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What West Virginians need from Biden's social spending plan

A group of West Virginians bundled against the cold wait by the entrance to the yacht club where Senator Joe Manchin (R-WV) lives. (Joy Asico/AP Images for CPD Action)
A group of West Virginians bundled against the cold wait by the entrance to the yacht club where Senator Joe Manchin (R-WV) lives. (Joy Asico/AP Images for CPD Action)

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is a no on President Biden’s social spending plan.

“If I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it,” Sen. Manchin said in December.

The people of West Virginia have the highest percentage of people with a disability under age 65, the second-lowest median household income and fourth-highest poverty rate in the country.

“This is our last chance to get some federal support to be innovative, and grow and give people an opportunity to provide for their families here,” Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO says. “And I hate that we’re on the cusp of losing it.”

Today, On Point: What West Virginians need, and what their senator is willing to support.

Guests

Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. (@kellakelWV)

Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO. (@WestVirginiaAFL)

Also Featured

Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

JoAnna Vance, 32-year-old mother of three in West Virginia.

Listen: West Virginian Resident JoAnna Vance On How A Social Spending Plan Would Impact Her Life

Joanna Vance and her husband have lived in West Virginia their entire lives. So did their parents and grandparents. JoAnna is 32 and has three kids ages six, seven and 11. Vance and her husband both work, but it’s not enough.

Below, she explains how a $750 monthly child tax credit they received last year made all the difference:

After years, finally, our finances have gotten better. I took the child tax credit in July, and I went and paid off all of our medical bills at the pediatrician’s office. Because we don’t get state assistance, and we don’t have medical cards or anything like that. And especially with three kids, you have co-pays and deductibles with private insurance, and it gets expensive. In August, of course, it was no more school year, and school clothes and school supplies.

In September, I took my child tax credit and we put four new tires onto one of our family vehicles. The tires were very dangerous and that was the first time ever that we’ve been able to put four brand new tires on one of our vehicles. Usually we would get like two used ones to put on the front two tires, and then two used ones to put on the back.

So many people have laughed at me about that. They’re like, you’ve never been able to put new tires on your car. Well, it must be nice for you to have always been able to put four new tires on your car. I mean, we’re not poor by no means. But we have three kids and a life, and we have to budget.

Not receiving the child tax credit in January, we’re going to go back to having to budget and save for those things instead of having that extra money to do it when we get it. You know, the savings account that we’ve built up or that extra cushion, all it’s going to take for that to go is the vehicle to break down, or something in the house to need fixed and then it’ll just be right back to paycheck to paycheck.


Beyond JoAnna’s struggles from paycheck to paycheck, Joanna also shared what’s at the root of her family’s financial hardships: 

In 2017, my husband went to treatment for substance use disorder.

Until that time, when he needed the treatment, JoAnna’s husband had one of the highest paying jobs around. He worked in West Virginia’s coal mines. But like so many others they know in West Virginia, he’d developed an opioid addiction.

He needed help, but his job didn’t offer paid medical leave so that he could take time off for treatment. That’s a benefit he would have received if a social support plan like the Build Back Better proposal existed when her husband was struggling.

He was going to go to treatment and lose his job, or he was going to not go to treatment and lose his family. OK, had he had paid leave, he would have been able to go to his employer and say, Hey, I’m taking my pay leave to go to treatment, and they couldn’t have said anything, right?

And he would have had a state leave, went to treatment, came home and still had his job. … He didn’t because of two weeks of going to treatment that set us back like almost three years financially. And when he got home, he had to get a new job and the new job that he took, he went from making $31 an hour to making $12 an hour.

OK, so that was a huge cut to us. It was really hard for him to get a job back in the coal mines. I think it took him. Lord have mercy. I think it took him a year, probably a year and a half to get another job back in the coal mines. Had it not been for like his grandparents and his parents and stuff, we wouldn’t have really made it through that time.

It was them that helped us pay bills and take care of things while we got back on our feet. If somebody lives here, it’s basically because they grew up here and a lot of people are moving away. And if something’s not done, I don’t know. West Virginia needs help. And I want to know who’s going to help us.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.