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Justice considering eliminating $300 extra unemployment benefit early

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday he’s considering eliminating the $300 weekly additional unemployment benefit that thousands of state residents receive before its September expiration date.

headshot
Governor Jim Justice

Justice said he’s heard from employers that can’t fill jobs. He said some people still need the benefits but there are some that don’t.

“We got plenty of folks that are hurting and not speaking of those folks in any way but you’ve got a lot, a lot, a lot of other folks that are scamming the whole system,” Justice said. “Our businesses are pleading with our people. We’ve got to have you back to work.”

Governors in more and more states have taken the step to eliminate the additional benefits. Iowa and Tennessee announced decisions to do so Tuesday. There are nine other states that made the move earlier.

Justice, who was short on specifics Wednesday. said his move would be two-pronged.

“Not only are we looking at moving forward to shorten that time period and go all of the way out to the end but we’re also looking at another tradeoff that could really help incentivize those folks to get back on the job. We need them back to work,” Justice said.

But West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Senior Policy Analyst Sean O’Leary said the trouble with employers filling jobs is more about transitioning out of a pandemic than it is people deciding not to work because they get $300 extra on top of their weekly unemployment benefits.

“It takes some time to adjust and of course there’s going to be some issues and the labor market is going to take maybe a month, two months to adjust to that and get back to normal. We’ve not had a global pandemic like this before,” O’Leary told MetroNews.

Sean O’Leary

O’Leary said it’s not that there are more jobs but the openings have come back very quickly and the workforce, for various reasons, has had trouble keeping pace.

O’Leary said the $300 extra benefit is helping ease the transition. He said eliminating it could slow the economic recovery.

“We still have in West Virginia and nationwide more unemployed workers than job openings and if you cut that off you’re cutting off that income because there’s not jobs for them. We hear that there are but the data is telling they’re not there. If you cut that off then their spending is going to go down,” O’Leary said.

He said the additional benefits have helped West Virginia’s economy.

Total unemployment in West Virginia just under 43,000 residents, a number that’s been falling in recent months, O’Leary said.

“Right now we’re seeing an economy on the verge of taking off,” he said.

Justice seemed to indicate Wednesday that his patience was about ready to run out.

“This nation was built on people’s work. I’m a real believer that work brings real gratification and honor and everything else. We’ve got to get our people back to work,” Justice said.

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Thoughts and observations from the Class A and Class AA state tournaments

One year after the start of the pandemic brought an end to high school basketball season before boys teams could compete at the state tournament, there were memories aplenty on the hardwood in Charleston.

Some thoughts and observations from the Class A and Class AA state tournaments, which culminated with Man and Williamstown as state champions. (Note: Class AAA and Class AAAA will publish tomorrow.)

Class A

—— Man’s Austin Ball is a force. The 6-foot-7 junior was as steady and consistent as any player in Charleston, scoring 72 over three games to lead the Hillbillies to their first state championship.

When Man struggled to produce offense for much of the title game against defensive-minded Pendleton County, Ball came through in a big way, scoring 10 points in each half to finish with 20 of the game’s 79 points.

Ball’s 72 points led all players at the state tournament and were 20 more than the next highest Class A scorer — Tug Valley guard Caleb May, who scored 52 in two games.

Ball has the skill set to play at the next level and adding strength to his 185-pound frame will only enhance his chances of making that opportunity happen at the Division I level.

Regardless of what the future holds for Ball, he’ll always remember his dunk that marked the final points of the title game and set off a frenzied celebration from the Man faithful.

—— Pendleton County had an impressive showing in its state tournament debut. PCHS played to its strengths, using a methodical style to get past Greenbrier West and Tug Valley, before falling short against Man in the final. The Wildcats had the score and tempo at their preferred pace against the Hillbillies, but came up short down the stretch and were outscored 11-0 to end the game.

Coach Ryan Lambert worked wonders with an experienced Pendleton team, one that rode post players Josh Alt and Bailey Thompson. The Wildcats finished 4 of 17 on three-pointers in Charleston, including 3 of 10 in the title game. Guard Tanner Townsend was 4 of 11 on triples — meaning the rest of the roster did not hit a three and attempted only six.

