Gov. Jim Justice has had a bad few weeks with the many problems his businesses face and has even been denied the opportunity to coach the Greenbrier East High School boys’ basketball team. The last 18 months of the pandemic have not been a picnic for him, with the worst likely to come. Yet justice last week gave Justice some much needed good news.
West Virginia has been truly fortunate to deal with little economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are all kinds of metrics that can be cited, including tax collections, surpluses, and a healthy rainy day fund, but the state’s unemployment system speaks volumes. In July, West Virginia has an unemployment rate of 5 percent, which is better than the US average of 5.4 percent for July.
The state ended its participation in pandemic unemployment assistance in June, although unemployment figures largely returned to pre-pandemic lows even before that. But it is not only the employment rate that is important. Our unemployment trust fund is also a good indicator.
According to the US Treasury Department, the West Virginia Unemployment Trust Fund has $ 101.7 million in its account. Governor Jim Justice announced on Thursday that the state had paid off its state-contracted $ 185 million unemployment insurance loan when the fund fell to zero after the flood of jobless claims in late March 2020 when the economy closed for a month.
The state used $ 220 million to repay the $ 185 million loan, known as the Title XII advance, and to put additional funds into the Unemployment Trust Fund. The interest-free loan was only valid until September 4, after which time interest would begin to accrue. As a result, the state will be able to cut unemployment insurance costs by 25 percent next year.
“Through COVID, I wanted to protect our companies in every way against sinking”, says justice. “This will ensure that all employers will receive a 25% cut in their unemployment premiums in February,” Justice told business leaders at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and business summit on Thursday. “It couldn’t be better.”
It appears that some of the money comes from the remaining federal funds from the CARES Act, which has always been the goal of state revenue officials. Dave Hardy, secretary of the Department of Revenue, told lawmakers last winter why the state still holds nearly half of the $ 1.25 billion in CARES law funds in case the day comes. the interest-free loan would not be extended.
At the end of July, the state had $ 578 million in CARES law funds, according to the state auditor’s office. By the end of August, that amount fell to $ 388 million, a reduction of $ 240 million. Part of this funding covered the costs of the first vaccine incentive lottery.
Speaking of COVID-19, public opinion seems to be on the governor’s side as to his handling of the pandemic in the Delta era and his overall approval of the job is the highest of any official or institution in the State.
According to the WV MetroNews West Virginia poll conducted by US polling guru Research Rex Repass between August 20 and 25, 71% of those polled were satisfied with Justice’s current response to the pandemic, 43% said they were somewhat satisfied and 28 % saying they were very satisfied
There are obviously strong voices amplified by social media left and right that probably disagree. The left wants the return of interior mask mandates for public places and schools. The right (traditionally the Small Government Party) wants to use state power to ban not only mask warrants at the local level, but even mandates from businesses and private groups to demand COVID-19 vaccines for employees.
With the high approval of justice for its handling of the pandemic, if I were one of the Republican lawmakers calling for a special session to ban various terms, I would seriously consider whether there really is support for it. to do.
So would Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who visited the Legislature in one of his infamous late-night social media rants. House Speaker Roger Conley and Senate Speaker Craig Blair basically told him to put his money where he said it was and asked for an advisory opinion on the legality of vaccine warrants and passports. I have a feeling that what Morrisey wants and what the law says are two different things.
Justice also benefits from a high number of job approvals. Of those polled, 61% said they approved of the work Justice was doing, 25% disapproved and 14% unsure. According to the survey report, the number of job approvals by Justice began to increase in 2019 and has continued to increase over the past two years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, it appears the fight between the Justice firms and Virginia-based Carter Bank and Trust has been appeased and the status quo has returned. The loans were due and the two sides were fighting over the terms. The governor and his family have personally guaranteed more than $ 300 million in loans. Both sides sued and a war of words ensued.
Now that this case is settled, Justice firms still have to grapple with the fallout from the collapse of Greensill Capital and the resulting $ 700 million in personal loan guarantees that Credit Suisse, Greensill’s sugar daddy, wants. now that Justice is paying. Last I heard, these negotiations are still ongoing, but expect an agreement, especially as metallurgical coal prices are on the rise, helping the justice system to start repaying these loans.
To paraphrase an old quote: When you owe the bank $ 100, that’s your problem. When you owe a bank $ 700 million, that’s the bank’s problem.
(Adams is the state government reporter for the Ogden newspapers. He can be contacted at email@example.com)