Legal Aid of West Virginia has started a mediation program to help families affected by drug use. One of our goals is to help people in recovery reconnect with their children. Another goal is to help lower the burden on relatives caring for children while their parent is recovering.
As of Wednesday, January 19, 2022, the federal government is providing four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household. These can be ordered through an online form at https://www.covidtests.gov/. If you do not have internet access or experience a problem with the online application, you can call 1-800-232-0233.
There is a TTY option for text telephone device users to order the tests at 1-888-720-7489.
Tests are free and will be delivered by the United States Postal Service.
OTHER TEST OPTIONS (Heading)
Many insurance providers are covering the cost of at-home testing due to a federal rule for private insurance. If you purchase in-home COVID tests, you may be eligible for reimbursement or to have the tests paid upon purchase. Contact your private insurance provider to find out their policy on covering the cost of these tests.
If you have Medicaid, your at-home tests are also covered. You can reach out to your Medicaid provider to find out more about how to get your testing costs covered when you purchase.
In West Virginia, free in-person COVID-19 testing is still available for the public and conducted at sites around the state daily. You can see the closest testing site to your location, as well as the full schedule at https://dhhr.wv.gov/covid-19/pages/testing.aspx.
The Mountaineers Rental Assistance Program (“MRAP” for short) provides help for West Virginians who are not only behind on their rent due to the impact of COVID, but also to those who must find a new place to rent. If you are relocating to a new residence and do not have a current lease (for example, you are being or have been evicted from your apartment), and are otherwise eligible, the MRAP program can provide funds for security deposit, first three months of rent, utility rental application fees, utility deposit/connection fees, recovery housing program fees, and even eviction related court costs.
But you cannot get MRAP benefits until there is proof of a valid lease so that MRAP can verify what the future rent, security deposit, etc. will be. So, how can you get a new lease without paying a security deposit and first month’s rent if you need MRAP benefits to pay these expenses? If you pay these expenses on your own, for example by borrowing money, MRAP will not reimburse these expenses.
MRAP will then work to determine your eligibility for MRAP benefits and your future landlord’s agreement to rent to you according to the terms listed on the FUTURE LEASE CERTIFICATION FORM. If MRAP approves payment of the new lease expenses, it will try to coordinate you signing your new lease and the payment to your landlord at about the same time.
Also, remember that if you are being evicted and have a pet that provides you emotional support or other help that eases a significant medical or mental condition, even if the new landlord who you want to rent from does not normally allow pets, you may be able to get an exception to that rule and get the landlord’s permission to allow your pet to live with you. The best way to do this is to ask your regular doctor whether you have a significant medical or mental condition that negatively effects how you function on a daily basis but that is eased by your pet. If your doctor says yes, ask the doctor to write a note saying so- and make sure your doctor explains how your specific pet eases your mental or physical condition. Then, ask your landlord to revise the lease to reflect that your pet can live in your rental unit as a “reasonable accommodation for your disability.” You landlord can say no if there is something about your pet that will present a danger to other residents or that makes allowing your pet to live with you unreasonable for some other reason. But your landlord must have good reasons to reach this conclusion. Your landlord can also require you to be responsible for any nuisance or damage that your pet does while living in the unit. Additional information about whether landlords must permit pets to live in rental housing is available here: https://legalaidwv.org/legal-information/assistance-animals-in-rental-housing/.
Eligible WV residents who need help paying home heating bills during the winter can apply for LIEAP now. Applications for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) will be accepted beginning Wednesday, December 1, 2021, and ending at the close of business on Monday, January 31, 2022, or until funds are exhausted.
Eligibility for LIEAP benefits is based on income, household size and whether the household is responsible for paying its heating bill. To qualify, households must meet all program guidelines, which includes an applicant’s annual income being at or below 60 percent of the state median income. In situations where a heating emergency exists, applicants must contact a DHHR worker for case evaluation.
Applications are available online at www.wvpath.org and may also be obtained at local DHHR offices, Community Action Agencies, or senior centers operated by an Area Agency on Aging.