Without a shot clock, the Wildcats had no difficulty slowing down games and working for the best available shot, which combined with holding opponents to 41 points on average, nearly led Lambert’s team to a championship.

PCHS did not surrender 50 points in any of its 18 games this season. There was some thought that Pendleton’s 40-game win streak dating back to the start of last season was largely predicated off of its schedule, but the Wildcats proved otherwise.

Although Pendleton started four seniors, Lambert’s culture and ability to get players to buy in leaves the Wildcats with plenty of hope in the future.

—— Cameron had a quick stay in Charleston after falling to Tug Valley in a quarterfinal, but the Dragons showed plenty of promise in the 69-55 loss.

CHS trailed by just five through three quarters and was hurt by 6-7 junior Trevor Beresford (the younger brother of former West Virginia player Logan Routt) being in foul trouble. Two of Cameron’s five starters and three of its eight players to see action in Charleston are seniors, suggesting this season could be a springboard for the Dragons.

Class AA

—— Williamstown won its first state championship since 1962 and much of it can be attributed to the Yellowjackets’ defense and free-throw shooting.

WHS held opponents to 28.6 percent field-goal shooting, including 20.5 on three-pointers. The defensive field-goal percentage, along with surrendering 40 points on average, were tops among all 32 teams in Charleston.

In a semifinal victory over Chapmanville and the title game against Poca, the Yellowjackets’ 2-3 zone caused fits for the Tigers and Dots.

For the tournament, seventy-three of the 154 field-goal attempts against Williamstown were three-pointers, and only 15 were made.

As for the free throws, Williamstown made 45 of 62, including 35 of 44 in the semifinal and final. WHS coach Scott Sauro discussed the importance of his team making 21-of-27 tries from the charity stripe following the victory over Chapmanville. His players must have been listening, as they followed it up by making 14 of 17 in the final, including 10 of 13 during a fourth quarter in which they did not record a field goal as they held off a furious charge from the Dots.

The battle between Poca and Charleston Catholic in a Class AA semifinal will be a memory for some time. Photo by Eddie Ferrari

—— Poca’s 42-40 win over Charleston Catholic in a semifinal was the most thrilling of the seven Class AA state tournament games from a viewing standpoint.

While the first half was low scoring and saw PHS enter the break with a 17-9 lead, the Irish scored 20 points in the third quarter on the strength of six three-pointers. That enabled Catholic to lead for all but 14 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Only when Virginia commit Isaac McKneely made three-pointers with 23 seconds remaining and again in response to an Aiden Satterfield basket with 1.7 seconds left, were the Dots in front in the fourth.

That final sequence, which featured McKneely hitting a triple to give Poca a 39-38 lead and then another for the final points, was one of the more memorable games in state tournament history.

It was a tough way to go out for an Irish team that was plenty good enough to win it all, but missed all four fourth-quarter free throw attempts and finished 0 for 6 for the game.

Catholic, however, should feel anything but defeated in the aftermath of a tough season-ending loss. Satterfield and fellow senior Zion Suddeth displayed nothing but class in postgame interviews, following in the footsteps of Hunter Moles, who seems to relate to his players as well as any coach in the state.

McKneely was also gracious in defeat the next day, accepting responsibility for his 4 for 22 shooting performance against Williamstown, while vowing to get back in the gym Monday and continue working on his game. He didn’t become the state’s top recruit on accident.

—— Ritchie County’s first trip to the state tournament ended with a 10-point loss to Charleston Catholic in a quarterfinal, but the Rebels held their own.

Despite making 7-of-8 three-pointers in the opening half, Ritchie still faced a five-point deficit at the break after the Irish connected on 7-of-9 triples.

Sophomore Ethan Haught, the son of Rebels’ coach Rick Haught, was an all-tournament team selection after scoring 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, to go with eight rebounds and five assists.

Haught’s return should only increase expectations ahead of next season for a team that earned its way to Charleston despite being the third seed in a three-team section.

Three of the team’s five starters are seniors, including leading scorer Graden McKinney, but the state tournament experience is something that can’t be replicated.

—— Bluefield is no stranger to state tournaments or state championships, though the Beavers were far from a shoo-in to get to Charleston this season.

