State Unfreezes Welfare Checks After Money Comes In
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ The state resumed issuing welfare checks Friday after a brief halt ordered when the state auditor said he had only $5 million to pay $65 million in bills, officials said.
The state collected at least $4 million more in tax revenues Friday, and checks were again being processed, said Don Adams, chief clerk for state auditor Glenn Gainer.
Gainer on Wednesday said he had just $13,000 to cover $51 million in bills. Late Thursday, he upped the figures to $5 million to cover $65 million in bills and ordered a halt to welfare checks pending a review of the Department of Human Services’ funds.
But the newly counted tax receipts apparently pulled the state out of the bind.
Gainer ″processed millions of dollars worth of checks today,″ said John Price, press secretary for Gov. Arch Moore, who had threatened to remove Gainer from office.
″All of a sudden, a bunch of checks came flying out of there,″ Price said. ″It’s like ’1984,‴ he said, referring to the George Orwell novel. ″It is what I tell you it is today, not what it appeared to be yesterday.″
Moore had said Gainer’s order to halt the checks ″borders on incompetence, malfeasance in office and neglect of duty.″
Gainer threatened to file his own lawsuit if Moore sued him.
Human Services Commissioner Regina Lipscomb refused to return repeated telephone calls to her office Friday. Other department officials declined to say whether checks were being held up.
Earlier Friday, Gainer had said he was blocking the checks. ″I don’t want checks bouncing all over because West Virginia doesn’t have funds to cover its checks,″ he said.
Gainer, in his third four-year term, is the state’s chief bookkeeper and is responsible for determining how much money is available in the treasury.
He blamed the governor for ″irresponsibility in not realizing the problem the state is facing financially. I brought this to his attention in July.″
State tax collections at the end of November were $36.8 million behind the projections on which the budget is based. In addition, the auditor’s office said collections for December are running $7 million below predictions.
Moore has consistently refused to cut spending, despite repeated requests from Gainer, Treasurer A. James Manchin and legislative leaders.
Manchin cut his own budget by 5 percent last week and urged other state leaders to follow suit to ease the financial crunch.
Moore contends the treasury has at least $43 million but that Gainer, a Democrat, refuses to spend the money because he wants to embarrass the Republican administration.
Gainer, supported by Attorney General Charlie Brown, says he cannot touch $40 million of the money because half has already been appropriated for other projects and expenditure of the other half has not been approved by the Legislature.