Bluefield Daily Telegraph. May 3, 2022.
Editorial: Coalfields Expressway: More funding now in place
One of the unique aspects of the Coalfields Expressway project is that it meanders through two states connecting the coalfield counties of Southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia.
While there has been some progress on the West Virginia side of the roadway in recent years, particularly in Raleigh and Wyoming counties, work on the future four-lane corridor has been largely stalled in Virginia.
That could soon be changing.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., confirmed last month that almost $2 million in federal funding has been earmarked for pre-engineering for the Coalfields Expressway from Grundy to the West Virginia state line.
The $1.9 million in federal funding will allow for the start of pre-engineering work, but Kaine said more money may be available through American Rescue Plan funding as well as the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“This is a necessary project,” Kaine, a former governor of Virginia, said of the future four-lane corridor. “It’s not easy. It’s not cheap, but with the infrastructure bill, the American Rescue Act and return of earmarks to the federal budget, there are resources there.”
Kaine attended a meeting of the Virginia Coalfields Expressways Authority (CFX) in Grundy last month to discuss the project.
During that meeting, James Keen, a member of the authority board, noted that on the Hawk’s Nest section of the project, mining coal while building the roadway saved the state $90 million. The process of allowing coal companies to create a rough road-bed while extracting coal has been referred to as “coal synergy” agreements in the past.
“We need to be exploring and encouraging coal companies to identify locations they have interest in because through these synergies we can have great impact,” Keen said.
Kaine didn’t disagree, instead adding that with the abundance of metallurgical coal in the Southwest Virginia region and the push at the federal level to encourage domestic production of steel, additional synergies should be explored.
CFX Executive Director Jonathan Belcher, who also serves as executive director/general counsel for the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, is hoping to build momentum for the Virginia-side of the project.
One way to do that, as correctly noted by Belcher, is to keep the project in the forefront of federal lawmakers like Kaine, while working with the administration of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, state lawmakers and others.
“We realize the clock is ticking in Southwest Virginia,” Senator Travis Hackworth, R-Tazewell, said. “It is very critical we act now and the sooner the better.”
The $1.9 million in federal funding for pre-engineering work is a good start.
In the meantime, the CFX board and area project supporters are correct in pushing to keep the project front and center with federal and state lawmakers, as their support will be critical toward ensuring the availability of those state and federal dollars that will be needed to complete the expressway.
The Intelligencer. May 4, 2022.
Editorial: Time to Diversify W.Va.’s Economy
During the pandemic, entrepreneurs across the country addressed financial challenges by starting their own businesses. In fact, 10% of U.S. workers are self-employed entrepreneurs now. But here in West Virginia, that number is considerably lower. According to a report by Commodity.com, only 6.8% of Mountain State workers are self-employed — the fewest of any state.
As in so many other categories, we are falling behind the rest of the country on this count, but we are not alone. Other states left behind during our decades-long economic transition — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana, for example — are near the bottom in the self-employment category, too.
Here’s where we stand: In 2020 there were 11,090 new business applications in West Virginia. That compares with an average of 85,428 per state throughout the rest of the nation. Median annual income for full-time business owners here is $45,000. It is $52,000 for the country as a whole.
Most of the new businesses being started in the U.S. are in either retail trade or professional, scientific and technical services. Officials in West Virginia have steadfastly resisted transitioning our old economy in those directions for years. Now, only the bravest of entrepreneurs feel confident enough to try something new in the Mountain State.
Public officials have a responsibility to institute regulatory reform and legislation that will foster the entrepreneurial spirit, not frighten it away.
We are used to looking up from the bottom here, and it is a shame. But despite the knowledge there is a long way to go, Mountaineers are brave, intelligent, creative and hard-working enough to get there — if politicians and the bureaucracy will get out of their way.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. May 4, 2022.
Editorial: Mental health resources available for children in crisis
In what may seem an odd choice of words, West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Behavior Health has announced this is Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Week.
Acceptance. If we use the dictionary definitions of that word, we learn the event is about “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered,” or “the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.”
Using those definitions, the DHHR is demonstrating a remarkable understanding of the challenges faced by those of all ages struggling with mental health issues in this state, for generations. If the idea is truly to knock down those walls, bravo!
“Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Week comes at a critical time when the state and nation are responding to continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth mental health,” said Christina Mullins, commissioner of the Bureau for Behavioral Health. “BBH and its partners want families to know they are not alone; everyone struggles sometimes and help is available. One of the easiest ways to access behavioral health services is through West Virginia’s Children’s Crisis and Referral Line.”
That help line, which families can access via phone call or text, is 844-HELP4WV. There is also a chat feature available at www.help4wv.com/ccl.
In his proclamation declaring Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Week, Gov. Jim Justice reports one in five children will experience a mental health crisis. Though much of the accompanying language involves the ongoing pandemic, we know children have always struggled in ways that adults too often shrugged off as the damage became permanent.
But perhaps that tide is turning. Whatever the impetus, it is important to use this week as an opportunity to accept your children’s challenges as worthy of attention and help, rather than ignoring them, assuming they’ll grow out of it, or criticizing/punishing them for behavior they may not understand or be able to control.
Take advantage of the resources available. You and your kids are not alone. There is help.