A 49-42 loss to Poca in a quarterfinal left Bluefield with a 9-10 record, but the Beavers showed plenty of promise and shot 60 percent (18 of 30) in the loss.

BHS won four straight games before its season-ending setback and hung with the Dots throughout. Sophomore Caleb Fuller had a game-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and with only three seniors, the Beavers will expect to return to Charleston with a better record next season.

They could also benefit from the development of R.J. Hairston, a 6-3 freshman who scored six points in 29 minutes against the Dots.

“We’ll be back up here,” Fuller said. “I promise you that.”

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Families describe loss as former VA hospital aide is sentenced to multiple life terms

Forrest Kozul is getting closer to peace, but he is not ready to forgive the former nurse’s aide who killed his father in a veterans hospital.

“We don’t have the ability to wish her death, but I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to forgive her,” Kozul said today.

He was one of many still-grieving family members who witnessed confessed killer Reta Mays receive seven life sentences running consecutively, plus another 20 years, in the deaths of West Virginia veterans.

One of those was Robert Kozul, an Army veteran and a joy to his family.

“We’re OK. Yesterday was a very hard day, a very long-awaited day,” said Forrest’s wife, Becky Kozul. “We’ve had to relive his death throughout this whole investigation. Hopefully yesterday brought us a little bit of closure.”

Forrest and Becky Kozul, Son and Daughter-in-Law, join @HoppyKercheval to discuss the life of Robert Kozul. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/T7bJgHfYf6

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 12, 2021

Mays admitted to killing veterans Robert Kozul, Robert Edge Sr., Archie EdgellGeorge Shaw, a patient identified only as W.A.H., Felix McDermott and Raymond Golden. She is also accused of administering insulin to “R.R.P.,” another patient who was not diabetic, with intent to kill him.

All had checked into the hospital to seek healthcare and all had expected to recover. None were being treated for diabetes, yet their blood sugar crashed under suspicious circumstances. Mays admitted guilt their deaths by administering unnecessary and lethal doses of insulin while she worked the overnight shift.

Her sentencing in federal court this week revealed that Mays had sat up with the veterans at night, engaged in long conversations with worried family members, improperly administered insulin and then sometimes went home or, in some instances, directly participated in efforts to revive the very men she had imperiled.

The sentencing was a catharsis, but also brought back longstanding feelings of loss for family members. Several relatives attempted to describe heir loss during the sentencing hearing, either by speaking from the witness stand or on video.

“How can we even begin to explain what you took from us?” Becky Kozul asked, addressing Mays in the courtroom. “You decided he didn’t need to enjoy life any more or watch his family grow. Why should you ever be allowed out of prison to enjoy freedom?”

Robert Kozul was 89 when he died at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. He was admitted to the hospital Jan. 18, 2018, after falling at home. He was discharged three days later but then was readmitted that Jan. 26 because of vision loss. An MRI revealed he’d had a stroke.

During the early morning hours that Jan. 29, Kozul became cold, clammy and lethargic. He was transferred to a critical care unit, and his blood sugar level was determined to be 27.

By 1 a.m. Jan. 30, he died.

Families who lost loved ones in that anguishing way now know Mays was the cause. But they still don’t have any relief of knowing why.

Reta Mays

“There are no words I can say that would offer the families any comfort. I can only say that I’m sorry for the pain I caused the families and my family,” Mays said in court, standing, wearing an orange jumpsuit and crying throughout her short statement.

“I don’t ask anyone for forgiveness because I don’t think I could forgive anyone for doing what I did.”

The Kozuls, like other families, wanted to make it clear what they lost.

Robert served in the Army as a field artillery parachutist and spent his life in Fairmont. He worked at B&O Railroad before being hired at Westinghouse, long a major employer in the area, where he retired in 1989 as a machinist 1st class.

He was head usher, head greeter and a choir member at his church. He joined a local group for dulcimer enthusiasts. As a member of the Elks Club, he relished dining and dancing on Friday nights.

Robert Kozul

“Pappy was a wonderful man,” Becky Kozul said. “He loved life. He loved to dance. He loved to sing. He loved to play his harmonica.” And, she said, he was attentive to others. “He complimented everything about you. He was always appreciative of everything you did.”

