Gov. Jim Justice signed two bills Thursday relating to retirement benefits for West Virginia public employees.
During a ceremony at the Capitol, Justice signed Senate Bill 237, which provides additional benefits to the state’s oldest retirees. He also signed SB 293, relating to retirement benefits for deputy sheriffs.
SB 237 provides a one-time $1,500 bonus to state retirees who turn 70 by July 1, 2023, if they have at least 20 years of service and receive less than $1,000 in retirement benefits.
More than 5,000 retirees will receive the bonus, Justice said.
“The thing that is hard to believe is, we’ve still got a bunch of retirees that their monthly payment is less than $1,000,” Justice said. “Making it on less than $1,000 today, I don’t know how in the world they do it. I have no earthly idea how they can do it”
The one-time bonus is a “great start” but there are many who won’t qualify, said Gaylene Miller, executive director of AARP-West Virginia.
“There’s a lot of retirees that aren’t getting that benefit, who have been struggling, as everybody else has, with inflation,” Miller said. “We’re hopeful we can build on [SB] 237 in the upcoming sessions, maybe even in an interim session, to really provide meaningful relief to more retirees.”
The bill also provides a minimum of $1,000 per month for retirees who turn 70 by July 1, if they have at least 25 years of service and are currently receiving less than $1,000 in monthly benefits.
Approximately 1,700 retired state employees will benefit from the increase, Miller said.
She said she can’t imagine trying to pay bills while making less than $1,000 a month.
“Obviously that’s not adequate,” Miller said. “Again, it’s super important that we bring them up to $1,000 a month, but I think our state can do better going forward.”
Justice also signed SB 293, which clarifies that the annual monetary supplement received by retired deputies is considered pensionable earnings.
“Currently, a Deputy Sheriff Retirement System member with at least one year of service receives a monetary supplement each year equal to $5 multiplied by their months of service,” Justice said. “This bill clarifies that the annual monetary supplement is considered pensionable earnings.”
Justice said he was pleased to sign legislation that benefited deputies who have invested their lives in protecting the state’s residents.
“Let’s just try to be real about something. Who’s the first person we call? I mean that’s all there is to it. The first person we call is you, no matter how bad the situation may be. And here you come, running to the fire, all the time,” Justice said. “The dumbest comment of all time — the dumbest of all time — has got to be ‘defund the police.’ The all-time dumbest of the dumbest in life, ‘defund the police.’”
Roger Adkins covers politics. He can be reached at 304-348-4814 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @RadkinsWV on Twitter.