CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice touched on the resignation of Dr. Cathy Slemp during Friday’s coronavirus press briefing, referring to criticisms as being political in nature.
“Unfortunately, in lots of ways, it’s, uh, campaign season, it’s a political season, and so, so there’s a lot of attention that is drawn. There’s a lot of wannabes that come up with, you know, ideas and everything, you know and say, and, and the wannabes have come out recently and said, ‘Well, what the Justice administration is doing is they are deflating the positive tests that we have in order to make ourselves look better.’ And, that’s so ridiculous,” said Justice.
“I mean, that is just so false and so ridiculous. But, that’s the thing. I guess, I guess this day and time, anybody can say anything. You know, the biggest lies that they wanna come up with, they, they come up with the biggest lies, and, and, and so, but that’s so wrong,” Justice continued.
Justice said there were numerous factors that led to him losing confidence in Slemp in her role as state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health.
“This is a great big, big task, and, uh, there’s lots of moving parts, and from the standpoint of what you expect from me, you expect results. You don’t expect just kindness and effort. You expect results, and that’s what I’m gonna deliver to you,” said Justice. “And, so from that standpoint, I had lost confidence. There’s no point in, in, in belaboring that, but, uh, many, many different inci—incidences.”
His statement did include some positive remarks about Slemp.
“Dr. Slemp’s a good person, and uh, and, and I know she’s done some good work, and we’re very proud of her in this pandemic,” said Justice.
There continues to be an increase in coronavirus cases related to trips people have taken to Myrtle Beach. Justice said there are now 18 counties with cases stemming from the tourist destination.
“We’re probably gonna end up with 55 counties because everybody loves Myrtle Beach,” said Justice. “All I can say to you over, and over and over is if you go, if you’ve gone to Myrtle Beach, get tested.”
All told, there are now more than 100 cases related to Myrtle Beach, according to Justice.
The end of the fiscal year is coming up on June 30, and Justice took some time to evaluate the status of the state’s finances amid the pandemic. He said in spite of the economic downturn, the state will finish the year with a surplus in revenue. However, back in April the outlook was bleak for the state finishing the year in the black.
“April rolled in at $192 million deficit because of the COVID situation, plus the fact that we moved, we moved the income tax filing date from April 15 to July 15. We had a tremendous deficit at that point in time,” said Justice. “And, at that point in time, my revenue people told me, ‘Probably, governor, you can probably forecast at this point in time a $525 million deficit.’ It was really, really difficult, and we had to try to figure out what in the world to do.
“We closed all the things that we knew were important to protect you, but I knew, I knew all along that the engine was still running. Now, that $525 million deficit is now down to $285 million. The reserve funds that we have, we’re going to have plenty of cash to go out to the end of the year, no problem. No problem whatsoever,” Justice continued. “And, the amazing thing that you’ll find is just this, is the reserve funds that we used cash to go down have now, by June the 30th, have now been completely, totally replenished.
“Now, how’s that possible?” Justice asked rhetorically. “The federal match that is i—, that is out there right now in regard to Medicaid. So, what we’ve done is we’ve used, we’ve used our reserves, we—not rainy day—and we have replaced our reserves 100%, and the other thing we have done is we have basically replenished dollars that we were allowed to turn in by the guidelines. We have replenished those dollars, and lo and behold, we are going to run across the finish line on June 30 with a surplus.
“It’s not gonna be much. It’s only gonna be probably about, you know, less than $10 million, but absolutely, we’re going to go across the finish line with a surplus in a year that our experts predicted we were going to be $525 million upside down,” said Justice.
Justice said there is also CARES funding and grant money that have come to the state. $1.25 billion from the CARES Act, along with more than $970 million in other grants results in more than $2.2 billion in federal money received.
Proposed CARES Act spending totals $1.245 billion, which includes $10 million for the former Fairmont Regional Medical Center. Justice said this money will prepare the hospital to handle a potential outbreak of coronavirus cases.
“We were going to prepare Fairmont in case we had an outbreak, and it will be prepared, in case we have a big time outbreak,” said Justice.
Moreover, $687 million has been earmarked for unemployment compensation through Workforce West Virginia, which includes $287 million that has already been disbursed. The remaining $400 million would be available for claims through the end of the calendar year, Justice explained.