Coronavirus Plan for WV
What WV Can’t Wait For
We deserve a bold, comprehensive, ongoing response to the coronavirus–one that doesn’t force us to choose between our health and our small businesses, our lives and our bank accounts.
What We’re Up Against
In order to take on a monumental crisis, we must first name what the crisis is. Here are some things we know:
Tens of thousands of working West Virginians, including gig workers, the self-employed and small business owners, have struggled to receive the economic relief we were promised. We hear daily from people who haven’t received their checks; unemployment checks have been backlogged for more than a month. The Workforce West Virginia call line has been busy or folks were on endless hold… meanwhile the official word was just “keep trying.” Case managers tell us the data system is broken and unreliable–it shows. At the same time, small business owners are left holding the bag while corporate executives of national and international chain soak up promised relief money. Pressure is mounting to “re-open” because the little relief that’s been available may soon disappear.
On May 4, the Stay-at-Home order was lifted, despite the fact that experts warned NO states were safe to re-open. We still lack necessary testing and safe PPE for all frontline workers. (Not to mention, the metric that the Governor is using as a justification to lift the order is meaningless because sufficient testing has not been available).
Without bold action now and for the months to come, economic hardship, illness, and death will be ongoing, acutely for a year or more, until there is a vaccine. The wealthy will attempt to exploit this crisis, gobbling up stocks, stimulus money, and major government contracts. The rest of us will grow poorer. We will have something akin to a Great Depression that follows.
And we will get pitted against each other. (It’s already happening: we’re being told to blame folks who don’t go back to work or blame folks that do, to blame Chinese people, to blame the grocery store clerk that can’t get a mask and hasn’t been given one). The wealthy Good Old Boys will seed those divisions while they find ways to profit from this crisis.
This is all likely. It is NOT inevitable.
We live in the richest time in West Virginia history in the richest country in the world. We could have sufficient relief, universal testing, PPE for all and an economy that works for all of us through a New Deal for West Virginia.
Here’s our plan to do it:
Scale-up testing statewide.
- Make free, drive-thru testing available at every county health department. Increased access to testing is needed immediately. Isolating new and known cases is key to slowing the spread of the virus. Drive-thru testing is one proven way to prevent further spread of the virus while providing much needed lab results for individual people and their families. All proven testing methods should be utilized, including swab testing and CT scans. Testing should be free, regardless of insurance.
- Make free testing available to the most vulnerable. We have the highest risk population in the nation. Healthcare workers, the elderly, immuno-compromised people, people experiencing homelessness, and people who are incarcerated–all of whom are high-risk due to health, exposure, and living circumstances– must have access to testing on a regular basis to avoid an outbreak.
- Err on the side of prevention. Allow doctors to utilize standardized symptom-thresholds by which to identify cases, rather than relying purely on swab or other test results (especially in cases where swab and other testing is delayed).
- Create a standardized quarantine procedure for everyone who tests positive for the virus or who is presumed to be positive based on symptoms. Make the locations of these cases available daily in an interactive map so the public can understand the spread of the disease.
Make PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) available to all.
- Ramp up PPE equipment manufacturing statewide. Partner with tech colleges, small scale manufacturers, and home seamstresses to increase PPE production statewide so that every medical professional who requires a face shield has one, so that every West Virginian can access a mask with a filter, and so that we can do our part in the national effort to manufacture test kits and hospital supplies.
- Require all employers to provide sufficient PPE for their employees including, at a minimum, filtered masks and gloves. Create a fund for in-state small businesses to apply for assistance in providing such equipment. And require employers to create safety and cleaning procedures based on CDC guidelines.
- Ramp up tele-health options for people with mental, physical, speech, and occupational health needs. The state should expedite efforts to allow all licensed therapists and mental health providers to bill for telehealth to their patients. The state should also notify the general public about these resources. We must also designate midwives as eligible for reimbursement, to support pregnant women who wish to avoid visiting hospitals. (See our full Cut Healthcare Costs plan to see how we will expand telehealth options.)
- Launch a statewide information campaign about how to access and safely wear a mask. This could include regular broadcasts, as well as a digital, television and radio campaign. We need modeling from our state’s highest officials.
Back workers, the self-employed and small business owners.
