Gov. Jim Justice pushed back on criticism that the state has been too slow to circulate federal relief dollars by pointing to a U.S. Treasury summary depicting West Virginia as fourth in the nation in allocating the funds.
“West Virginia ranks fourth in the nation in pumping the money out,” Justice proclaimed.
However, the designation doesn’t necessarily mean the money is going out the door.
U.S. Treasury notes that “for a cost to be considered to have been incurred, performance or delivery must occur during the covered period but payment of funds need not be made during that time.” It says, ideally, the money will go out within 90 days of an expense.
So what’s reported may be a matter of intent rather than actually moving money.
Justice’s challenger in the upcoming General Election, Democrat Ben Salango, took note of that distinction during his own press conference earlier today.
“What’s been allocated matters less than what’s going out to the people,” said Salango, a Kanawha County Commissioner.
West Virginia’s state government has been allocated $1.25 billion in federal relief under The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
The state Auditor’s Office says expenses have totaled $105 million so far.
The state’s report to U.S. Treasury indicates much more, $607,528,714 — or 48 percent — is spoken-for.
A filing by the State of West Virginia shows the largest portion of that money, $287,000,000 as “expenses associated with the issuance of tax anticipation notes.”
Justice has earlier described that same amount as aimed at bolstering the unemployment insurance fund run through Workforce West Virginia.
The governor has said pumping the federal relief money into unemployment insurance will spare businesses from a tax increase, but critics contend the money would be better spent to provide direct relief to those suffering economically right now.
The next largest amount, $150 million, is listed as “economic support” allocated for small business grants. Those grants are just now starting to process.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has hammered Justice over the pace of spending federal relief.
Manchin has focused on money meant to support local governments, passed through the state.
“In West Virginia, only 3.5 percent of that money has been distributed. $44 million have gone to cities and counties so far,” Manchin said this week.
That’s actually higher than what the Governor’s Office has told U.S. Treasury: The state lists reimbursements to local governments as $33.5 million.
“I mean this, and it’s not political, but the governor is using this as a political slush fund,” Manchin said. “He’s in an election year, and using this as a political slush fund.”
Manchin said, “He’s playing games with this, and it can’t be.”
Justice today said his administration shouldn’t be criticized, and he used the U.S. Treasury report as the reason.
“I know we can’t be fast enough in getting dollars out, but being criticized for it is completely unfounded,” the governor said.
He added, “To me, it’s nauseating. It’s nauseating because it’s political. That’s all it is.”
West Virginia’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Shelley Moore Capito, praised the governor for the amount of money reflected to U.S. Treasury.
“I think the governor is doing this the way you should do it,” Capito said. “He’s doing it in a measured fashion. He’s not doing it politically.”