice said during a Thursday news briefing on the state’s response to the pandemic.
Justice also said he will call on lawmakers to appropriate $150 million in surplus funds towards highway maintenance projects. State revenue officials reported a $152 million surplus — putting the surplus at $389 million so far in Fiscal Year 2021 with one month to go.
The governor says the allocation for highway projects will cover more than 740 miles of road work across all of the state’s 55 counties.
“It’s primarily potholes, maintenance slides — and just general maintenance,” the Justice said. “All these projects are maintenance-driven.”
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill limiting the governor’s ability to spend federal funds allocated to the state in excess of $150 million.
Lawmakers decided to pursue the measure after not being formally involved in allocating $1.25 billion in federal funds from an earlier coronavirus stimulus package known as the CARES Act.
As of Thursday, West Virginia has almost $590 million in unspent CARES Act funds.