West Virginia Year in Review - 2021


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Gov. Justice, Babydog lead and inspire West Virginia through second year of COVID-19 pandemic
*More of the best headlines from 2021 below*
Throughout 2021, Gov. Jim Justice’s chief focus has been continuing to lead the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of his commitment to providing the public with the latest information on the evolving circumstances of the pandemic, Gov. Justice was among the only governors in America to continue holding regular COVID-19 news briefings every week throughout the entire year.

Gov. Justice has also been an outspoken champion of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines since they became widely available to the public in early 2021.

In the critical first days of vaccine availability in the U.S., Gov. Justice went to bat for the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

West Virginia received national attention as the only state in the country to opt out of the federal government’s initial plan to distribute vaccines through major pharmacy chains. Gov. Justice determined the most effective way to reach West Virginia’s extremely rural population was to utilize a vast network of local pharmacies.

As a result of the Governor’s decision, West Virginia led the entire nation in getting shots in arms of its highest-risk citizens. Through Operation Save Our Wisdom, West Virginia was the first state in the country to offer vaccines to residents of all of its long-term care facilities.

West Virginia was also the first state to launch an online statewide vaccine pre-registration system to the general public so the state vaccine distribution efforts could continue to move swiftly as eligibility expanded. The state also launched a Vaccine Info Line to answer citizens’ questions about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

The state also offered early vaccine access to all at-risk teachers, service personnel, and other school employees to ensure West Virginia’s students could get back in the classroom as quickly as possible to safely resume in-person learning. Later in the year, United States Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona applauded Gov. Justice and West Virginia for providing school vaccination clinics in all 55 counties throughout the state.

Like every state across the nation, West Virginia’s vaccination rates eventually began to slow. That was when Gov. Justice made West Virginia one of the first states to offer vaccine incentive programs to get residents who were on the fence across the finish line.

First, the Governor created his Beat 588…Bad program, offering $100 savings bonds or gift cards to West Virginians 16-35 years old who chose to get vaccinated.

Then, with the help of his pet English Bulldog – Babydog – Gov. Justice launched his most popular vaccine incentive program, with perhaps the most beloved mascot in the nation.
The Do it for Babydog: Save a life, Change your life vaccination sweepstakes consisted of a series of statewide prize drawings to increase awareness of the availability and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and provide incentives to West Virginians to get their vaccination.

Over the course of three rounds of the Do it for Babydog program, hundreds of thousands of West Virginians got registered and vaccinated. A total of 1,009 Babydog prizes were awarded to lucky residents all across the state, including eight cash prizes totaling over $8.1 million, six luxury high-end sports cars, 14 custom-outfitted trucks, dozens of full-ride college scholarships, and much more.
By the end of 2021, more than 2.3 million vaccine doses were administered to more than 1.1 million individuals.

With widespread vaccine availability, West Virginia was able to lift all of its restrictions on businesses and other entities – including the Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement – by the state’s 158th birthday celebration on June 20, 2021.
While a proponent of the vaccines, Gov. Justice has also been steadfast in his opposition to vaccine mandates. In October, he proposed a bill requiring exemptions from vaccine mandates in the workplace, which was eventually passed by the West Virginia Legislature.

With new variants of COVID-19 circulating in recent months, including the Delta and Omicron variants, Gov. Justice has continued to encourage eligible West Virginians who have been previously vaccinated to get one of the newly approved booster shots to enhance their protection.

With the new year on the horizon and with hospital staffing shortages a new concern, Gov. Justice recently announced his West Virginia Nursing Workforce Expansion Program, which aims to improve the education, retention, and recruitment of nurses in West Virginia.
West Virginia sets back-to-back records for best unemployment rate in state history
Just two weeks ago, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 4.0% for November 2021; the lowest such rate recorded in all of state history.

November’s mark bested the previous state record of 4.3%, set just one month prior in October 2021.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has now decreased for 19 straight months.

For the 9th straight month, West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains better than the national unemployment rate.

Additionally, for the third time in three months, West Virginia has set an all-time state record-low not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, dropping to 2.6% in November.
With Gov. Justice steering the ship, West Virginia maintains historic revenue successes through pandemic
Under Gov. Justice’s leadership as a lifelong businessman, West Virginia continued to enjoy an unprecedented era of success and prosperity in 2021.

West Virginia ended Fiscal Year 2021 with a $413 million revenue surplus, despite the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the state’s economy.

