AARP West Virginia has joined organizations representing thousands of state retirees in urging members of the West Virginia Legislature to consider a one-time supplement to provide needed financial relief for state retirees.
The groups, including the West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees, made presentations to the Joint Standing Committee on Pensions and Retirement during the June 2022 Legislative Interim meetings in Charleston, urging legislators to consider tapping the state’s $1.3 billion surplus to provide a one-time supplement for certain state retirees living on fixed incomes who are struggling with skyrocketing inflation and rising household and utility costs.
“A modest, one time, $1,500 supplemental payment from our state’s unprecedented surplus would provide meaningful relief to many of our retirees and their families who are living on fixed incomes, especially as they continue to recover from the health and financial impacts of the pandemic,” Jane Marks, AARP West Virginia State President, told legislators during the June 14 hearing at the State Capitol.
West Virginia’s older population creates an outsized economic impact that will drive economic growth in the Mountain State for the next 30 years, according to the latest data from AARP. In 2018, the 50-plus population accounted for 41 percent of West Virginia’s population, yet contributed 44 percent — or $37 billion — of the state’s total Gross Domestic Product, supporting 426,000 jobs and generating $22 billion in wages and salaries.
“We haven’t gone South, we haven’t moved out West, we have chosen to stay here – in our home among these hills of West Virginia,” Marks told legislators. “We simply must not miss this opportunity to recognize the significant contributions of our state retirees. Not when we have the funds – an unprecedented blessing that you can choose to use to create meaningful relief for retirees.”
Danny Gray, a retired 31-year Greenbrier County educator representing the West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees told legislators that he has seen the buying power of his pension shrink in the 21 years since he left the workforce. “In all of those years since I retired, I’ve never gotten a cost-of-living adjustment or any kind of increase, so the household budget becomes a little more strained with each passing year. While today I am telling you my story, I could just as easily be telling you the story of any of the 37,000 retired school employees who receive a pension here in West Virginia,” Gray told legislators.