The Kozuls believed Robert still had much life ahead to enjoy. At Christmas 2017, he found out he was going to be a great grandfather.

“He got so emotional. He cried,” Becky Kozul said. “He couldn’t wait to be a great grandfather. He didn’t get to see that happen.”

That kind of loss was lamented by the other families who spoke at the sentencing.

“You have deprived nine grandkids and 13 great grandkids of ever knowing that love,” said Robert Edge Jr., who spoke by video.

Robert Edge Sr. was a Navy veteran who died at age 82 at the veterans hospital. His son said he’d provided a lifetime of support for his family. “When it was time for me to take care of him, you took that away from me,” Robert Edge Jr. said in the video to Reta Mays.

Melanie Proctor, the youngest daughter of Felix McDermott, also spoke of loss.

“You took some of the greatest men of their prime, our loved ones, and you preyed on them at their weakest,” she said to Mays. “For that you are a coward.”

Thomas Kleeh

Judge Thomas Kleeh made a point of saying the victims’ names, describing their military service and their contributions in life. The judge said it would be disrespectful to describe them as “counts” or “charges.”

“You took the lives of these gentlemen into your own hands for reasons that remain and will forever remain unclear,” the judge said to Mays before sentencing her to consecutive life sentences.

“It wasn’t your call. It wasn’t your decision. That precious gift of every second we’re blessed to walk on their earth, you stole from each of your victims. You substituted your judgment. You stole that time from these gentlemen that you were charged to care for.”

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Justice says vaccination gift cards at printers; media briefings to be reduced

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday $100 gift cards for those between the ages of 16 and 35 who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are at the printers.

Gov. Jim Justice

“They should be done this week,” Justice said at Wednesday’s media briefing. “Everything is imminent. Everything is happening right now.”

Justice first introduced his vaccination incentive plan weeks ago. He wanted to give out $100 U.S. Savings Bonds but he admitted Wednesday the original plan ran into several roadblocks.

“I didn’t realize that savings bonds were not issued the way they were when I was growing up or buying bonds for our kids,” Justice said.

The state then asked the U.S. Treasury to do a special bond for West Virginia and when that didn’t work, Justice said he turned to silver dollars but that was even more complicated. He said they’ve landed on having those who get vaccinated between the specified ages to sign-up for them when they get vaccinated. They will then receive one electronically.

“So you won’t fiscally get the real savings bonds like we used to get years ago. But what we have to have is we have to have an account and we have to have a little bit of information from the person going in to the get the vaccination,” Justice said.

The other option is the $100 gift card.

“Anybody that is 16 to 35 years of age will get this. Go get vaccinated. Don’t hesitate a bit in the world. Go get vaccinated. It’s coming and it’s on the way,” Justice said.

Justice didn’t give any specific details Wednesday about when the distribution would begin.

Media briefings reduction

Justice also announced Wednesday that coronavirus media briefings will be reduced to two days a week starting next week. He said they’ve become less popular.

“Our viewership is not as strong as it has been. I think we can do this in a better way by doing it two days a week now. If things get tough or rough in any way we’ll go back to five days a week,” Justice said.

The media briefings will be held on Monday and Wednesday next week but on Tuesdays and Thursdays from then on.

Justice held the briefings five days a week during the first several months of the pandemic.

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Goetz makes history as WVU’s first individual NCAA golf regional qualifier

(Mark Goetz & Sean Covich Zoom conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Thirteen teams will make their way to the NCAA Golf Regional at The Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Ind. next week seeking a berth in the national tournament. WVU’s Mark Goetz will be one of ten individuals in the tournament field competing without their full team in attendance. He is the first Mountaineer to qualify for an NCAA regional as an individual. Six regionals are set up around the country.

Based on his performances throughout the fall and spring seasons, Goetz earned an at-large individual spot in the regional field. He is seeded fourth among the ten individuals. For Goetz to reach nationals later this month in Scottsdale, Az., he will have to finish the 54-hole regional with the best score among players not on a qualifying team. Competition begins Monday.

“It is a little bit strange not having the team with me. I really just tried to do my part this year to help us make the postseason as a team. Making it as an individual is cool. It really is a good opportunity,” Goetz said.

