Today, Governor Jim Justice announced that he and state revenue experts now expect another historic revenue surplus in West Virginia when the books close on Fiscal Year 2020, despite the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the state’s economy.
The projected surplus comes in the face of long odds.
After setting the all-time state record for revenue growth in FY2019, those surpluses were built into initial budget estimates for FY2020.
“So for us to have met the budget estimates for 2020, we would have needed to have one heck of a good year,” Gov. Justice said Friday.
In March, revenue numbers were only slightly behind the record-setting FY2019 numbers. But the pandemic hit soon after.
“Not only did the pandemic put our economy in jeopardy, but we also moved the income tax filing deadline from April to July,” Gov. Justice said. “We had a tremendous deficit at that point in time.
“My revenue people told me that we could probably forecast a $525 million-dollar deficit,” Gov. Justice continued. “It was really, really difficult and we had to try to figure out what in the world to do.”
However, it was at this point that the Governor’s plan to guide West Virginia through the pandemic began to bear fruit. While non-essential businesses were closed, other aspects of the economy continued on.
With low case numbers paving the way for a swift recovery, businesses began producing better-than-expected results.
Additionally, Gov. Justice worked alongside revenue experts to utilize money from reserve accounts and the federal government’s move to raise the reimbursement rate on Medicaid provided another boost.
“Lo and behold, we’re going to run across the finish line on June 30th with a surplus,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s not going to be much – it’s probably going to be less than $10 million – but we’re going to go across the finish line with a surplus in a year that our experts predicted we were going to be $525 million upside-down.”
Also on Friday, Governor Justice announced how he is proposing to distribute $1.25 billion in federal funding through the CARES Act to benefit all West Virginians.
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: grants.wv.gov. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.
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.
The Governor added that another $970 million in other grants have also been received in West Virginia.
“Working those grants, there are many different buckets we can put this additional money into,” Gov. Justice said.
These grants, combined with the $1.25 billion in funding from the CARES Act, mean West Virginia has now received a combined total of $2.22 billion-worth of support from the federal government to use in the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.