CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – On this week’s episode of Inside West Virginia Politics, our guests are here to talk about transparency in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, getting vaccines distributed to minority communities, the new Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia’s plans after two organizations merged and federal aid to feed families amid the pandemic.

IWVP: Transparency in the Court

In Segment 1, Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Evan Jenkins discusses the plans for what they’re calling the New Court. He says they hope to continue moving forward from the “problems of the past,” and continue the work of the past two years to bring back the public’s trust and confidence through accountability and transparency from the Court.

He says even amid the pandemic, the court was never able to fully close, providing access to those in emergency situations. Jenkins says learning to use technology to provide new means of accessing the court can also be used in the future.

IWVP: COVID-19 vaccines and minority communities

In Segment 2, we switch gears from politics to pandemic. Reverend Matthew Watts of Grace Baptist Church talks about the importance of getting the vaccine out to minority groups in the state.

Watts has been an advocate for providing COVID-19 testing to minority communities throughout the pandemic, as studies have shown minorities are two to three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the rest of the population. He commended the Kanawha County Commission and Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for making those testing events happen.

He says those statistics also make getting the vaccine available to minority communities important to protect the community.

IWVP: The new Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia

In Segment 3, Charlie Burd, the executive director of the new Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia stops by to talk about the organization. The association is a merger of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and the Independent Oil and Gas Association.

Burd says the two organization’s dividing lines started merging and it was time to start tracking the same issues. He says the merger makes the organization stronger and gives them more of an opportunity to advocate for issues such as public policy, environmental safety, drilling and production, and taxes.

IWVP: Funding to feed families during the pandemic

In Segment 4, Seth DiStefano with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy talks about the COVID-19 aid package. The recent package included funding for aid to child nutrition and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

DiStefano says in West Virginia, that funding will amount to about $100 extra dollars in federal food assistance per month per family. He says he believes its important for state lawmakers heading into the legislative session to keep these needs in mind and remember many families in the Mountain State were struggling with high rates of poverty and joblessness before the pandemic began.