CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced on Friday, April 10 that all 55 counties would receive “Hero Pay” for their service to the state during COVID-19.
The “hero pay” is for “men and women on the front lines fighting the spread.”
A press release from the governor’s office states “The funds may only be used to cover expenses that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mason County Commission President Rick Handley said that a letter and check should be in route to Mason County at this time and the commissioners will discuss spending the funds after they receive them. Handley said he is sure there are many interpretations of “hero pay” and they are waiting for clarification.
The governor’s press release included an example letter being sent to county leaders. In the letter, Gov. Justice said “I announced that — in addition to asking President Trump to allow state, county, and municipality expenses related to COVID-19 response activities to be reimbursed by the forthcoming federal funding — I would be issuing block grants in the amount of $100,000 to each county in West Virginia to help pay extraordinary costs that your county and municipalities within your county are incurring for the first responders and true soldiers right on the front lines of this pandemic.”
The letter states that funds should be shared with the affected municipalities withing the respective county. Justice gives the discretion to the local level to determine how to best use the money, but noted that there was not unlimited “latitude for how these funds may be used.”
The funds can only be used to cover expenses that: “(1) Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for your county or municipality; and (3) Were or will be incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.”
An example of how the funds can be used was for overtime pay for law enforcement, paramedics and other first responders. Other funds could include emergency operations center costs and cost of personal protective equipment, all in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county must provide the Office of the Governor with an itemized accounting of the allowable expenses for how they used the block grant for the county or the municipalities in the county.
“I know and trust that these block grant funds will be a useful tool to local governments in making sure our first responders and front-line soldiers can effectively respond to this pandemic,” Justice said in the letter.
The Mason County Commissioners are expected to discuss the block grant during their upcoming meeting on Thursday.
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Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.