CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The House of Delegates moved swiftly Thursday to pass legislation intended to provide financial relief to small businesses that lost income after last week's chemical spill and "do not use" water order.
Next up: House members vowed to expedite a bill to help hourly workers who lost wages during the water crisis.
"We have individuals who live payday to payday who may have to decide whether to buy groceries or maybe a new hot water tank," said Delegate David Walker, D-Clay. "I would hope we could do something for them."
Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, said legislative leaders planned to introduce legislation to help individual workers.
"I've received assurances that we're going to deal with an opportunity for individuals to have some sort of recovery, some sort of relief," Lane said. "We look forward to helping individuals, as well."
Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, said West Virginia would be able to apply for federal unemployment disaster assistance. "Any individual should be able to obtain that relief," he said.
State lawmakers said helping small businesses was the first step in helping workers.
"If we can get the economy back cranking in these counties as quickly as possible by making sure these small businesses are open ... people are able to go to work," Lane said. "It helps everyone."
House members voted 97-0 to pass the small business relief legislation (HB4175) Thursday, after lawmakers suspended rules so they could rush through the bill.
The legislation -- the first bill designed to address the fallout from the chemical spill -- will allow businesses to apply for grants and low-interest loans. Business also may be allowed to defer payment of taxes to the state.