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Justice, Manchin trade jabs over stimulus bill

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 4:09 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - Gov. Jim Justice spent much of his Monday morning COVID-19 briefing criticizing Sen. Joe Manchin on the stimulus relief package approved by the U.S. Senate over the weekend. (It still faces final action in the House of Representatives over changes in the Senate-passed legislation.)

Both officeholders were featured on Sunday interview programs discussing the package and West Virginia’s response to COVID-19.

Justice Monday continued to attack Manchin’s role in the legislation, zeroing in on the changes the senator fought for.

One of those changes was the reduction from $400 to $300 in weekly unemployment benefits.

The governor said Manchin talks a good game on bi-partisanship, but doesn’t deliver.

”It’s another slap in West Virginia’s face. We should have done the $400; absolutely, it was a slap for no reason. It’s a showboat deal; it’s a political deal, that’s what it is. It’s all about politics; it’s all about getting your name out there.”

Justice also says Manchin supports President Joe Biden’s nominee for Energy Secretary, in spite of the candidate’s opposition to fossil fuels.

The governor continued to defend his keeping money from previous CARES act allocations to the state in reserve, saying it reflects West Virginia’s sound spending policies, and that it’s something governors across the nation do.

Manchin’s office was quick to respond to Justice’s remarks, releasing this statement Monday afternoon from the senator:

“Instead of political attacks that do nothing to help hard working West Virginians, I welcome the opportunity to speak with Governor Justice about the best possible ways to improve the lives of West Virginians with the more than $2 billion in federal funding that I secured for our state in this bill. The COVID relief package that I voted for on Saturday will finally kill COVID and revitalize our economy in West Virginia. This package includes $1.25 billion that Governor Justice and the legislature will be responsible for managing. It also includes an additional $624 million that will go directly to city and county governments, $800 million for West Virginia schools, $260 million for childcare in West Virginia and $10 million for West Virginia Head Start programs. I fought to ensure that West Virginia will receive $140 million for broadband infrastructure to improve connectivity and $2 million to quickly get hotspots to those who need them to telework and learn. There is also tens of millions more for vaccines and rural health providers. Nearly every West Virginian will receive a stimulus check, and unemployment will be extended for those who have been most hurt during the pandemic. Policy differences do not justify personal attacks; I want to work with Governor Justice in the best interest of our state,” said Senator Manchin.

Justice has said-and repeated Monday-Congress needs to “go big” on stimulus legislation, but said there is too much in the current legislation that doesn’t provide pandemic relief.

Meanwhile, Justice heralded an 88% drop in COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the year, but still urged residents to take precautions. West Virginia on Monday reported the lowest number of weekly deaths from the coronavirus in more than four months. State health officials said there were 25 virus-related deaths last week, the lowest since the week ending Oct. 25. No such deaths were reported on two different days last week. Weekly confirmed virus cases totaled 1,260, the lowest since early October. The number of active statewide cases was the lowest since Nov. 2.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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