By Roger Hanshaw, Delegate for District 33
It will soon be six months since the West Virginia Legislature ended the 2020 regular session. When legislators adjourned in early March, the nation was only just beginning to feel the effects of the virus that has now turned our world on its edge, and since that time we have all had to adjust to life under unexpected circumstances. At some point our nation will return to a life that looks more like what we knew before coronavirus. Until then, we all have to make the most of our circumstances and be prepared to come out as strong as we can when the coronavirus subsides.
Right now, the legislature is starting preparations for the 2021 legislative session, and our key priorities are making sure we get West Virginia back on track and fully recovered from the coronavirus shutdowns. Over the past six months, several things have become painfully obvious, and there is a lot of work to be done now to help West Virginia recover.
Broadband access is more important now than ever.
Broadband internet connectivity has been one of my top priorities as a member of the legislature for the past six years. Our small businesses and public schools have been handicapped for years by the poor quality of internet service available throughout much of West Virginia. The magnitude of this problem became crystal clear over the past few months as so many West Virginians attempted to work from home and engage in distance learning to complete educational programs. Though we have passed significant broadband expansion bills in each of the past three years, a lot of work still remains to be done to improve broadband internet service for many West Virginians. We are currently working closely with internet providers to make sure West Virginia businesses can compete in the upcoming federal auction designed to make new wireless internet options available across the nation, especially in rural areas. Few things can be more important right now than making sure we leverage every available federal and state resource to improve internet connectivity, especially in those areas with the poorest service today.
West Virginia is an attractive place for remote working.
The social unrest and disruption that we have observed in many of America’s largest cities over the past few months has caused many of the nation’s largest employers to begin looking at options for relocating workers to more stable communities. West Virginia offers a great place for individuals and families to live, work, and enjoy wonderful opportunities for some of the greatest outdoor recreation in the world. Since early spring, a team of House members has been busy preparing a package of legislative initiatives to make West Virginia one of the most attractive states in the nation for remote workers. We want to market West Virginia to the world as a place where people with flexible work opportunities can come to enjoy cheap living costs, friendly neighbors, and a wonderful environment. In short, we want to entice people to move to West Virginia, and we need your help to make it happen. We all need to take advantage of every opportunity to brag on our State and make others feel as optimistic about West Virginia as we are.
It’s time for all West Virginians to be counted – Complete the Census Today!
One of the most pressing and important deadlines coming up for West Virginia is the deadline to complete the 2020 census. It is easy to overlook this critically important task, but for the future of West Virginia, WE MUST ALL COMPLETE THE CENSUS. The population of West Virginia determines a number of tremendously important things, like the amount of federal funding we receive to pave roads, support hospitals, repair disaster damage, and a lot more. It also determines how many representatives West Virginia will have in the United States House of Representatives after the next election. With so much depending on the outcome of the 2020 census, I hope we all agree that it is critically important that we do our part by completing the census.
As we head into the end of summer 2020, many families are making decisions about school options for children, healthcare decisions, and plans for how to work in the coming weeks and months. While it remains unclear what kind of additional relief West Virginians are likely to receive in a new federal coronavirus relief package from Congress, what is certain is that West Virginia’s state government is trying hard to be prepared when those resources arrive. If you or your family have confronted issues accessing resources or programs offered by state agencies, I hope you will call my office at the capitol and let us know how we can help you navigate the problems and address your concerns. That contact telephone number is (304) 340-3210. Until the next time, stay healthy and happy, and enjoy time with your family.