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Fundraiser provides ‘egg-citing’ surprises for children on Easter morning

HUNTINGTON — Children throughout Huntington will wake up Sunday morning to find hidden eggs, bunny prints and even a letter from the Easter Bunny in their yard.

The surprises were coordinated by the Developmental Therapy Center (DTC), a nonprofit organization in Huntington that provides therapy to Tri-State children and adults who have special needs.

DTC planned the “Egg My Lawn” fundraiser for the first time this year, and with help from other local agencies, eggs were hidden and letters from the Easter Bunny were delivered before Easter morning, giving children the opportunity to wake up to a lawn full of surprises.

“Our goal is to bring ‘egg-citement’ to little ones and their families this year through this fundraiser,” Leslie Comer-Porter, DTC’s executive director, said in a news release. “I am so excited to be able to join hands with the Huntington Police Department and Huntington Fire Department, who will be helping us deliver eggs throughout Huntington. Without the support of our community partners, Developmental Therapy Center would not be able to provide invaluable services to those who need them the most.”

Jacob Gergen, a foster parent, learned about the fundraiser after seeing a flyer at his child’s day care, and jumped at the opportunity to have eggs delivered to his home.

“The children we foster have not had the opportunity to celebrate Easter, so we wanted to do something extra special for them,” Gergen said in the release. “It’s also great that the Huntington Fire Department is getting involved and helping out with the fundraiser.”

“I think it is amazing that DTC is having this fundraiser, bringing together the community and providing joy to families with little in return,” Catherine Brewster, who also participated in the fundraiser, said in the release.

Brewster’s mother, Emma Sue Smith, was a former director of Developmental Therapy Center, so she has been involved with DTC since a young age. When her own child was diagnosed with a disability, she knew she could rely on DTC to provide her son treatment.

“DTC has gone through many changes throughout the years, and they’ve continued to expand to provide even more for the community,” Brewster added.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will help DTC provide services to more individuals with disabilities in the area.

For more information about DTC and the services it provides, visit dtchuntington.org or call 304-523-1164.

Community health centers to receive millions in American Rescue Plan funding

HUNTINGTON — Twenty-eight community health centers in West Virginia will receive $82,842,125 in American Rescue Plan funding to support COVID-19 vaccination and services for vulnerable populations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week.

“Every American should have the security of knowing they have access to quality, affordable health care, especially as we face a pandemic that has exposed the disparities facing rural, minority and lower-income communities,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a news release announcing the awards. “The Biden Administration is committed to getting help to those who need it most, and the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 will benefit from these critical investments.”

Valley Health, which has its headquarters in Huntington, is getting $11,142,750.

“We were really surprised last Thursday morning when it was announced,” said Steve Shattls, president and chief executive officer of Valley Health. “We haven’t totally reviewed the guidelines at this time, but we are examining our expenses and losses going back to January 2020. We spent a huge amount on not just getting COVID testing but also with vaccinating. We can’t spend it until we know how we can spend it, so we don’t have exact details at this time. We have received notice of the grant award, but not the details. We are hoping to have them soon. I can say this funding will help us serve our mission of helping the vulnerable population in our region.”

Lincoln Primary Care Center in Hamlin is getting more than $3 million, but it did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Williamson Health & Wellness Center in Mingo County is getting nearly $1.7 million.

Chief Financial Officer David Jewell says the center has plans for part of the funds.

“Part will be used for expansion of clinic service, and we will be constructing a testing and vaccination center,” Jewell said.

The center has been using tents and wants a more permanent structure, he said.

In Ohio, 51 awards totaling $160,695,375 were announced. The Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization will receive almost $2.2 million. It also did not respond to messages seeking comment.

In Kentucky, 25 awards totaling $96,748,500 were announced.

The funding is being awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and will start in April.

According to the federal guidelines, health centers will be able to use the funds to support and expand COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment for vulnerable populations; deliver needed preventive and primary health care services to those at higher risk for COVID-19; and expand health centers’ operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units.

“This investment will help increase access to vaccinations among hard-hit populations, as well as confidence in the vaccine by empowering local, trusted health professionals in their efforts to expand vaccinations,” the HHS said in its announcement.

Each award was calculated using a formula that included a base value of $500,000, plus $125 per patient reported in the 2019 Uniform Data System (UDS) and $250 per uninsured patient reported in the 2019 UDS.

HRSA-funded health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver affordable, accessible, quality and cost-effective primary health care to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations, including high-need urban, rural and frontier communities across the country, the HHS added.

“Health centers serve one in five people living in rural communities, and one in 11 people nationwide,” the HHS said. “More than 91% of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, and nearly 63% are racial or ethnic minorities.”

For detailed information on how this funding is being distributed to health centers, including an interactive map of which health centers will receive funding, visit https://bphc.hrsa.gov/program-opportunities/american-rescue-plan/awards.