Last month, West Virginia recorded a $88 million revenue surplus, bringing the total Fiscal Year 2022 surplus to $269 million in just five months.

In October, West Virginia also cracked the top 10 states in the nation for quarterly GDP growth.

With numerous financial successes under the state’s belt, more and more businesses also chose to set up shop or expand their operations in West Virginia this year, bringing hundreds of new jobs along with them, including Speedway Motors, Clearway Energy Group, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, Sheetz Inc., N3, DataRobot, MHI RJ Aviation Group, North Central West Virginia Airport, TeMa North America, CS Global Group / ADO Industries, and more.
Gov. Justice opens new roads along the Roads to Prosperity in West Virginia
Among the state’s major road project accomplishments this year, Gov. Justice held a grand opening ceremony in November for the largest single-contract project in his visionary Roads to Prosperity program, cutting the ribbon on the final 14.6-mile section of four-lane U.S. Route 35.
Also in 2021, Gov. Justice announced the award of the Corridor H paving project from Kerens to Parsons, broke ground on the I-64 Nitro-St. Albans Bridge project, opened the Glenville Roundabout to traffic, and announced a rehabilitation project for the historic Wheeling Suspension Bridge. Meanwhile, through the Governor’s Roads to Prosperity program, road maintenance work continues across West Virginia at a never-before-seen pace.
Additionally, West Virginia completed its third historic road bond sale this year, which generated over $262.5 million in proceeds – a premium of over $62.5 million – to be used for new highway, bridge, and secondary road construction projects throughout the state.
Increased investment in tourism paying off as interest in West Virginia continues to grow
The Governor’s continued commitment to tourism continued to pay dividends in 2021, with interest in West Virginia at an all-time high.

West Virginia was named a Top Travel Region to visit in 2022 by Lonely Planet as a part of its annual Best in Travel awards. West Virginia was the only state in the country selected.

West Virginia was also selected as one of the Best Places to Go by Condé Nast Traveler.
Also this year, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve – America’s newest national park – was named to TIME’s annual list of the World’s Greatest Places, which highlights 100 extraordinary travel destinations around the world.

Meanwhile, the newly established West Virginia Department of Tourism won a pair of national awards from the U.S. Travel Association this year. The department was recognized with a pair of Mercury Awards – the top honors for state tourism agencies – for both its 2021 Vacation Guide and a social media community building campaign launched last year.
In 2021, Gov. Justice and the Department of Tourism announced the launch of Ascend WV; the nation’s premier remote work program, which is aimed at recruiting outdoor enthusiast professionals to the Mountain State. The program’s first three host cities – Morgantown, Shepherdstown, and Lewisburg – welcomed their first group of remote workers this fall.
Gov. Justice announces Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy
In October, Gov. Justice unveiled a billion-dollar strategy to bring broadband availability to 200,000 more West Virginia homes and businesses.

The plan will combine funding from federal, state, and local governments, along with matching investments from private-sector partners, to accelerate the expansion of high-speed internet to underserved areas of the state. The plan represents by far the largest investment in broadband in the state’s history.
Gov. Justice announces another historic 5% pay raise for teachers and state employees, plus one-time 2.5% Inflatocine pay supplement
In December, Gov. Justice announced that he has secured the support of the Republican-led Legislature to give all state employees – including public school teachers and service personnel – a 5% pay raise for the third time since 2018.

Additionally, Gov. Justice announced that all state employees will also receive a one-time 2.5% pay supplement to combat the rising costs of inflation, which will be known as the Inflatocine – short for “Inflation Vaccine.”
Gov. Justice makes history; announces first-ever appointments to WV Intermediate Court of Appeals
Just this past week, Gov. Justice made history when he announced the first-ever appointees to the newly created West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals during a virtual press conference at the State Capitol.

Gov. Justice appointed Thomas E. Scarr of Huntington for a term of two-and-a-half years, Daniel W. Greear of Charleston for a term of four-and-a-half years, and Donald A. Nickerson Jr. of Wheeling for a term of six-and-a-half years.

After several prior attempts over many years failed to establish such a court in West Virginia, the WV Intermediate Court of Appeals was successfully created during the 2021 Regular Legislative Session by the passage of Senate Bill 275, which was signed into law by Gov. Justice in April 2021.
Other 2021 highlights:

Contact Information

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


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State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

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