Susan Williams

Leave it to the Rev. Matthew J. Watts to see the blessing in a crisis. Federal leaders have sent millions to all 50 states, telling state leaders to use the money to combat coronavirus.

As an aside, Prince Charles of England, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of England, and Tom Hanks, actor and world’s nicest guy, have all been stricken with the virus. Charles, Boris, and Tom got well. These wealthy, white, and powerful men had all the medical equipment they needed. Medical staff gladly attended to them. Their sheets were changed, their meals served without the slightest question of how anyone might pay for their care.

I say good for them and the great medical teams who cared for them.

But another set of people, the poor with the diseases of the poor that follow them everywhere, are the most likely victims of the disease. If they are poor and have extra melanin in their skin, they might be serving a life sentence with this disease.

Along with members of the NAACP and The Tuesday Morning Group (TMG), Rev. Watts has proposed taking 20 percent of those federal dollars that are already available and create places for genuine health care in poor West Virginia communities. Maybe we could treat the virus and treat the people who suffer from the diseases of the poor at the same time.

Watts also knows that poor diets can make people sick. It is easy to buy pizza and pop at a gas station. West Virginians must travel far to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. What if some of that money could be used to plant real grocery stores in these food deserts?

I have never read a cogent argument that explained why it makes sense to deny people health care. All the arguments I have read about genuine health care explain that we can save money and lives when we make health care available to more people.

You cannot catch hunger. But with this virus that is also referred to as “novel,” you can catch it from a poor person or a rich person.

Watts, members of the NAACP, and TMG have put together plans called the Economic Justice and Equity Movement. They propose that 20 percent of the $250 million in the federal Cares Act be put aside to target the poorest areas of the state.

In the long history of our painfully poor state, every discussion of ending poverty begins with: We don’t have the money to do differently. This time we do.

Members of the Economic Justice and Equity Movement are asking us to ask our leaders to sign on to this thoughtful proposal to bring genuine help to the poorest places in our state.

To find out more, call 304-610-0715 or 304-663-1111. Facebook users can turn to Watts’ Facebook page.

Williams is a retired Gazette reporter and a member of the Fayette County Democratic Executive Committee.

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