The Back Pew

5

By Senator Stephen Baldwin

2020 has been a long decade. Or at least it feels that way. I think of y’all often and long for the days when we can be together as a community again. In the meantime, I’m praying for your family and working nonstop with community leaders to keep folks safe and secure our future.

COMMUNICATIONS. I lead multiple COVID-19 task forces in our region. Summaries of each meeting are posted online and sent to local media. If you want to stay up to date with the very latest news, follow me on social media @BaldwinForWV and read your local paper.

SOCIAL MEDIA. Hard times bring out the best and worst in people. Social media has a tendency to magnify our worst impulses. Yet it’s the best way to get solid info out quickly to the public. So for goodness sake, please keep it civil on social media! We’re fighting enough battles right now; we don’t need to be fighting with each other! We are all on the same team. We must work together to get through this.

ESSENTIAL WORKERS. There are more heroes in this pandemic than there were superheroes in the last Avengers movie. From nurses to truck drivers to farmers to custodians to gas station clerks, our essential workers deserve our gratitude. Thank you to everyone who is quietly showing up to work every day and making the world turn! We see you, and we appreciate you.

UNEMPLOYMENT. Speaking of work, lots of folks have lost their jobs. The state’s unemployment rate sits around 10% right now. That affects not only their pocketbooks but also their mindset. Work provides dignity. That’s why I’ve worked so hard to make sure legitimate unemployment claims are handled. I’ve sent thousands of cases to Workforce for resolution. Every single day I send them new cases which folks sent to me. If you need assistance getting your unemployment benefits, please email me your name and phone number. I want to ensure you can get back on your feet and back into the workforce. Lastly, while the $600/week benefit expired last month, a new $400/week benefit for those who continue to be legitimately unemployed is on the horizon. It will be funded by the federal and state government jointly. Stay tuned.

CARES ACT FUNDS. In order to spur statewide economic activity, the federal government sent $1.25 billion to our state. Two months ago, a group of Senators sent Gov. Justice recommendations on how to spend those funds including small business grants, VFD/EMS grants, building broadband infrastructure, safety equipment to keep our kids safe in school, and saving a portion of the funds for unknown needs that arise in the future. Visit grants.wv.gov to apply for the small business grants.

COLOR CODED MAP. The state is using a color coded map to show where schools and nursing homes, for example, can be open. Since its recent inception, it has undergone several changes. In order to have credibility moving forward it needs to count every case, value rural areas like ours to the same degree as urban areas, and be consistent. To find it, visit dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19.

WANT NORMALITY? Wear a mask, socially distance, and wash your hands. It’s been said a million times… because it works. The more of us that do these things regularly, the more we can return a sense of normality. Thank you for keeping each other safe by doing these things!

That’s the view from the back pew, where it is my privilege to serve you! Please continue to be in touch so we can work together.

(Senator Stephen Baldwin is a local Presbyterian pastor representing Fayette, Greenbrier, Monroe, & Summers. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or stephen.baldwin@wvsenate.gov. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV)