By GOV. JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- Most businesses around the Mountain State have found their own individual methods of how to turn a profit in the current fluctuating national economy.

While the challenges that have been posed on businesses have caused some to buckle down, many business owners have not lost their willingness to reach out and give something back to our citizens facing similar economic circumstances each day.

Recently, I was pleased to take part in two announcements that I feel will provide relief to our citizens and families seeking a way to ease the burden of rising energy costs.

Representatives from Dollar Energy Fund Inc., six of West Virginia's major utility companies and several other business and community leaders joined me to announce the West Virginia Utility Assistance Program, which will provide comprehensive utility assistance to low-income working citizens, seniors and families having difficulty affording natural gas, electric and water services.

The West Virginia Utility Assistance Program, funded through a start-up grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and supported by corporate and voluntary contributions, will provide utility assistance services for our hard working people and provide a quality of life that we all deserve. This first-of-its-kind program was created with the generosity of businesses willing to partner with the state, non-profit agencies and community leaders, to provide for our citizens.

Also, we recently had the ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday. Each day during September 1-7, West Virginians could improve their homes, lower long-term energy costs and help the environment as the state's 6 percent sales and use tax on certain ENERGY STAR qualified products and appliances was removed during this tax holiday week.

I introduced the holiday legislation this year with the support of the West Virginia Legislature and as a result of the diligent work of the Attorney General Darrell McGraw -- West Virginians were helped from this consumer initiative. All West Virginia businesses that sell ENERGY STAR products participated in this Sales Tax Holiday.

The West Virginia Utility Assistance Program and the ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday involved hard work and commitment from many individuals.

I would like to thank Cindy Datig and all of the Dollar Energy Fund Inc. representatives for working with our utility companies, The Salvation Army and all of the community-based organizations to make this program possible. The ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday was also made possible by the effort of the Attorney General, our state Legislators and our businesses across the state that offer energy efficient products.

To learn more about the West Virginia Utility Assistance Program, please visit www.dollarenergyfund.org.

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