CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia House of Delegates has moved quickly to help businesses impacted by the ongoing water emergency in parts of nine counties.

The House passed a bill Thursday. 97-0, that would provide loans and grants to businesses, particularly small businesses, that are impacted during a state of emergency.

Bill sponsor Del. Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, told fellow House members the business owners had no control over the contamination of their water supply from a chemical spill on the Elk River last week.

“Think about for a moment about going to work one day and you’re told you’re not allowed,” Skaff said.

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said businesses are struggling.

“I have had people say to me, quite specifically, that without assistance they will not be able to reopen their businesses and I think that is a very serious concern,” Armstead said.

The bill puts a framework in place to help the businesses. It provides no specific funding. It leaves that up to the governor’s office. Lawmakers would later consider the specifics for the program in rules legislation.

Del. David Walker, D-Clay, supported the bill but said he was disappointed it didn’t include an avenue to financially help residents who have missed worked because of the water emergency.

“Now they have to make a decision whether to buy groceries or a new hot water tank,” Walker said. “But he’s not going to get the paycheck next week to buy his groceries.”

Some other delegates said workers might be eligible for emergency unemployment benefits from the federal government because President Barack Obama approved federal disaster assistance in connection with the emergency.

The House waived its regular rules and passed the bill quickly Thursday afternoon. Armstead said in this situation it’s important not to delay.

“Is it unusual for us to try to move forward on a piece of legislation in one day? Yes, it’s unusual, but there are times when that’s what we need to do and I think this is one of those times,” Armstead said. “We are talking about small businesses, restaurants, hair salons, the type of businesses you visit in your community everyday.”

The bill provides an avenue for the state to try to recover money from Freedom Industries where the leak occurred to try to pay for the program.

The legislation now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

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Comments

  • WV Worker

    I am truly glad the state is going to help business that lost money. However, reading yesterday that the casino shut down on Thursday and reopened Friday is STRANGE to say the least. If they were open during this crisis and heard money to help and closed for that reason they don't deserve any. It looks like they closed just for the money not the water problem. Maybe I am wrong, but if not, the businesses that were shut down for week and still have problems desire the money. Can you image what kind of money they will want. I hope its looked at closely I wouldn't want a small business to do without and one that size get the bulk. Just an opinion. Maybe they were closed and it just made the news but I don't think so.

  • wvtd

    I am part of a family owned dog grooming business and this chemical leak has killed us. we are not a big business and any help we can get would be appreciated and I think a loan would be great as we could repay the money back to the state. a handout is not needed though. freedom industries should pay for this but my guess is they will file bankruptcy and re-open under another name.

    • The bookman

      I hope for sake the relief arrives fast enough to make a difference...good lick to you and your family!

      • The bookman

        Two typos! Missed "your" and luck not lick! Sorry

  • Wirerowe

    If businesses get relief from the state does this have any impact on the amount that could be recovered in a lawsuit. Ideally the state would pick up the amount that was not covered by a lawsuit. But I understand that the need is immediate and law suit resolutions may take some time.

    • The bookman

      Any civil lawsuit resulting in damages would at sometime require a determination of damages...In the event the relief would be in the form of a grant, then the damages would/should be offset by the grant value. In the event the relief was a loan, then there would/should be no impact in a damage award. I don't support the awarding of grant monies to business, but do support the tax deferment provisions or loan guarantees being made available to assist in job retention as long as the business was determined healthy prior to the crisis and has the ability to repay the loan.

      • Wirerowe

        I would also assume if the business had insurance and the claim was paid that amount would offset the total damages in a civil suit. If somebody has insurance that recognizes the loss why would the state provide either a grant or a loan?

        • The bookman

          The state would be misguided to provide a grant to any business. And a business who applied for a loan who also had insurance should be denied the loan for lack of need. This should not be a bailout, but more of a stop gap measure to apply the tourniquet.

      • Wirerowe

        Your suggestion makes sense.