May 13, 2020

They'll stone you when you're trying to be so good...

WV Governor Jim Justice's COVID-19 press conferences can be pretty unpredictable, but it was truly weird yesterday to see him basically lose his temper when asked by a reporter about a sign-on letter that several groups (including AFSC) sent about unemployment insurance for vulnerable workers and/or family members. You can view his rant here. And here's the news article written by the reporter.

(Short version: he pretty much says the groups want everyone to be on unemployment forever--not true--and that the same people wanted to let dangerous murderers and such out of prison--also not true.)

Here's the response of those who sent the letter:

As Governor Justice often reminds us, West Virginia has the largest share of its population in the country who is at risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19. The governor has been a leader in protecting vulnerable populations throughout this crisis, and it’s disappointing to hear him dismiss the concerns around continuing to protect these populations as the state begins to reopen. Among the groups that signed onto this letter are frontline service and health workers, communities of color, and disability rights groups, all of whom represent populations that are themselves at elevated risk or who have family members at risk of serious illness due to underlying medical conditions. 
The governor has the authority and the obligation to protect at-risk workers from being forced into work situations which put them at significant risk of coming into contact with COVID-19. West Virginia code states that a person is not disqualified for unemployment insurance benefits if they leave their employment for health reasons, including a condition that could be worsened or aggravated by work. We’re also asking for more transparency out of WorkForce WV, including that the agency publicly release the conditions their office is using to determine suitable work during the COVID-19 crisis.
Our intention is to work with the Justice Administration and WorkForce WV to ensure that at-risk workers are not forced to choose between their health and their finances. Public health is not a political issue.  
 A weird thing about all this is that nobody was looking to pick a fight with the Justice administration. In fact, most of those who signed on have been generally supportive of his approach..

The fact remains that reopening will expose vulnerable people to infection and possible death. Then there's this: as Sean O'Leary with the WV Center on Budget and Policy points out, federal guidelines explicitly allow for these factors to be taken into consideration as state's consider reopening and unemployment insurance options. None of which involves what Justice referred to as "playing politics."

At least we know now that someone reads these things...

1 comment:

Caz said...

Question comes at 1:04:01 at the link above. The tantrum starts at 1:04:53 and runs for a couple of minutes.