According to Covich, the Sagamore layout is a more open and forgiving course off the tee, which will allow Goetz to be aggressive.

“What I have seen of the course, I believe it suits Mark’s game very well,” said WVU head coach Sean Covich. “It is the same grass types and is kind of wide open off the tee. I think length is going to be a really big advantage at this course as opposed to going somewhere down south that is tighter and a little more tree-lined. This is more open.”

“Playing on bent (grass) is big for sure,” Goetz said. “That is sort of comforting and it won’t be out of the ordinary for me. As far as distance goes, I think somebody who has a lot of speed is going to play well.”

WVU’s Mark Goetz hits his approach shot on the first hole at Pete Dye Golf Club

Covich and Goetz will arrive in Indiana on Friday and the official practice round for all competitors is scheduled for Sunday.

“Throughout the practice round is when I sort of develop a game plan with the way I am going to go about stretches or specific holes. After we get done with the practice round is when the plan is going to be put in place,” Goetz said.

“I probably won’t look at a leaderboard until the final day. It is going to be strange as far as where everybody is at, who is in and who is out. There’s going to be a lot of moving pieces.”

In a typical tournament, Covich will make his way around the course, checking in with all of his golfers. This week, Covich will be on standby to help Goetz with a variety of tasks.

“Whatever he needs, sometimes that is me getting him a Gatorade or me helping him read a putt,” Covich said. “Honestly, I will spend most of my time with him on Sunday making sure he is comfortable and has a game plan. That is really the most important day with getting the speed of the greens and lines off the tee. Once it starts on Monday, that is his time to go to work. That’s when he is in his office.

“Whatever Mark does this week is only going to help his world amateur golf rating, which is our goal here at West Virginia to improve that and let him compete against the best.”

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Justice: No gasoline shortage in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A national gasoline expert tweeted Wednesday afternoon that 4% of gas stations in West Virginia were without gasoline in connection with the skyrocketing demand that began after the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline following a May 7 cyber attack.

Patrick De Haan of gasbuddy.com listed West Virginia under his ‘newly added’ category. Almost every other state has a higher percent of stations without gas. North Carolina leads the way at 65% with Virginia at 44%.

Gasoline Outages by state, percent of all stations without gasoline:
AL 7%
WASH DC 10%
FL 11%
GA 43%
KY 2%
MD 11%
MS 5%
NC 65%
SC 43%
TN 16%
VA 44%
WV 4%

— Patrick De Haan ⛽📊 (@GasBuddyGuy) May 12, 2021


Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday there’s no gasoline shortage in West Virginia.

“The best advice that I can possibly give you is to just stay calm,” Justice said. “The bulk of our gasoline that comes into the state of West Virginia does not come from the Colonial Pipeline.”

It comes from the Plantation Pipeline that is operating normally.

West Virginia Oil, Marketers, and Grocers Association (OMEGA) President Traci Nelson said Wednesday it’s a transportation and demand issue facing West Virginia not a supply issue.

“Petroleum companies are going to pick up the fuel and they are having to wait in long lines to pick it up. It’s taken them longer to get back to the stations,” Nelson said.

Justice said at his request West Virginia has been added to the amended regional emergency declaration by the federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, which he said would allow easier transportation of fuel to the affected areas.

Justice said it’s panic that caused gas stations to run out of gas.

“Right now we are creating our shortages. There is no real shortage of fuel right now in West Virginia,” Justice said.

Nelson agreed.

“Consumers are creating these outages right now because they’re going in and filling up gas cans and their cars when they really don’t need it,” she said.

Traci Nelson, President of the https://t.co/rn6maOBVPd. Oil Marketers & Grocers Association, talks with @HoppyKercheval about if there are any gas shortages in West Virginia because of pipeline interruption. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/UPFz5I5iJT

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 12, 2021

Gov. Justice said he’s seen photos of a someone getting gas in Barboursville who had a flat-bed trailer filled with what looked like liquid fertilizer crates that were being filled up with gas.

Nelson said the increase in demand is also driving up prices.

“Prices are going to go up because demand is so high,” she said.

An announcement is expected soon on when the Colonial Pipeline will be turned back on. Nelson predicted that would help.

