Government, The Braxton Democrat

Legislative Update… By Lori Dittman WV House of Delegates 63rd District

The April interim meetings wrapped up on Tuesday of last week. The Joint Committee on Health heard from Janie Cole, Commissioner of the Bureau for Family Assistance, who discussed childcare costs, programs, and federal changes. Childcare in the Mountain State includes a partnership between Human Services and the Bureau for Family Assistance which administers the childcare development block grant. A rule change in 2024 mandates payments based on enrollment, prohibits family copayments above seven percent of family income, and clarifies eligibility for additional siblings along with health and safety clarifications. Additionally, Dr. Cynthia Persily, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Human Services, led a discussion on the Medicaid Budget, 2024 expenditures, and waivers. Ray Ratke, CEO, Encircle, an Intellectual Developmental Disability care provider spoke about the effect of proposed cuts.
Governor Justice announced this week that the U.S. Department of Education approved West Virginia’s waiver request, and the $465 million would not need to be returned. He also stated that he believed this would be the outcome and that it was not a problem. Governor Justice affirmed the state’s commitment to education by outlining pay raises for teachers and school personnel, increasing support for Communities in Schools, and the School Building Authority receiving $150 million for improvements around the state. The Governor still has not set a date for the special session, but the May interim meeting will be May 19th-21st.
I was pleased to see the town of Burnsville receive $669,000 from the EPA for sewer system upgrades. Thank you to Senator Manchin for securing the funding for West Virginia. There has also been a $19 million statewide investment to improve outdoor recreation opportunities, including $100,000 for the Gassaway Trail to Town Connector. This project includes sidewalks that connect the Elk River Trail, Elk Street, and the Gassaway Depot to Fifth Street. More information and plans will follow.
I had the pleasure of attending Marlayna Hickson’s art show at Fairmont State University. She is a former student and Braxton County High School graduate. The show, held with fellow student, Hannah Sprout, had a combined show of photography and paintings depicting women, emotions, and various focus points. Listening to them explain how the show came together and the themes they wanted to convey was thought provoking. Marlayna represented Braxton well. Congratulations and best wishes for a bright future as Marlayna graduates in a few weeks.
The Gilmer County High School Art Show will be held this week from April 22nd-24th from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM at 115 East Main Street in Glenville. We have so many talented people in our community. Please come out and support these local artists.
On Saturday, I joined the Mountaineer Foodbank for a Volunteer Recognition event at their main warehouse in Gassaway. Volunteers assisted in fulfilling MFB mission, “To feed West Virginia’s Hungry and empower communities to end hunger.” In 2023, MFB distributed 23.5 million pounds of food, served eighteen million meals, and served 104,256 households. A total of 4,079 volunteers dedicated their time around the state at the 470 food pantries. Thank you to the Mountaineer Foodbank and their outstanding volunteers for serving our neighbors and communities!
On Saturday, April 27th, I invite you to Celebrate Trails Day by taking a hike or bike ride on the Elk River Trail starting at the Gassaway Depot at 9:00 AM. The Strumalongs will be playing music and food
will be for sale afterwards to benefit Gassaway Days. If you cannot make the trip to celebrate on the trail in Gassaway, make plans to get out and enjoy the outdoors somewhere.
“A walk down a country road is good for the body, heart, and soul.”
I look forward to hearing from people in the district and hope to see you out and about enjoying all the great things our area has to offer. I can be contacted at lori.dittman@ or 304-701-8600.