Jessica Lilly Published

W.Va. Mayors Hope To See Coronavirus Aid Pass For States, Cities, Counties And Schools

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a masked pedestrian passes a banner honoring health care workers in the window of a medical center in Boston. House Democrats are proposing hazard pay for front-line workers in a new relief bill.

The House passed the next COVID-19 relief bill late last month. If the Senate passes, the bill would spend approximately $1.9 trillion to assist communities and help the American people recover from the financial burdens of the pandemic. West Virginia mayors and those representing frontline workers shared their support for the bill in a virtual news conference Wednesday.

City officials from across the state worry that without more help from the federal government, public services could be cut and essential workers could be laid off.

“Basically, our expenses are much higher during the pandemic than we expected them to be otherwise,” said Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott. “It’s not just a question of laying off workers. It’s a question of giving the city the ability to accommodate all the increase in demand for services, which are specifically being driven by this pandemic.”

According to Elliot, resources are also needed to help assist the homeless population, which has increased significantly in the last year.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said his budget is still healthy, but he’s concerned that without this stimulus, workers might have to be let go. Williams said sustaining other organizations in the region has put a strain on other projects. He noted that the city contributed $100,000 to the local Convention and Visitors Bureau to help make up for the lost revenue in the hotel/motel tax.

“Expenses that are being drawn are being drawn away from those things that you would normally be providing, on a day to day basis,” Williams said. “We have to be able to make sure that the Senate passes the American Rescue Plan to address water and sewer.”

Union leaders are also calling on Congress to pass the rescue act. Brian Lacey with the United Mine Workers of America says this is not the time to turn away from workers.

“Public Service Workers, including sanitation workers, nurses, correctional officers, school staff, first responders; they’ve all put their lives on the line to save our lives and keep our communities running,” Lacey said. “And to get a situation where laying them off now is just not the right thing to do. So we need critical assistance to make sure the budgets are kept to keep these employees working.”

This includes getting vaccines to frontline workers.

“If there’s a way that a lot of workers (could be) vaccinated faster, that would definitely be a help,” said Chris Herring a maintenance worker with the City of Huntington.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed the House in late February and arrived in the Senate, earlier this week.