West Virginia Year in Review - 2020

12/31/2020

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Gov. Justice, state health experts lead West Virginia to one of nation’s best responses to COVID-19 pandemic
For nearly all of 2020, Gov. Jim Justice’s top priority has been guiding West Virginia through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Governor and state health experts began preparations for COVID-19 months before its arrival in West Virginia. As the disease swept across America, state leaders established an informational COVID-19 website and Gov. Justice began holding regular press briefings to keep the public up-to-date on the state’s pandemic response efforts.

Under Gov. Justice’s leadership, West Virginia has been among the most successful states in the nation at minimizing the spread of COVID-19, with the state’s percentage of population tested, percentage of population positive, percentage of tests positive, and case fatality rate all better than the national average.
With widespread access to COVID-19 testing providing the best route toward containing the spread of the disease in the early stages of the pandemic, the Governor established an “Aggressive Testing” initiative. This program has allowed easy access for citizens to get tested at various locations across the state every day.

West Virginia was the first state to order that all residents and staff members at every nursing home and assisted living facility in the state be tested for COVID-19. The CDC later recommended that all states across the country should replicate this strategy.

Under the Governor’s direction, state education leaders provided county school systems flexibility to develop COVID-19 response plans to best suit their county, while continuing to provide a quality education to all students across the state. All counties made in-person and remote learning options available for the 2020-2021 school year, establishing over 1,000 WiFi sites and feeding sites, which have provided millions of meals to kids across West Virginia to keep them fully engaged.
Additionally, West Virginia established a color-coded, county-based School Alert System map that determines the level of scholastic, athletic, and extracurricular activities permitted in each county each week. During a visit to West Virginia, Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the time, praised the system as “remarkable,” later highlighting the plan as a leading practice nationwide for all states to emulate.

Throughout the year, Gov. Justice worked closely with President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, the Trump Administration, and other federal government leaders to secure adequate access to resources like PPE, testing supplies, and, more recently, vaccine doses for West Virginians.

The Governor managed the distribution of the state’s $1.25 billion allotment of federal CARES Act funding to individuals, businesses, local governments, and other entities adversely affected by the pandemic. He also increased the staffing required to facilitate the delivery of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits to West Virginians.
The Governor also provided hero pay to first responders across the state, as well as additional funding to others on the front lines, battling the pandemic.

Gov. Justice met regularly with state revenue experts throughout the pandemic to ensure the state economy would remain viable despite decreased revenue streams and the deferral of the state income tax filing deadline to the following fiscal year. Additionally, West Virginia’s unemployment rate has been lower than the national average for five of the past seven months.
Most recently, West Virginia has led the nation in the rate of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. Under the direction of Gov. Justice, West Virginia was able to provide vaccinations to all 214 long-term care facilities in the state before many other states even began distributing vaccines to long-term care facilities at all. Two-and-a-half weeks after the first doses of the vaccine arrived in the state, West Virginia’s vaccination rate ranks as the highest of any state in the nation by far.
Gov. Justice opens new roads, awards bids for more projects
The first-ever four-lane highway in Wyoming County and a freshly paved road that carries an average of 37,900 vehicles per day, were just two road projects Gov. Justice celebrated in 2020. Thanks to his Roads to Prosperity plan, the Governor also kicked off a major paving project in Nitro and announced the start of construction on the Oakwood Intersection Improvement Project. Gov. Justice also awarded several bids for projects including the Berkeley Springs Bypass, the Sanderson Bridge, the Colonel Ruby Bradley Bridge, and WV 2 in Marshall County.
Gov. Justice celebrates month after month of revenue surpluses despite pandemic
In early December, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia had banked revenue surpluses in each of the first five months of Fiscal Year 2021. As of December 1, year-to-date general revenue collections were $131.7 million above estimates and 9.1% above prior year receipts.

