West Virginia is the only state offering a cash marriage incentive to couples getting welfare benefits: $100 a month to 1,633 couples. Advocates say it’s working, experts say the jury is out, and critics say it may keep poor women in abusive homes.
West Virginia is a laboratory for rural welfare reform, and most of the study subjects are women. In that mountainous state, single mothers face low-wage jobs, lack of child care, transportation hurdles, lack of child support and gender stereotypes.
Mountain Party candidate for governor, Denise Giardina, is taking on West Virginia’s coal industry and demanding an end to brutal mountaintop removal that she calls a sin. The incumbent, a former coal company executive, is considered a likely winner.