Workforce Development and Innovation in West Virginia
Update: Governor Justice signed the Jumpstart Savings Act into law on March 19.
Last week our ALEC team was in West Virginia for an education workshop, and it’s clear that the West Virginia Legislature is prioritizing innovative policies to better serve the people of the Mountain State. Important conversations are taking place to reimagine what the pathway to full-time employment looks like, and how public policy can be designed to encourage growth and opportunity across the state.
Workforce development extends beyond the strict track to higher education to a skills-based education model that supports trade schools and empowers blue-collar workers to enter trades. To that end, West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore’s Jumpstart Savings Act passed unanimously in the Legislature this week.
Inspired by Treasurer Moore’s personal experience as a welder and the barriers he faced when struggling to start his own independent contracting business, House Bill 2001 – which received bipartisan support – could bring new opportunities to empower workers and ultimately strengthen the West Virginia economy.
The legislation allows individuals pursuing a vocation or trade to make up to $25,000 in annual tax-free contributions to a savings and investment account. These dollars can then be used to cover the business startup costs, equipment, tools, certifications and licenses needed for their occupation. Family members and employers can make contributions to the account, with all contributions and beneficiary withdraws from the account tax-free as well.
By encouraging workers to save on a tax-free basis, the Jumpstart Savings Act is likely to improve lives and rebuild the West Virginia workforce. This comes just in time for post-pandemic recovery, and West Virginia is poised to be the first state in the country to implement this type of program. If successful, others states will look to West Virginia as a leader of policy innovation.