Legislators want input on allocation of COVID relief dollars

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – According to Governor Jim Justice, Congress has given governors the discretion to distribute coronavirus relief money.

The state of West Virginia now has $1.25 billion in relief money and a debate is brewing between Justice and legislators about who has the authority to allocate the money.

On WAJR’s Talk of the Town, Amy Summers, Taylor County Delegate and House Majority Leader said they are waiting fr a plan from the governor.

“There is a legal question before us that does need cleared up- Can the Executive Branch spend federal dollars without going through the Legislative Branch?,”Summers asked,”We could address that and clear that up if we were called in for a special session, but that has not been done.”

Some lawmakers have asked for a steering committee to allocate the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds, Summers isn’t sure that would be an answer.

“The governor has agreed to work with us by setting up an advisory panel, so we can offer input on how to best provide for the needs of our state,”Summers said,”I don’t know if that’s going to appease the members of the legislature or not.”

During COVID-19 daily briefings the governor has directed municipalities to apply for the funds to cover pandemic costs. Other sates, including North Carolina have passed a bill to be signed by the governor to direct relief checks.

“We don’t want to go down for a lengthy special session, of course not,”Summers said,”But, we do want to make sure we’re being constitutional in the way the money is being spent.”

In the past, West Virginia has been cited by federal agencies for deficiencies in internal control and management issues. Three officials from Richwood have been arrested for embezzelment in connection with the use of federal flood dollars.

“From our state’s history we know we need to have transparency on where the money is going and oversight on how that money is spent,” Summers said.

Because of those issues Summers says lawmakers should debate the issue of “who has the authority to spend the money.”

“I do think it would be prudent to probably have a one day special session to clear up that question we have,”Summers said,”Can this be done? Can the Executive Branch spend without legislative authority.”