“Once that starts I think things will start turning around pretty quickly but as long as consumers are going out hoarding gas that they don’t need yet, yea, this problem is going to continue as it is or get worse,” she said.

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The Game Within The Game (Episode 64)

NFL talk in May? Absolutely.

Lines for week 1 of the NFL season were just released and Brad Howe and Julian Edlow from DraftKings wasted no time in diving in on them on the latest episode of The Game Within The Game presented by DraftKings.

The guys also got into:

*An NFL week 1 starting QB prop that has value

*Over/under passing yards props for two high profile rooking QBs

*A lookahead spot to target on an upcoming NBA playoffs play-in game

*An NBA play on a road underdog for Wednesday night

*Wednesday’s MLB slate

All of that and more on the latest episode.

New users on DraftKings Sportsbookremember  to use code METROGAME for a NO BRAINER/FREE MONEY sign up bonus offer on the upcoming UFC 262 card.

 

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Republican supermajority in the West Virginia House grows by yet another

The Republican supermajority in West Virginia’s House of Delegates just got bigger.

Mick Bates

Delegate Mick Bates, who had served as a Democrat, announced that he will switch to become a Republican.

“I expect that this decision may disappoint and upset some,” Bates, who represents people in the Beckley area, stated in an announcement about the party switch. “I believe that a greater number will welcome it and see it as the right thing to do at the right time for the people I represent.”

The number of Republicans in the House of Delegates now stands at 78.

There are now 22 Democrats in the chamber that used to be dominated by that party.

Belinda Biafore

“This is surprising and disappointing,” said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore, in an emailed statement of reaction.

“It seems Delegate Bates has public service confused with self-service. Delegate Bates has propped himself up on Democratic ideals and his constituency put their faith in him. He’s turning his back on them. It’s odd but telling that someone who is so outspoken against the majority party has decided to join them to benefit himself politically.”

Republicans already had an enormous numbers advantage in the House of Delegates, coming out of last month’s election with 76 of the 100 seats. That was an 18-seat pickup for House Republicans.

Then in December, Delegate Jason Barrett announced he would switch his registration from Democrat to Republican.

Roger Hanshaw

With Bates now saying the same, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, welcomed another member.

“Mick has always been a pro-business Delegate, and we certainly welcome his credentials and his experience as a small business owner to the party,” Hanshaw stated.

“This is an unprecedented time for the House of Delegates, with the largest Republican majority the state has ever seen, and as we continue to do the work of making West Virginia the easy choice for people and businesses to call home, the Republican party will only continue to grow.”

Bates changed his party affiliation to Republican at the Raleigh County Courthouse on Wednesday morning. He had served as a Democrat since being elected to the House of Delegates in 2014, when he defeated Republican incumbent Linda Sumner.

Bates competed for the role of House minority leader last year, but Doug Skaff of Kanawha County won the Democratic caucus’s support for the role.

Shortly after that, when it was time to vote for the House speaker for this past regular session, Bates was the only Democrat to vote for Hanshaw rather than Skaff.

Bates had been the lead Democrat on the House Finance Committee, but he was not named to the committee at all after that.

Doug Skaff

“Following his failed attempt to run for minority leader, Delegate Bates announced to members of our caucus that his future political plans meant a party switch. He did not believe that he could win as a Democrat, so he decided that he would leave the Democratic Party,” Skaff stated today.

“Delegate Bates must have decided that now is the right time for him to turn his back on the constituents who elected him to prioritize his future political ambitions. He is more focused on the next election than the next generation of West Virginians.”

Shawn Fluharty

House Minority Whip Shawn Fluharty was also publicly critical of Bates.

“Bates just served as Democratic Party House Caucus Chair. We went from 41 members to 23 under his leadership. Then he ran to be Minority Leader. Lost. Now he’s switching parties. What a profile in courage,” Fluharty, D-Ohio, wrote on Twitter.

Bates wrote in his statement that his decision is in line with many constituents in the district he has served.

“I am far from the first person to make such a change and I will not be the last. Over the past 3 years there has been a 30 percent swing in registrations in Raleigh County from Democrat to Republican. The line often used, and attributed to President Ronald Reagan, is that ‘I didn’t leave the party, the party left me,'” he stated.

