CHARLESTON — House Bill 2001, which creates the West Virginia Jumpstart Savings Program, was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice on Friday.
The program has been championed by newly elected state Treasurer Riley Moore since his time on the campaign trail during the 2020 election cycle.
The bill unanimously passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 16. The Senate unanimously passed an amended version of the bill March 11, and the House concurred in those changes a day later.
The Jumpstart Savings Program will operate similarly to the SMART529 Program, but for those who want to start careers in vocational or technical fields.
Individuals can make up to $25,000 in annual tax-free contributions to a savings and investment account that can be used to help cover the business startup costs, equipment, tools, certifications and licenses needed for their occupation.
“West Virginia is one step closer to being the first state in the country to implement this innovative program that will truly help us build up our blue-collar workforce and rebuild our middle class,” Moore said after the bill received final legislative approval. “This is critically important because our citizens have to compete in a global economy, and we can’t let countries like China pass us in workforce development.”
Family members and the individual’s employer can also make contributions to the account. In addition to the contributions being tax-free, the beneficiary will be able to withdraw funds from the account tax-free.
The plan was inspired by his time working as a welder, Moore said.
“I found out very quickly how expensive it can be to start your own business and pay for your own equipment and tools,” Moore said. “It didn’t make sense to me that we can have so many options available to help people pay for community college or vocational school, only for them to run into a barrier when they find out they need to pay for their licenses, tools and equipment after graduating. The Jumpstart Savings Act is designed to help remove that barrier and empower our blue-collar workers to enter these trades.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, who was the lead sponsor of the bill, applauded Moore for his vision.
“Treasurer Moore saw firsthand as a young man entering the welding trade how expensive it was to buy your own equipment and get certified to start working,” he said. “He experienced a barrier to entering the workforce and has come up with something creative to help us get more people working. This is exactly the kind of real-world, commonsense legislation we need to advance.”
The program has been endorsed by several business and trade organizations, including the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, West Virginia Associated Builders and Contractors and West Virginia Manufacturers Association.
“This important legislation will prepare the next generation to enter the workforce and equip them with the funding to obtain necessary certifications, training and tools,” said Mike Clowser, chairman of the Business & Industry Council. “We commend state Treasurer Riley Moore for having the foresight to develop this program … .”
Rebecca McPhail, president of the Manufacturer’s Association, said the program will give West Virginia a competitive advantage in its workforce development.
“Manufacturers know firsthand the challenges in finding skilled labor in West Virginia. Any efforts to prepare the next generation to enter the workforce contributes to a stronger West Virginia,” she said. “We applaud state Treasurer Riley Moore for developing and promoting this concept. …”
Del. Ben Queen, R-Harrsion, was among the bill’s co-sponsors in the House.
“Being able to have another avenue for folks to able to save money and put toward equipment, toward making sure that vocational trades are at the same level as every other form of education, I think is very important,” Queen said. “I think we’ve finally broken down the stereotype that says trade schools are for bad kids. That’s taken a long time, but 10 years ago guidance counselors didn’t recommend the trade schools, in my opinion.”
Institutions like Pierpont Community & Technical College can help West Virginians pursue skilled, well-paying careers for a fraction of the cost of a traditional four-year degree, Queen said.
Del. Clay Riley, R-Harrison, another House co-sponsor, said he first heard about the program while Moore was campaigning.
“The light just came on immediately,” Riley said. “We have done a great job of trying to encourage our youth through the 529 program to be able to go on to college, but college isn’t for everybody. So allowing a tax credit for this saving plan, for tradespeople, entrepreneurs and people who want to start a business clicked with me really early on.”
Riley said he hopes to able to work with Moore’s office to promote the Jumpstart Savings Program to students in his district.
Written by: Charles Young can be reached at 304-626-1447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.