West Virginia, a state located in the Appalachian region of the United States, has announced an ambitious plan to boost its economy by enticing former residents to return and take up employment opportunities.
Under the program, the state will offer tax credits worth $25,000 to eligible individuals who left the state for job opportunities elsewhere, but are now willing to return.
The move is part of a broader strategy to address West Virginia’s population decline, which has been a persistent challenge for the state in recent years.
Former residents offered $25,000 tax credits to move back
The Republican-controlled state Senate in Charleston gave unanimous approval to the proposal on Monday; it has now been sent to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives for consideration.
The plan offers $25,000 in tax credits to former residents who return to work in West Virginia.
To qualify for the tax credits, individuals must have either been born in the state or lived and worked there for a minimum of 10 years before leaving for at least a decade prior to 2023.
West Virginia lawmakers hope $25,000 in tax credits entice people to come home https://t.co/fhOo6GoVUy pic.twitter.com/oxpjPv0EMV
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) February 28, 2023
In an effort to combat the state’s declining population, West Virginia officials have previously offered financial incentives to attract people to move there.
In 2021, the Department of Tourism provided $12,000 in cash and free outdoor activities to out-of-state remote workers who moved to certain regions.
According to census figures, the state, with a population of 1.8 million, has experienced a 3.2% decline in population since 2010, making it the state with the largest percentage decline in the country.
The population decline in West Virginia can be traced back to the 1950s, when the state had more residents than it does today, largely due to the decline of the coal and steel industries.
Census officials have classified it as the fourth-most impoverished state in the US, with over 17% of residents living below the poverty line.
In 2021, the average per-capita income in the state was less than $29,000. Demographic statistics show that approximately 93% of residents in West Virginia are white.
State Struggles with High Poverty Rates
The response on social media was divided, with some people supporting the move, while others criticized it, calling it socialist. One Twitter user suggested the money should be used to improve education, infrastructure, and healthcare, where West Virginia lags behind other states.
A Twitter user suggested that instead of offering money for people to move back, West Virginia should invest in technology and companies to attract new residents. They added a sarcastic comment, saying the state could just stick with coal.
A press release from September 17, 2020, reveals that newly released data from the Survey conducted by the American Community Census Bureau indicates West Virginia ranked 6th nationwide, with the highest poverty rate, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
West Virginia leads the nation in child marriage, and girls as young as 14 continue to get married.
Poverty and lack of education increase the likelihood of child marriage. Outcomes for these marriages, especially for girls, aren't great. https://t.co/yG3xmDk0Qs
— Amelia Knisely (@ameliaknisely) March 2, 2023
The examination of data from the continuing survey and other sources also indicates that West Virginians, particularly those with low earnings and people of color, continue to experience significant economic struggles, due to the pandemic.
The release emphasizes the urgent need for decisive action at both the federal and state levels to address these challenges.