Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Jan. 17

Bluefield Daily Telegraph on federal funding that was approved for a flood prevention project in West Virginia's Mercer County:

Federal funding has been secured for a significant flood control project for Mercer County. The $3.7 million award announced last week by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will help restore damage done to a flood control dam constructed back in 1966 in Mercer County.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding was authorized by the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act. The goal of the project is to rehabilitate the area identified as Brush Creek Site 14 of the Brush Creek Watershed in Mercer County, effectively protecting hundreds of homes, businesses, and buildings in the Maple Acres, Glenwood, and Princeton areas from future flooding, Capito and Manchin said in a joint statement.

Capito argues that being proactive is the best course of action toward protecting lives and property from future flooding. She is correct. Unfortunately, many in our region have experienced significant flooding over the years, including the horrific flooding disasters of 2001, 2002 and 2003 that impacted much of southern West Virginia.

“Many areas of our state have been impacted by devastating floods over the years, taking precious lives, homes and livelihoods from our fellow West Virginians,” Manchin added in a prepared statement issued by the two West Virginia lawmakers. “Ensuring the safety of our people and businesses is and will continue to be a top priority of mine. This funding will help address damage to the Brush Creek Watershed dam in Mercer County and ensure continued protection for countless homes and businesses. I am pleased the USDA has acknowledged the urgency of this repair and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee I will continue to advocate for funding that helps our state manage our aging infrastructure.”

We, too, are pleased to see such a significant federal flood proofing initiative for Mercer County.

It is a wise investment that will help to protect lives, homes and property in the years ahead from high water.

Online: https://www.bdtonline.com/

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Jan. 16

The Register-Herald on the distribution of vaccines for COVID-19:

Gov. Jim Justice’s blind and abiding trust in President Trump and his administration finally got the best of him this week when the governor learned that vaccination deliveries that had been promised to the state had, well, not really existed at all.

And now the state is left holding an empty bag of expectations. Residents are wondering just how long it will be before they can get – as hyped by the governor – inoculated against a disease that has killed 1,761 in the state and nearly 400,000 across the country.

All will work out for Big Jim and, more importantly, for state and country, we believe. A new and far more competent administration is on the way.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced this week that the federal government would begin releasing coronavirus vaccine doses that had been held in reserve for second shots – but no such reserve existed. In other words, Secretary Azar lied.

The Trump administration had already begun shipping out what was available toward the end of December, removing second doses for the two-dose regimen directly off the manufacturing line.

In short, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Now, public and private health officials as well as governors, who had made plans based on a doubling of their vaccine supply this week, are facing a cold reality – again, thanks to the administration’s bungled management and long-distance association with telling the truth – that their allocations will remain largely flat.

Also, that second shot to lock in all the protections of the vaccines? Those are already out of the box, in the pipeline and, in some cases, in arms. The Trump administration’s initial policy was to hold back second doses to protect against manufacturing disruptions. But that approach shifted in recent weeks. Operation Warp Speed, which is overseeing vaccine distribution, stopped stockpiling second doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the end of last year. Shipping of the last reserve doses of Moderna’s supply, meanwhile, began over the weekend.

Take this with a grain of salt, but federal government officials are saying that those in line for their second shots are still expected to get them on schedule because second doses will be prioritized over first shots and states are still receiving regular vaccine shipments.

State and local officials – including Big Jim – are ticked off and befuddled by the shifting directions and changing explanations about supply.

To top off their worries, a highly contagious virus variant – bringing a new version of misery – may be spreading throughout the country just as the U.S. finished a week with an average of 3,320 Covid-related deaths each day.

Perhaps Gov. Justice should adopt the attitude of Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, who told The Washington Post, “I have stopped paying a whole lot of attention to what is being said verbally at the federal level right now.”

Meanwhile, the names of West Virginians wanting a vaccine are printed on waiting lists at local health departments around the state. Arms are awaiting a second injection. Justice excited people about getting vaccinated for all the right reasons – to his credit – but now he can’t deliver, thanks to a failure with the administration which, given its track record, he should have expected.

We feel Jim’s pain. He had been doing his level best to ramp up delivery and administration of the vaccines to the point that the state was leading all others in the U.S. in that effort.

And then the administration – headed by a guy the governor calls a close friend – pulls the rug out from beneath the entire country.

This mess is courtesy of an administration that still hasn’t turned the corner on the pandemic, let alone built a wall along the southern border that Mexico would pay for, so we are not sure why anyone on God’s green Earth would trust the president’s team – only the best people, right? – to run a complex program where science matters and politics has no quarter.

And Azar? He is now the poster boy for the administration’s effort that has defined this administration: After he announced the problem with the vaccines? He announced his resignation – good on Jan. 20, which, yes, we would have been showing him the door all the same.

Online: https://www.register-herald.com/

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Jan. 16

The Exponent Telegram on President-elect Joe Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan:

President-elect Joe Biden’s stimulus plan has many good parts and a few that cause concern.

We appreciate Biden now leading the call for $2,000 stimulus payments to the majority of Americans. His plan, unveiled on Thursday, would send an additional $1,400 to those who have already received the previously approved $600.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention, though, that we’re hearing reports of people who haven’t received the $600, so hopefully the Biden administration can straighten that out as well and expedite payments.

We also like Biden’s plans of boosting vaccination and back-to-school efforts, providing funding and manpower to increase inoculations, as well as money to improve safety conditions at schools.

There also is merit in Biden’s plans to increase the minimum wage, but we hope there is a carefully thought out implementation and not just a sudden increase to placate Democrats, who have long made an increase to $15 a plank in their national platform.

An abrupt change from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $15 could adversely affect small businesses, especially those in smaller, more rural states.

However, something similar to Florida’s rollout that gradually increases the wage to a higher amount over five to six years makes sense.

But there also has to be consideration of setting a lower amount for a federal minimum and then allowing states, counties and municipalities to set higher minimums as local economic conditions allow.

Already, West Virginia’s minimum wage is $8.75. In some areas of the country, the minimum wage is at $15. But in those areas, the cost of everything else is significantly more than in West Virginia and other smaller states.

It’s important to note that the majority of states — 30 — already have minimum wages above $7.25.

So a gradual increase to the $10 to $12 range, and then allowing local economic factors to play a role to determine increases from there, may be a better approach and one that will meet less resistance from Republicans and the pro-business lobby.

It’s especially important to consider that option since many small businesses have been the hardest hit during the pandemic.

Small businesses also will have concerns over paid family leave of up to 12 weeks, so lawmakers must consider the full implications.

One unintended consequence of a rapid increase in the minimum wage and 12 weeks of paid leave would be the stifling of the entrepreneurial spirit and a move toward small businesses closing or selling off to corporations.

Despite these concerns, we applaud Biden’s effort to jumpstart his presidency and provide a pathway forward.

While some lawmakers have decried some elements of the plan as “non-starters,” we would strongly disagree. While there are things we don’t necessarily agree with in total, there are positive elements in each of Biden’s suggestions.

His plan clearly shouldn’t be a “non-starter,” but a great starting point on which to build consensus. Let’s hope it happens.

Online: https://www.wvnews.com/