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W.Va. congressional delegation, environmentalists at odds over Biden jobs and infrastructure plan

CHARLESTON — Members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation are wary of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

But where West Virginia’s lawmakers in Washington see a boondoggle, environmental and clean energy advocates see a boon.

The plan Biden announced Wednesday in Pittsburgh would seek to transform America’s energy framework in an effort to create millions of jobs, improve housing and transportation infrastructure and embrace energy efficiency measures.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., dismissed it as a partisan proposal that goes too far.

“I am committed to working together to craft a robust surface transportation reauthorization bill and other infrastructure legislation,” Capito said in a statement. “However, that’s not what the president is proposing today. Instead, President Biden’s so-called ‘jobs’ proposal is a clear attempt to transform the economy by advancing progressive priorities in an unprecedented way.”

Biden pledged his plan would eliminate lead pipes and service lines in the country’s drinking water systems; put hundreds of thousands of people to work laying thousands of miles of transmission lines and capping hundreds of thousands of orphan oil and gas wells and abandoned mines; and bring affordable, reliable high-speed broadband to every American.

The president urged Congress to make what he called an overdue $621 billion investment in roads, bridges, rail, ports, airports and transit systems. That allotment would cover grant and incentive programs for state and local governments and the private sector to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers by 2030.

Biden also called for $50 billion in infrastructure resilience investments, noting that in 2020, the United States endured 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that cost $95 billion in damages to homes, businesses and public infrastructure.

The president’s proposal would eliminate tax preferences for fossil fuels as part of his aim for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Capito predicted the proposal would “aggressively drive down” traditional energy usage and eliminate well-paying jobs in West Virginia and across the country.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., could not be reached for comment.

Manchin’s support is critical for Biden’s agenda in a Senate evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans. West Virginia’s senior senator long has called for major investments in infrastructure upgrades. Though he opposes ending the filibuster to get it, Manchin said last month he would support a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package funded by a corporate tax rate increase.

Biden’s plan would increase the corporate tax rate to 28%. That rate was lowered from 35% to 21% in 2017.

Rep. Alex X. Mooney, R-W.Va., said in a statement that a corporate tax rate hike would hurt the economy. Mooney observed that of the roughly $2 trillion that Biden proposes spending, only $115 billion is set aside for modernizing the bridges and roads in most dire need of repair.

“This level of liberal spending is irresponsible,” Mooney said.

Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., predicted Biden’s proposal would cause thousands of companies to ship jobs overseas.

“The Biden Administration’s partisan $2 trillion ‘infrastructure’ plan is a trojan horse for radical Green New Deal policies that would destroy our energy industry, endanger Americans’ livelihoods and undermine our economy,” Miller said in a statement. “At a time when American workers need our help the most, this will be the biggest economic mistake in a generation.”

Biden’s plan would support large-scale carbon sequestration efforts and expand a tax credit for technologies that capture carbon dioxide emissions from sources such as coal-fired power plants and reuse the carbon dioxide or store it underground in geologic formations so it will not enter the atmosphere.

The White House said the plan is in line with the Storing CO2 And Lowering Emissions, or SCALE Act, which would support the buildout of infrastructure to transport carbon dioxide from sites of capture to locations where it can be either used in manufacturing or sequestered underground.

Capito and Manchin joined nine other Democratic and Republican senators to announce their support for the legislation last month.

Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., the top-ranking Republican on the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, joined two Democrats and a fellow Republican to introduce the SCALE Act late in December. He supports a House version of the bill.

“Advancing carbon capture — and building out the infrastructure to transport, utilize and store the carbon dioxide — is essential to reducing our emissions,” McKinley said in a statement. “I’m encouraged that it is included in the package but still have many concerns about the package as a whole.”

McKinley’s office did not respond to a request for the congressman to elaborate on his concerns.

Environmentalists hailed Biden’s proposal.

“The President’s plan presents a monumental opportunity to rebuild and transform our state’s economy and infrastructure in a way that meets the climate challenge and provides good jobs in our communities now and for the future,” West Virginia Rivers Coalition Executive Director Angie Rosser said in a statement. “We need our congressional members to make sure West Virginia is at the forefront of this plan.”

“We applaud the president’s proposal to invest in the cleanup of abandoned oil, gas and mine sites while also emphasizing the development of next-generation industries to be sited in our most distressed communities, which will work to decarbonize our economy,” said Jim Probst, West Virginia Citizen Climate Lobby state coordinator.

Robin Blakeman, organizer at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said major infrastructure investments can push West Virginia along a path to economic recovery in the twin shadows of COVID-19 and coal’s downturn.

“The president’s plan to invest in cleaning up and reclaiming abandoned mine lands is a welcome step forward,” Blakeman said in a statement. “(It) responds to the years of advocacy from our communities and can be the foundation for the equitable, inclusive economy we can build here at home.”