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Wood County delegate raises issues with decreased revenues for veterans’ groups

Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, at his desk in the chambers of the House of Delegates. (Photo courtesy of WV Legislative Photography)

CHARLESTON — Concerns about decreased lottery revenue as well as difficulties for veterans’ groups trying to raise funds during the coronavirus pandemic caused a member of the House of Delegates to reach out to Gov. Jim Justice.

Del. John Kelly, R-Wood, wrote a letter Tuesday to Justice urging the state to provide additional funding for veterans’ groups and programs, either through federal C.A.R.E.S. Act funding or grants directly from the state.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created financial difficulties for many West Virginia businesses and job holders,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately, there is another segment of our society that have not seen relief from the C.A.R.E.S. money. The veterans’ organizations around the state face extreme financial difficulties.”

Kelly said the fundraising events for veterans’ groups has taken a hit, due in part to limits on groups and occupancy limits put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Veterans’ clubs and bars have also seen reduced revenue.

“These organizations depend on food and alcohol sales as well as live music and dances for their very existence,” Kelly said. “Our veterans have made the sacrifices — some the ultimate sacrifice. Many remain disabled for life, and we MUST not ever forget the contributions they have made to maintain our freedoms.”

The state Veteran’s Fund is also seeing less revenue due to decreased lottery sales. According to a report given to the West Virginia Lottery Commission on Wednesday, July lottery gross revenues came in at $93.9 million, with $51,000 transferred to the Veteran’s Fund.

In 2019, the state transferred $512,000 to the Veteran’s Fund. Since 1986, lottery proceeds have provided $14.6 million to the Veteran’s Fund, originally created by the Legislature in 2000 to raise funds for a nursing home and cemetery.

Justice, speaking Wednesday during his three-days-a-week COVID-19 briefing, said he had not seen Kelly’s letter. Justice said it would be difficult to use C.A.R.E.S. Act funds due to the many restrictions on their use put in place by the U.S. Treasury Department, but something could be done through the state possibly.

“It may be difficult from the C.A.R.E.S. side, but there may very well be a way to look at it through the grants side,” Justice said. “I welcome the letter, because anything we can do to help the veterans, I’m all in. As soon as I get the letter and I find it … I don’t want something like that to fall through the cracks and not get to me. I’m going to push it and push it just as hard as I possibly can when I get it.”

Steven Allen Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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