West Virginia Week in Review - May 4, 2024


West Virginia Week in Review
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Gov. Justice declares State of Emergency, suspends FAFSA requirement for state financial aid programs
Amid ongoing problems with the U.S. Department of Education’s rollout of a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for students applying for financial aid for college this fall, Gov. Jim Justice announced he has temporarily suspended the requirement for students to complete the FAFSA in order to qualify for the state’s largest financial aid programs.

The FAFSA is the key to unlocking financial aid for college, as it determines a student’s financial need. The federal government unveiled a new FAFSA at the beginning of this year, but the move to the new form has been a significant challenge for students and families across West Virginia and the nation. Ongoing problems with the form are preventing many high school seniors from applying for financial aid at all. In West Virginia, high school FAFSA completion rates are currently down nearly 40 percent.  
Click here to view Gov. Justice's Executive Order
“I don’t believe any other state in the nation has gone this far, but I simply cannot and will not stand by as money sits on the table that could be helping our students continue their education,” Gov. Justice said. “Our state higher education office has been on top of this problem from the beginning. They’ve done more than 200 FAFSA workshops across the state and ramped up their outreach in every way imaginable. But there’s only so much outreach you can do when students can’t complete the form due to issues only the federal government can control. We have been left with no choice but to suspend the FAFSA requirement for our state financial aid programs, including the Promise Scholarship and the Higher Education Grant Program.”
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Gov. Justice breaks ground on new consolidated laboratories facility at West Virginia Regional Technology Park
Gov. Justice broke ground on the new West Virginia consolidated state laboratories facility, which will be built at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park.

This $250 million state-of-the-art facility will serve as a central hub housing several laboratories from various state agencies. Funds for the new laboratory were appropriated by the West Virginia Legislature in 2023.

The facility will span nearly 300,000 square feet and be easily accessible from Interstate 64. Design work is set to conclude by early 2025, with construction anticipated to finish by 2027.

"This is truly a great day for West Virginia as we start turning our dream of a brand new state laboratory into a reality," Gov. Justice said. "When it's finished this facility will provide the space and resources many of our state agencies need to properly serve the people of West Virginia. This will make a huge difference and promote collaboration because so many great people from our state agencies will be working together under the same roof. This isn't just an investment in a new building. This is an investment in the future of our state, and I'm very thankful to see it happen. Finally, I want to thank the West Virginia Regional Tech Park for their efforts in making sure our needs are met during this process."
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Gov. Justice awards funding for new hospitality degree programs at New River Community and Technical College
New programs launching statewide to provide for growing tourism industry
Gov. Justice announced that New River Community and Technical College is receiving $3.5 million to create three new hospitality-related degree programs including outdoor recreation, culinary arts, and aviation maintenance. These new programs are part of a larger initiative to build a tourism workforce to keep up with the industry’s rapid growth.  

“It’s been just incredible to watch as our tourism industry has grown in recent years,” Gov. Justice said. “Now it’s time that we focus on making sure we have the jobs to support this growth, and that our people have the programs they need to succeed in West Virginia. The future is incredibly bright. It is just great to be here today talking to students who are realizing this growth and to hear their excitement for successful careers in West Virginia’s growing tourism economy.”

New data from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission projects that West Virginia will have more than 21,000 annual job openings in the leisure and hospitality sector through 2030. This announcement is just one of the many steps being taken to ensure our workforce is ready for this rapid growth.
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Gov. Justice awarded Friend of Children award from West Virginia Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics 
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Governor and First Lady announce the next six therapy dogs to be placed throughout the state
Gov. Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice announced the next six therapy dogs that will be placed in Communities In Schools sites across West Virginia as a part of the First Lady’s Friends With Paws initiative.

The addition of the six dogs to Friends With Paws will bring the total number of therapy dogs placed in West Virginia through the program to 31.

“These therapy dogs are making such a meaningful difference,” First Lady Justice said. “It’s incredible what benefits they bring, not just for the students but for the whole faculty. Our Friends With Paws dogs increase attendance, bring comfort and support to everyone in the school, and even help boost academic scores. I look forward to welcoming each one and seeing the amazing work that they do for our students.”
Click here to view Friends With Paws Class of Spring 2024
First implemented in March 2022, the Friends With Paws program places certified therapy dogs in various CIS schools across the state, providing companionship and comfort for students in need of a boost.

"Seeing the Friends With Paws initiative grow brings me a ton of joy because I know firsthand the difference these amazing dogs make for students and educators all across our state," Gov. Justice said. “These therapy dogs have truly become a cherished part of our communities, spreading love and happiness throughout the halls. I'm absolutely certain these new additions will make a positive impact at their new homes."
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Gov. Justice delivers $27.9M SBA award to Wood County Schools 
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Gov. Justice presents $265,540 check for Mary Ingles Memorial Trail at Marmet Locks and Dam 
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Gov. Justice delivers $10.5M check to the Town of East Bank for sewer system upgrades
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West Virginia secures $1.2 billion in broadband funding; among first states in the country allowed to request BEAD funds
Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia has secured $1.2 billion in Broadband Enhancement Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding, which will be used to improve reliable high-speed internet for residents statewide.

The Office of Broadband, which is part of the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, helped obtain these funds, and West Virginia is among the first states in the nation to secure this NTIA approval. 

“I’m thrilled that we secured this funding because broadband advancements are extremely important for West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “From day one, my administration has supported the expansion of broadband to every corner of the State, and I am excited to see the results of this historic investment in broadband technology and infrastructure.”
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Also this week:
West Virginia Department of Education Announces Fourth Class of Purple Star Award Recipients

West Virginia Department of Human Services Observes Mental Health Awareness Month

Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley Earns Four-Star CMS rating

John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center Awarded Four-star CMS Rating

Contact Information

CJ Harvey, cj.harvey@wv.gov; Rachael Harper, rachael.a.harper@wv.gov


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:

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