MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County Delegate Evan Hansen hopes that the state budget and a potential $465 million in coronavirus relief “clawback” will be sorted out in the anticipated special legislative session this spring.

After legislatures passed the state budget in the closing hours of the regular session, despite the additional extra day implemented by Governor Jim Justice, Hansen expressed a desire to address several changes to the budget that could not be accounted for. This included modifications to flood-related allocations that were changed and adjustments that were not made in response to a revelation that approximately $465 million in coronavirus funds may need to go back to the federal government. Both of those, he feels, need to be addressed in a quick but detailed manner with measures that aren’t presented at the last minute.

“Hopefully we’ll have a realistic idea of how much money is available for the new budget,” said Hansen. “There’s that cloud hanging over us about the 450 or so million dollars that we might need to pay back to the federal government,” he said.

The lack of discussion over the funds that have yet to be used by the West Virginia Department of Education was one of several issues that Hansen and other legislatures pointed out ahead of the last second budget vote. The concern is that the lack of use of the funds, which were sent by the United States Department of Education for direct education spending, would need to be returned in accordance with the spending formula, which accounts for the student population and a state budget dedication. With the state currently unable to meet that mark (about three percent short of the forty percent minimum), Hansen feels there needs to be a plan in place so programs and residents won’t potentially be affected.

“The budget that passed on the last night of the session, just an hour before the session ended, did not include a lot of things that were in earlier drafts of the budget,” Hansen said.

When the legislatures return to Charleston for a special session, several budget proposal changes for programs and projects across the Mountain State will be added. Hansen hopes to get into more detail about a state flood resiliency flood that was created to help provide disaster relief to residents affected by flood damage. With that designation not included in the state budget passed during the regular legislative session, Hansen hopes it can be discussed again in May.

“One thing that I pointed out was there was $50 million that had been put into a flood resiliency fund,” said Hansen on one of the line items removed from the budget. “Which would help draw down federal money to deal with the increased amount of flooding that is occurring across the state,” he said.

For Hansen, a lot of the budget discussions that legislatures might aim to have in a couple of months may have to be put on the back burner. With the potential of the state having to return close to a half-billion dollars in federal dollars, there’s a general feeling by both members of the House of Delegates and the State Senate that the budget talks could get more exhaustive if the state is ordered to turn them in. With a waiver from the federal government pending, Hansen expects all eyes to be on the “clawback” and how it could affect certain goals.

“It is something that I hope we could put back into the budget in May,” said Hansen regarding the flood funds. “Once we have more clarity from the federal government,” he said.