At the end of FY 2020, Gov. Justice announced that, despite the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the economy, he and his administration delivered another historic revenue surplus in West Virginia. After setting the all-time state record for revenue growth in the previous fiscal year, those surpluses were built into initial budget estimates for FY2020.
Gov. Justice welcomes hundreds of new jobs to West Virginia
This year, Gov. Justice celebrated several companies for choosing to locate in West Virginia. In October, the Governor joined Virgin Hyperloop leaders to announce West Virginia for the home of the Hyperloop Certification Center. In November, Gov. Justice announced an agreement between DST Innovations and Blue Rock Manufacturing to create up to 1,000 new jobs. He also welcomed WV Methanol Inc. to Pleasants County and announced Gruppo Fanti would open their first U.S. location in Weirton.
Gov. Justice and the West Virginia Development Office also announced several other businesses around West Virginia would be expanding their operations including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Aviation Group, Klöckner Pentaplast, and Thundercloud Inc.
Gov. Justice continues fight for West Virginia seniors and veterans
This year, Gov. Justice unveiled a fleet of brand-new meal delivery vehicles that will allow more seniors across West Virginia to receive fresh meals in their homes through the State’s senior nutrition meal delivery programs. A total of 43 brand-new food delivery vehicles are now on West Virginia roadways, helping more senior citizens receive more meals faster than ever.
In September, the Governor joined Hershel “Woody” Williams for a ceremony to unveil a new highway sign, dedicating a portion of the West Virginia Turnpike as the “Gold Star Families Memorial Highway.”
In October, Gov. Justice and leaders of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance held a ribbon-cutting ceremony, showcasing the new location of the WVDVA benefits office in Parkersburg.
Gov. Justice announces millions of dollars in State Park renovations and upgrades
Gov. Justice, Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel, and Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby celebrated renovations and upgrades at several West Virginia State Parks this year. The projects are a wave of enhancements designed to improve customer experience and grow visitation. Projects underway in 2020 include Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley Resort, Watters Smith Memorial State Park, Pipestem State Park, Cacapon Resort State Park, and Tygart Lake State Park. Major improvements have now been completed or started at every state park and forest, with more than $100 million invested to date.
Gov. Justice continues to enhance outdoor opportunities in West Virginia
Gov. Justice always says West Virginia has the four best seasons and this year he worked with the Division of Natural Resources to make them even better. He directed the WVDNR to implement additional improvements to its fall trout stocking method, giving anglers more opportunities than ever to enjoy West Virginia fishing trips this year. The Governor added lakes to the stocking list, plus he announced an additional 6,000 pounds of trophy-sized trout would be released for fall and then 30,000 additional trout released in December for holiday fishing.
Gov. Justice also announced a the beginning of a five-year project to restore northern bobwhite quail to the state and a new fishing access site and boat ramp on the New River, near Gauley Bridge.
First Lady Cathy Justice announces Communities In Schools expansion, presents several Rhododendron Awards
First Lady Cathy Justice and the West Virginia Department of Education announced a Communities In Schools expansion of eight new counties for 2020. The program, giving students an equal opportunity to succeed in and out of the classroom, is now in 23 counties and reaches 49,000 students.
Also this year, the First Lady presented four of her Rhododendron Awards — recognizing individuals in West Virginia who have demonstrated goodness and worked for the betterment of their communities. Three of the awards went to Communities In Schools site coordinators and one went to a West Virginia National Guardsman.
Gov. Justice presents dozens of grant awards across West Virginia
This year, Gov. Justice handed out grants to dozens of agencies and organizations across West Virginia. Many of the grant presentations were done virtually due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Major grants included the Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails grants, funding to help West Virginia Fairs and Festivals, and veteran organization grants.
Also this year:

Gov. Justice announces state's 2nd Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy opens in southern West Virginia

Gov. Justice: State to save projected $11.5 million with transition to Google Workspace

Gov. Justice announces Game Changer initiative 2020 virtual summits

Gov. Justice, WVU Hospitals announce plans for keeping Fairmont Regional Medical Center open; construction of new community

Gov. Justice celebrates milestone successes of life-changing Jobs & Hope West Virginia program, including first expungement
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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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