Hundreds Protest GOP’s West Virginia Retreat, Citing Expected Cuts To Safety Net

Protest will launch month of action targeting Medicaid work requirements

February 1, 2018

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV – As President Trump touched down in at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia today, he was met by more than 500 advocates who had traveled from nearly ten states to send Congressional Republicans a message: any cuts to the safety net would be met with a fierce nationwide fight.

The advocates, many of whom were on public assistance themselves, called out the spending cuts that were set to top the GOP’s agenda for the retreat, their annual planning session for the coming legislative year. Rep. Paul Ryan has hinted that the GOP would launch unprecedented cuts to popular safety net programs such as Medicaid and Medicare this year.

"Republicans may have thought they were safe holding their retreat hundreds of miles from DC. They couldn't have been more wrong,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Network President and Co-Executive Director of Center For Popular Democracy Action, which helped lead the protest. “The truth is, the agenda they envision will hurt everybody - including the West Virginians just outside their doors today. The fights over healthcare and the tax bill will look like kindergarten if the Congressional GOP really goes after the safety net the way they've promised they would. And we'll be there to force them to face the consequences every step of the way"

The protest held symbolic significance given Greenbrier’s location - a lavish estate in the middle of a state whose residents rely on means-tested assistance programs at some of the highest rates in the country. The state has the fourth-highest percentage of people on food stamps, and the seventh-highest rate of Medicaid enrollment, with nearly one in three residents receiving coverage from the program.

The protest launches a month of actions focused on Medicaid work requirements, with rallies expected to be held in states where lawmakers have proposed making coverage dependent on employment. Actions are expected in Kansas, Arkansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and other states deep in Trump country.

The action was driven by a combination of national and local progressive organizing groups, including Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPD Action) and West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families, with the support of an array of national and local progressive organizations, including the Working Families Party, the Women’s March, Indivisible, Strong Economy for All, Tax March, Not One Penny, Rise & Resist, and CPD state partners New York Communities for Change, CASA, One Pennsylvania, the Arkansas Community Organization, the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement, Rights & Democracy Vermont, the Center for Coalfield Justice, and Action North Carolina.

"Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell think that they can claim Appalachia as their home base, but we're here in West Virginia to tell them hands off," said Beverly Anusionwu, a member of One Pennsylvania. "Western Pennsylvania has a proud and longstanding Appalachian history, and we stand with our West Virginian sisters and brothers to reject a narrative of scarcity and the politics of hate and division."

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Media Contact: Asya Pikovsky, apikovsky@populardemocracy.org