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Saturday, Exponent View
Judge was correct to
issue injunction against
state welfare rule on SSI

    A federal judge has rescued several children in this state from a cruel and possibly illegal regulation that denied them welfare benefits. Judge Robert C. Chambers issued an injunction on Feb. 3, barring the state from counting Supplemental Security Income when determining eligibility for welfare benefits.
    Because the state was counting SSI benefits as income, it has, since January 1997, denied welfare benefits to more than 1,900 families. In all, more than 6,000 families have been affected by the rule. A Cabell County mother of two, for instance, was denied welfare benefits because her 6-year-old son, who is autistic, was receiving SSI. As a result, the woman found herself using the disability money to pay the bills and not using it for her child's therapy.
    In issuing his injunction, Judge Chambers said the state's rule violated the intent of the federal welfare reform laws. He said federal law requires all of the SSI benefits be spent on the child who is disabled.
    The state has been able to boast about how it has cut its welfare rolls. But at what cost? In the process, many families who deal not only with low incomes, but disabled children as well have suffered needlessly.
    The state Department of Health and Human Resources is now in the process of contacting the families who were cut off and recommending they reapply for benefits.
    Yes, this will end up costing the state more money. But saving money cannot be justified by defying federal law and by punishing disabled children.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Saturday Telegram View
Regional airport proposal: 
Don't rob Peter to pay Paul

    A major controversy has been brewing in Charleston since 1990. It concerns a proposal to build a regional airport in a rural section of Putnam County situated midway between Charleston and Huntington. Unfortunately the outcome could cost us all.
    Proponents of the regional airport believe that by combining the resources of two smaller airports, Yeager Airport in Charleston and Tri-State Airport in Huntington, that more airlines will offer service to southern West Virginia and, as a result, air fares would be lowered. Many people currently drive to Pittsburgh or Columbus from the Charleston/Huntington area to save hundreds of dollars on airplane tickets. Economic impact studies show as many as 1,600 construction jobs and 1,600 new direct jobs would be created by this project.
    Opponents of the regional airport believe that the $300 million in construction costs will actually be even greater since the estimate does not include the need for infrastructure upgrades to roads, water and sewer, and utilities. They prefer to expand Charleston's Yeager Airport at a much smaller cost.
    Funding for the project is critical. Because of public opposition to a bond issue, the most likely source of funding is the reallocation of existing funds, which would take money away from other counties. "If you think it's difficult to obtain or maintain state funding for infrastructure and other local community and economic development programs, just wait until the state starts construction on a new regional airport," states a letter from the Kanawha County Commission, which opposes the regional airport.
    After receiving the letter, Harrison commissioners asked the county's legislative delegation to oppose any such funding. "There's only so much money," said Delegate Frank Angotti, D-Harrison. "I feel we have to protect our investments in Harrison County."
    We certainly agree in spirit with the Harrison County commissioners and our local legislators. We support economic development projects across our state. We simply don't believe that a single project of this magnitude should delay or put at risk the hundreds of other smaller projects that together can have just as much impact on our economic well-being as the regional airport proposal might have. Our state cannot afford to rob Peter to pay Paul when it comes to economic development.
Andy Kniceley
Telegram editorial board member

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Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999