Healthcare, State Government

Justice: No fed investigation into Babydog sweepstakes; provides roadwork, other updates during Wednesday briefing

MORGANTOWN – Back on March 20, state Senate Finance chair Eric Tarr asked the U.S. Treasury Office of Inspector General to investigate whether the transfer of $28.375 million in unappropriated CARES Act funds to a discretionary account of Gov. Jim Justice violated any federal law, violations of the West Virginia Ethics Act, or other guidance provided by the U.S. Treasury.

On Wednesday, Justice said no investigation is underway in response to a reporter’s question about a possible investigation tied to the Do It For Babydog sweepstakes. “We did everything by the book, we did it right and it was very, very very successful.”

The question and answer came during Justice’s weekly administration update briefing.

Tarr said in March, “At least $10,106,000 of the $28,375,985.34 transferred from the CARES Act fund were not related to necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency” and were not incurred during the mandated time period of March 1 2020 through Dec, 31, 2021.

Other expenditures from the account included Do It for Babydog sweepstakes winners and a minbus for Appalachian Bible College, Tarr said.

Other briefing news

Justice said the 2023 road paving season is beginning, with 126 projects in all 55 counties planned. The Division of Highways will resurface more than 260 miles at a cost of $290 million, with more miles to be added.

Justice repeated his regular call for motorists to drive safely in work zones, where DOH workers’ lives are at risk. “They’re within feet of you and it’s so so easy to have a catastrophe. … These great men and women are doing great work, slow down.”

Justice mentioned the outdoor burning ban he ordered on Monday, tied to the dry and windy weather that increases the risk of wildfires. The ban includes camp fires, warming fires and debris burning. “If we get some rain and everything we’ll lift this.”

Justice noted that the state’s March unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, a hair below the national average of 3.5%.

Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer gave a COVID update. In his prerecorded message he said that Monday marked the two-year anniversary of the governor’s executive order to begin COVID testing at all congregate care facilities – nursing and assisted living homes.

That was the first such move in the country, he said. “We set the trend nationally.” That was followed by the move to get all the staff and residents at those sites vaccinated. “I believe it saved many West Virginians from losing their lives as well as being very, very ill.”

Hoyer also noted that the FDA has OK’s a third vaccine booster for the immunocompromised and for those 65 and up. The CDC will need to follow suit before those boosters can be offered.

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