- Implement a one year state tax holiday for small, locally owned businesses, and a one year student debt freeze for all working families paid for by a combination of the state’s Rainy Day Fund, federal stimulus dollars, and using the leverage of a state bank to negotiate debt relief.
- Address the unemployment claims backlog immediately. In a state where many of us live paycheck to paycheck, no one should be waiting for weeks on end for their claim to be processed.
- Ensure that all gig workers, small business owners, and self-employed people remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Provide clear “how-to” video instructions for how to apply, hire at-home workers to staff-up the unemployment office, and guarantee that all claims will be filled back to the date of original filing.
- Clear all account holds in their online system within 48 hours, and return all voice messages within 24 hours.
- Release $600/week PUA benefits weekly to all qualified recipients and all promised back-pay immediately.
- Make PUEC applications available immediately; so that people who have run out of unemployment benefits can apply for the benefits guaranteed by the Federal government.
- Remove the requirement of a doctor’s order for folks fearing a return to work and declare a moratorium on fraud prosecutions.
- Reject calls for employment liability protection.
- Unemployment benefits must serve working people and small businesses.
- Require all companies with at least 25 employees to institute a worker-led Worker Safety Council that has the power to work with local health departments to decide whether or not a workplace is safe to re-open after a crisis.
- Allow all West Virginans who have an underlying condition or who are not provided with sufficient PPE by their employer, to continue to receive unemployment.
- Permit no water, gas, internet, phone, or electricity shut-offs. Some companies have implemented a “no shut-offs” policy, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) has “urged” other public utilities to discontinue shut-offs. All utilities should be barred shutting off service until 3 months after a vaccine has become widely available.
- Permit no evictions. Sheriffs should be directed not to execute any evictions for failure to pay until 3 months after the virus has been contained, as determined by the CDC. Small scale landlords who own three homes or fewer, should be eligible for small business relief.
- Pass “paid sick days” legislation for all workers. More than 250,000 West Virginia workers lack access to paid sick days. This must end. Twelve states have passed paid sick days legislation, and West Virginia should be next.
- Provide access to paid leave for workers who are home caring for others. See our full Workers Bill of Rights to see how we will provide paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, and other relief.
- Designate grocery employees and other essential workers in life-sustaining businesses as emergency service workers. Increase their wages to a minimum wage to $15/hour (see the full Workers Bill of Rights plan).
- Make Broadband a public utility, as outlined in our Broadband Plan, allowing more people to work safely from home home.
- First Responders must receive stipends for training, workers compensation coverage, and full pensions. See our full Justice for our First Responders plan for details.
- Guarantee safe child care options. Provide safety protocols to all child care centers that choose to stay open, as they offer child care for essential workers and those returning to work. Eligibility requirements for accessing childcare should be expanded so that families can access childcare as needed, especially essential workers like first responders, health care workers, grocery store employees, etc. Child care programs should not lose state reimbursements for families that elect not to send children to a center during this crisis. Push to implement the full National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommendations, to ensure safe, accessible child care to all. (See our full Protect Our Children plan for details about how we will expand affordable childcare for working families.)
- Convene a statewide Survivors Council to develop a plan to coordinate an anti-domestic violence effort.
- Continue to support the existing county-level response to a possible hunger crisis. Thanks to the efforts of county governments, teachers, churches, school service personnel, and restaurants, dozens of plans are in place to get food to children and seniors.
- Adopt the 2020 Food for All recommendations, including making SNAP benefits available for use with grocery delivery services–so immune-compromised people and people with disabilities can avoid the grocery store. Folks can learn more about food and medicine resources in their area at our West Virginia coronavirus resource page.
Prepare our schools so that students and educators can return to school more safely.
Reopen schools only after the following standards are met:
- 28 days of a consistent decline in cases.
- At least two weeks of prep time for teachers to start the school year, and a full day of prep time each week for teachers, to account for whatever changes have been made to curriculum.
- A full statewide re-opening plan must be in place and have been ratified by a majority of American Federation of Teachers (AFT- WV), West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), West Virginia School Service Personnel Association (WVSSPA), Parent Teacher Association (PTA) members, as well as statewide associations of principals, school board members, superintendents, and administrators. The plan should include all relevant educational, food distribution, social distancing, PPE, technological, and extracurricular standards. We encourage these leaders to consider a hub-and-spoke model for education where school comes to the students in form of food distribution and home visits, so that classrooms don’t become hot spots, and so students without stable homes/internet are not missed.
