CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Residents in nine West Virginia counties would qualify for vouchers to help with expenses related to January’s water emergency if a bill Kanawha County Delegate Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha, 38) has introduced at the State House is approved.
“There are families out there who live paycheck to paycheck in West Virginia and they can’t afford another $200, $300, $400 worth of expenses due to water or their sewer bill that’s not being covered or those sorts of things,” said Lane.
His bill was originally proposed as a $1,000 tax credit for customers of West Virginia American Water Company in parts of Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties — the areas that spent days under a do-not-use water order from West Virginia American Water Company following a Jan. 9 leak of crude MCHM and PPH at Freedom Industries along the Elk River.
The total cost of such a credit was estimated at $480 million.
Because the state cannot afford that, Lane has reworked the language in the bill to, instead, provide a one-time, $250 voucher to affected residents — costing the state an estimated $25 million.
As proposed, those vouchers could be picked up at local departments and would be redeemable for bill payments through public water and sewer providers or spent on household items at stores that currently accept WIC.
“They could use it for any goods, any essentials, water, food, those sorts of things. It doesn’t have to be a WIC-approved product, but a WIC retailer has to accept it,” explained Lane. He said the voucher could also be applied to the higher water or sewer bills that follow extensive water system flushing.
Lane’s bill, HB 4192, was pending in the House Finance Committee.