Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Charleston Gazette Mail. December 2, 2022.

Editorial: Jimbo TV renewed for another season

It looks as if Jimbo TV has been renewed for a fourth season.

Gov. Jim Justice says he’s lifting the state of emergency, in place since 2020 because of COVID-19, at the beginning of the new year, but he’s going to continue to do his televised briefings.

This isn’t all that surprising. In the early days of the pandemic, and during surges with new variants, the briefings were conducted as often as five days a week and were a source of vital information concerning case numbers, outbreaks, deaths, public health response and testing and vaccine availability.

As those concerns, justifiably or not, have faded to the background, the briefings have become more of a space for Justice to complain about policies or politicians he doesn’t like, stump for those he does and conduct plenty of self-promotion. It’s a pretty big sign that things have drifted far afield when Justice, on Wednesday, for the first time announced publicly that he is lifting the emergency order, even though he signed the proclamation more than 20 days ago.

The governor said he didn’t see lifting the order in place since March 2020, over the course of which West Virginia has reported more than 615,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 7,600 resulting deaths, as anything major because, “in my world, I don’t see a reason to make a big deal out of stuff.”

West Virginians, along with the rest of the country — indeed, the rest of the world — have been living under life-altering conditions, on and off, for nearly three years. In that time, Justice has deemed it a big deal to air grievances with the news media, stump against a proposed amendment to the state constitution that was defeated in the midterms (at one point directly following reading the ages and home counties of those who died from COVID with a list of people, organizations and businesses opposed to the amendment) and bring on his pet bulldog, working her paws to give betting lines on sporting events. Ending the emergency? Not a big thing.

When the pandemic first hit, Justice used the briefings for the right things. We might not have always agreed with some of his policy decisions or approaches, but he was acting like a leader. Eventually, though, this sense of leadership or responsibility gave way to Justice’s narcissism, pettiness and cowardice.

That’s displayed perfectly by his continuance of the briefings without anyone from the press or the public allowed to attend in person. It’s long past the point where it’s a public health concern. Justice likes to be able to control the format and message without any unpredictable criticism, questions or challenges. Yes, he takes calls from reporters during the briefings, but not every reporter gets to ask a question and there are no follow-ups, so Justice can give whatever response he wants and there’s no instantaneous way to keep him honest.

Now, the governor says he’ll continue the briefings remotely even after the emergency order is gone. This is while he’s also seriously considering running for the U.S. Senate. So, when does this cease to be informative and basically become state-funded propaganda for the governor? It’s pretty much already at that point, but expect it to get even more obvious in the new year as another season of Jimbo TV gets underway.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. December 6, 2022.

Editorial: Homeowners: Federal assistance is waiting to be used

In a state that is routinely listed among the most dependent on federal tax dollars, it is easy to understand why some would hesitate to seek help that is available when they need it. In a situation where the money is already here, that can be a wrong-headed attitude that does more harm than good in the long run.

One such example is the West Virginia Homeowners Rescue Program, funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to assist West Virginia homeowners facing a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began after Jan. 21, 2020, (including a hardship that began before Jan. 21, 2020, and continued after that date).

Jessica Greathouse, special programs manager for the fund, said the help provided could mean financial stability.

“Homeownership is really important, as is being able to keep a roof over your head and the lights on,” Greathouse told WCHS. “West Virginia has the highest homeownership rate in the nation. We know a lot of people need help and we have the money to help right now. I hope the future looks like people apply, we get them help and they are more financially stable.”

Yes, she is saying there is more money available than people applying for the help right now. That’s not a surprise in West Virginia, but it should be reversed quickly.

Those who are eligible “can get up to $20,000 of mortgage payment assistance and $5,000 in taxes, insurance and homeownership fees as well as $2,500 in utility payments,” Greathouse said, according to WCHS.

Eligibility is the key, of course, and those who are interested can find out more at wvhdf.com/west-virginia-homeowners-rescue.

Those who are eligible but hesitating should not let pride get in the way of saving their home and getting back on the right track.

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The Intelligencer. December 5, 2022.

Editorial: Ending State Of Emergency

When Gov. Jim Justice announced this week that West Virginia’s state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end at the beginning of the new year, he made an important point:

“The truth is, the state of emergency doesn’t affect a whole lot, you know, anymore,” Justice said. “We absolutely declared an emergency at a time that we had an emergency. …Now, we need to move on.”

Governmentally speaking, he’s right. There is no longer any real need for the changes in rules and procedures that were in place March 16, 2020. And, one can’t help but wonder whether freedom from his multiple-times-per-week regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefings will allow Justice time for whatever campaign he may or may not be planning next.

In any case, few West Virginians will notice a difference now. But it is essential we do not equate an end to the governmental state of emergency with an end to the actual pandemic. So far, more than 7,600 Mountain State residents have died because of the virus. There were more than 151 new cases per 100,000 people in the state over the past two weeks. And people are still dying.

So while a state of emergency has lifted, the work is not over, nor should we stop being vigilant against the spread of the virus. Get fully vaccinated and boosted, wash and sanitize your hands often, maintain your distance, stay home and test if you are ill … there are a host of things that will not change after Jan. 1. You don’t need a state of emergency to prompt you. Do your part.

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