- A three-fourths majority of each of the following groups must approve a safety plan for each county: teachers, school service personnel, LSIC members, PTA/PTO, and administrative staff. A majority of parents must also sign-on.
- Each school specific plan must include protocols for:
- Food distribution practices and meal schedules
- Transportation schedules
- Mask distribution (to ensure that every student and educator is covered)
- Classroom, facilities and bus cleaning/sanitation
- A protocol for students who do not have internet access
- Grading and homework plans
- Sporting events and extracurricular activities
- Staffing and personnel shortages in the case of illness
- Resourcing students who still do not attend in person classes (due to parents’ choice)
- A school-by-school plan for how to educate every individual student and family, one-to-one at least one week before school opens
- All of the above must match CDC guidelines
See our Education Plan for other fixes our schools need now, such as access to ongoing education for teachers, increase in teacher pay, class sizes and more.
Reduce the Jail and Prison Population.
Jails and prisons lack sufficient safety measures for those who are incarcerated as well as staff. Prisoners and union members alike have been pushing for swift action.
- Reduce exposure. Allow anyone who is medically compromised, above the age of 55, or pregnant to serve their term under appropriate levels of supervision (such as home confinement) . Release all people being held on parole and probation violations for minor and non-violent crimes. Expunge the records of all offenders within three years of serving their term, as outline in our End Mass Incarceration Plan.
- Limit the spread. Test every person who is incarcerated and every staff member. Provide face masks for all staff (as people who leave and enter the facility and may expose others). Provide masks with filters to all people who exhibit symptoms, with the goal of making face masks available to all. Increase the frequency of sanitation and laundry services along with ensuring that all people have access to sufficient personal hygiene products. Stop transfers between facilities until the virus is contained. Prepare areas within facilities for quarantine.
- Make records of testing, infections, and safety procedures publicly available. Coordinate with local hospitals and county health departments to develop a plan for the transfer of people who are incarcerated to local hospitals.
- Allow free and frequent access to phones and video contact with loved ones.
- Provide paid sick leave to staff (per our Workers Bill of Rights).
Scale-up crisis management communications and protocols.
- Prioritize transparency, clarity and quick communication. The state should utilize a centralized daily text alert system, a daily press conference at a regular time, and the 211 human services information line to keep West Virginians notified of new cases as they arise, and to provide detailed information about open hospital beds, as well as information about local food, health, mental health, housing, and other resources.
- Create a state emergency “needs directory.” We are seeing incredible acts of courage and generosity everyday: county “Tip Jars” for people in the service industry, food gathering and distribution efforts, distilleries helping provide medical professionals with alcohol as a disinfectant, citizens sewing masks for hospitals, and more. The state should establish a one-stop shop for all West Virginians who want to help in their communities as volunteers, and all workers who want to find ways to fight the crisis from home, or in an emergency capacity.
- Pass “vote by mail” legislation for all West Virginia voters. Two-thirds of states offer voting by mail to anyone who requests a ballot. West Virginia should do the same. The virus should not be allowed to weaken our democratic institutions. Vote-by-mail is already a part of our Freedom for People with Disabilities plan.
Back local governments ability to provide services.
- Use the bully pulpit to press the federal government to release stimulus funds to cover existing state and local government fees.
- Fast-track our New Homestead Act plan to ramp up Excess Acreage Fees on out-of-state Landholding companies to raise tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for local governments.
- Fast-track the creation of a State Bank of West Virginia and capitalize it with recently available low-cost loans for the federal government which can in turn be used to back low-cost loans for local governments, small businesses, and the basic operation of Government.
Lay the groundwork for a New Deal for West Virginia.
- A Mountaineer Service Corps to put people back to work.
- A Small Business Revolution to help our small businesses recover and thrive.
- A Farmers plan to increase our state’s food security.
- A State Bank to see that we , and more.
- You can also read details in our Workers Bill of Rights about our plan to offer 12 weeks of paid Family and Medical Leave to working families.
How We Pay For It
The state should tap into all possible federal grants, emergency funds, and when necessary, our Rainy Day Fund. We also urge the passage of federal relief. This is a crisis that goes beyond state borders, and the cost of not taking action will be far greater than the costs of taking action.
Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.
- Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
- Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
- Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
- Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
- Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.
But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.
No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.
If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at email@example.com.