The West Virginia Secretary of State now shows that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state 433,287 to 408,572.

In Raleigh County, where Bates lives, the numbers are 18,668 Republicans to 15,272 Democrats.

The same month in 2017, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the state 542,237 to 389,916. The numbers in Raleigh County at that time were 16,284 Republicans and 22,034 Democrats.

Bates wrote that as politics have become more nationalized, West Virginia has reflected that.

“There used to be a difference between the way West Virginia Democrats and Washington Democrats were viewed. People no longer see that difference,” he stated.

“At a national level, the controlling interests and leadership of the Democratic party continue to pursue positions that alienate and anger voters in rural parts of the country and don’t reflect the priorities, values or beliefs of the people in West Virginia. This is not changing and appears to be getting worse, not better.”

Bates is a physical therapist and the owner and chief executive of Bodyworks as well as the president of Praxis Corp. He is a member and former chairman of the Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, a former president and member of the Board of Directors of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association and served on the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Committee. Bates and his wife, Pamela, are the parents of four teenagers.

“I have many friends that are registered Democrats and a number of independent friends,” he wrote. “I have an equal number of friends and supporters that are registered Republican. We are all West Virginians who need to work together to move this State forward and address its many problems.”

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Education Alliance, Toyota expanding internship program

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — The Education Alliance will be expanding the WV Ready Graduate Internship Program to multiple schools in West Virginia thanks to Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV Inc.

Srini Matam (Photo/Toyota WV)

Officials from Toyota and The Education Alliance gathered at St. Albans High School on Wednesday as Toyota presented a $60,000 grant for the program.

“At Toyota, we believe in education as the basis of everything we do. It’s the foundation for a brighter future for students. I’m passionate about West Virginia students succeeding,” Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV, Inc. President Srini Matam said to the in-person and virtual crowd.

Matam and other team members observed the capstone presentations of high school interns participating in The Education Alliance’s Virtual Work-based Learning Course.

For their capstone projects, students learned about the Toyota assembly line process and created a mock assembly line of a mask build using Toyota techniques and graphs, a release said. The students showcased not only the technical and manufacturing skills needed, but also practical life skills like teamwork, professionalism, and work ethic that they cultivated during their internship

“This truly is what high school is all about in the 21st century. Ensuring the opportunities for students to collaborate amongst themselves, across other high schools. Opportunities that are so unique to truly be career-ready,” Dr. Jaclyn Swayne, principal of St. Albans HS said.

Students from Independence High School also participated.

“I just wanted to thank you guys for the opportunity that our students have had in working with the program, specifically with Toyota,” Independence Hight Principal Shawn Hawkins said.

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Source: WV MetroNews

National Hospital Week spotlights pandemic contributions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. –A national observance to celebrate healthcare across the country takes on special meaning in 2021 here in West Virginia.

Jim Kaufman

National Hospital Week is underway and Jim Kaufman, CEO of the West Virginia Hospital Association said it’s an opportunity to thank a lot of people who have endured a very difficult situation for more than a year.

“They’ve really sacrificed even more than usual in thinking about how to continue to care for neighbors, realizing they were potentially exposed to Covid, and then how to protect our own families,” said Kaufman of the thousands of West Virginians employed by hospitals across the state.

The pandemic has created multiple struggles. Despite treating large numbers of Covid patients and setting up testing and vaccination clinics in their parking lot and other remote locations throughout their community many hospitals were forced to furlough employees at the height of the situation in the past year.  Despite financial losses they were still expected to deliver the top notched healthcare standard for the community.

“Hospitals are struggling financially even though we are bursting at the seams with Covid patients. We still struggle with a payer mix which is predominantly governmental payers. 75 percent of our patients are on Medicare, Medicaid, or PEIA and all of them reimburse below the cost of care which is a financial struggle for hospitals and one of the things they are still struggling with,” he said.

Despite providing strong healthcare a hospital is often a pillar of the community and at the center of much of the cultural and community activity. They are also economic engines for many small town communities in West Virginia and typically serve as the top local private employer.

“This is really a great opportunity to say, ‘Thank-you.’ for all they have done,” he added.

The post National Hospital Week spotlights pandemic contributions appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews