Take Me Home
What WV Can’t Wait For
West Virginia will be a place where our kids can stay and build a decent, fulfilling life.
Whose Side We’re On
- Kids who want to stay here when they grow up
- Teachers and school service personnel
- West Virginians who return home to start businesses
- Hard workers who deserve a living wage
- Real Economic Development
- Public employees
- Small business owners who give back to their communities
… and more. Click the links above to read stories from the trail.
What We’re Up Against
There are thousands of young people who would love to choose West Virginia as “the place where they belong” for good. We have a low cost of living, gorgeous mountains and rivers, and a neighborly way of life.
We know that we desperately need to keep and attract people who have the skills to help protect and rebuild our communities, including first responders, social workers, and frontline workers fighting the pandemic and the addiction crisis.
But West Virginians are leaving because they’re saddled with student and medical debt, and they’re unable to pay off that debt here at home.
Total household debt in America is now at record levels, reaching $14 trillion for the first time in history. And nearly three quarters of new graduates in West Virginia carry student debt, at an average of nearly $30,000 each. We also have the highest rate of student loan default in the nation.
Additionally, because of our broken healthcare system, about 25% of Americans have struggled to pay medical bills, leading to pileups of medical debt and even bankruptcy. About one-third of West Virginians have unpaid medical bills. And that was before the pandemic, which has caused 3.5 million Americans to lose their employer-based healthcare. Already, two-thirds of people who file for bankruptcy do so as a result of medical bills.
As a result of all of this, we’re losing about 44 of our neighbors and family members every day, roughly 34,500 people since 2008. And it’s not just limited to a few areas. Fifty of West Virginia’s 55 counties lost people between 2017 and 2018.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
We will unrig the system that’s driving hardworking West Virginians out-of-state.
- We will repay student loan debt OR pay off medical debts for tens of thousands of people who take jobs in areas of public service that protect and rebuild our communities. This program will be administered through the Public Bank of West Virginia.
- Loan payments will be made by the state through annual payments of 10% of each qualifying person’s loan balance, up to a maximum of $3,000 per year, over a maximum of ten years. This means up to $30,000 in loan forgiveness per person over a decade, using a payment system modeled on the debt forgiveness program in Kansas.
- Jobs eligible under the debt forgiveness plan include
- Make it illegal to garnish wages, tax refunds, or seize property for student or medical debt.
- Vastly increase licensing fees and bonding for debt collectors in the state of West Virginia, and use the revenue to fund consumer protection services.
- Aggressively pursue violations of debt collection laws, revoke permits for violating companies, and pursue harassment charges against company executives. For executives attempting to financially profit from harassment, and with restorative justice in mind, add a mandatory penalty sufficient to pay off the debt in question.
- Leverage the State Bank of West Virginia to negotiate with lenders and the federal government to forgive as much debt as possible.
How We Pay For It
- $75 million per year (projecting 25,000 people x $3,000 maximum debt forgiveness per person).
- This plan can be paid for out of the “Prosecute Corporate Criminals and Corrupt Politicians” plan.
- We expect this to generate considerable economic activity by providing financial relief where we need it most, but we do not count it among our revenues.
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.