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Assistance

State to pay part of unemployment benefits

President Donald Trump’s decision to authorize $400 a week in unemployment benefits for people laid off from jobs due to the COVID-19 epidemic came with a catch. It is that states will have to cover one-fourth of the total.

Here in West Virginia, that is doable. Gov. Jim Justice had hoped to set aside about half the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funding for our state to cover unemployment benefits. With the state share of the $400-per-week estimated at about $26 million, that should last well into 2021 — and the economic slowdown could persist for that long.

West Virginia has a variety of needs linked to the epidemic. It appears that $1.25 billion may not go very far. But the governor is right to view assistance to the unemployed as a priority for the funds.

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Virtually every passing day demonstrates to us that we don’t know enough about COVID-19 to combat the virus effectively. Research on it — and on identifying other emerging disease threats — needs to be a higher priority.

At the very top of the action list should be how the coronavirus affects racial minorities. We know in our country that Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans have been more vulnerable than whites to the disease.

A report released Friday adds urgency to finding answers about that. It came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which investigated children who require hospitalization because of COVID-19.

Black children have been hospitalized five times more frequently than whites, CDC researchers found. Hispanic children are even more vulnerable, with a hospitalization rate eight times that of white youngsters.

We know the disease affects children in general far less severely than adults, especially older men and women with pre-existing conditions. Children who require hospitalization to treat COVID-19 clearly are in great peril, then.

Friday’s report was a “gut punch,” Carrie Henning-Smith, a University of Minnesota researcher, told The Associated Press.

Indeed it was — heart-wrenchingly so.

We don’t know why COVID-19 affects minorities more severely than whites. Race may not be the only factor involved. Everything from socio-economic status to diet, from access to health care to proximity to COVID-19 hot spots, needs to be investigated.

Regarding the children, we know all we need to in order to make safeguarding them a priority in research:

They’re kids. We’re supposed to protect them.

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