Justice stands by using coronavirus funding for road projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday defended his proposal to spend federal coronavirus relief funding after U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized the proposal for dedicated highways spending.

Justice unveiled the plan for spending more than $1.2 billion from the federal government last week. The proposal includes providing municipalities with $200 million, small businesses with $150 million and WorkForce West Virginia with $687 million.

There is also $100 million for “COVID-19 related highway projects.” Justice said Friday state officials have classified highway work as coronavirus related.

Manchin during a Fox News appearance Tuesday questioned Justice’s priorities for the funding.

“I don’t know of a pothole that has had the COVID virus. I haven’t found one yet,” the senator told host Neil Cavuto.

Justice said at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing state officials saw there was going to be an excess of federal dollars.

“We went and got every legal opinion that you could get, and gave them all of the information from the Highway Department on roads that were absolutely going to be vetted through the EMS in all kinds of situations to be able to qualify,” he said. “Our expert opinions and our legal opinions said absolutely these roads qualify.”

Justice added the state should use the leftover federal funding for benefitting the state.

“These roads didn’t get in this shape on my watch. These roads got in this kind of shape simply because we went decades and neglected our roads and pulled money away from the maintenance of our roads in every way,” he said.

State lawmakers have questioned who has oversight of the federal funding and the state Legislature’s involvement allocating money.

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