Completed applications should be delivered or mailed to the DHHR office located in the applicant’s county of residence. A list of local offices may be found at https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/Pages/MapList.aspx or by calling 304-352-4431. Mailing the application to any other office or to a utility company may delay the receipt by DHHR and prohibit processing the application.
The maximum allowable gross income levels for LIEAP Fiscal Year 2022 can be found below. *For each additional person, add $567. Households whose income exceeds the maximum amount are not eligible; however, some types of income may be excluded for LIEAP.
*Social Security and Veterans income will be excluded for the current LIEAP application period.
If you are denied LIEAP, you may be able to appeal. For help from Legal Aid with your appeal, please apply for help from us by phone at 866-255-4370, or online.
The maximum allowable gross income levels for LIEAP Fiscal Year 2022 are listed below:
Health Care for All WV (HCFAWV) created a resource to help WV residents with Medicaid access the new dental benefits. According to The National Institute for Health Care Management, dental care is a crucial part of physical health. Untreated gum disease can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. Many Americans lack access to affordable dental care and thus these issues go untreated. Learn more at https://nihcm.org/publications/oral-health-health-equity
Part of the solution that HCFAWV has helped with setting in motion, is the passing of an expansion of Medicaid to cover $1000 a year in preventative dental care. They are hoping to expand the amount covered to keep our fellow West Virginians healthy and smiling.
Unfortunately, there previously hasn’t been an easily accessible source of information about which dental offices in West Virginia are accepting new patients, and many book several months in advance. Health Care for All WV just finished a comprehensive list of every dentist in WV who is accepting this extended plan. It also includes the offices that only accept Medicaid for children to free up spaces for adults at the offices that accept the adult plan. All info to the offices including name, location, phone number, and any additional notes are now available through a specially created Google Map, which you can see here.
Please Note: As of 2022, we no longer have Community Navigator Services.
Legal Aid of West Virginia can assist you in your housing matter. It is estimated that there are as many as 14,000 evictions pending in the State of West Virginia. Many of these cases may be people who fell behind when they lost their employment due to the COVID pandemic. If you lost income because of the COVID pandemic, you may be eligible for rental assistance from the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program (MRAP). If you are concerned about paying future rent, behind on your rent or utilities, or facing eviction, please contact the MRAP at https://www.wvhdf.com/programs/mountaineer-rental-assistance-program
If you are eligible, you can receive payment for past due rent and utilities and you may even be eligible for three months of future rent. You must still be in the rental unit to receive past due rent, so if you are behind on your rent, you should apply now! A court eviction does not need to be pending to apply. You may also be eligible for MRAP if you are current on rent, but behind on other bills, and at risk of falling behind on rent. If you have already moved, you may be able to get assistance with three months advanced rent for a new place and help addressing past due utilities.
If you need assistance in applying for the MRAP program, you may contact our community navigator:
Did you know that 39% of adults in West Virginia have some type of disability and are more likely to be inactive, obese, have high blood pressure and smoke? The West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities (WVCED) is leading efforts to provide better services to West Virginians with disabilities through training, research and services. Established in 1978, the Center for Excellence in Disabilities (CED) is located in Morgantown, WV, and has a satellite office in Big Chimney, WV, with staff located in offices across the state to better serve clients in their communities.
The WVCED offers many services and supports for families, including a disability resource library, mentoring program, Positive Behavior Support (PBS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) supports, assistive technology, and specialized family care along with several other clinically based services. In addition, the WVCED provides health and wellness tips to prevent future illness or reverse any health risks one may already have. There’s also a “Resources” page on their website for information on a number of topics, including COVID-19 for people with disabilities, assistive technology, blindness/vision impaired, deafness/hard of hearing, medical and insurance services, mental health , TBI, and WV Medicaid waiver programs among many others.
For more information about the WVCED and the programs, services, research projects, and resources they offer, please visit their website at www.cedwvu.org.
In 1981, the West Virginia Legislature enacted the Crime Victims Compensation Fund declaring that “a primary purpose of government is to provide for the safety of citizens and inviolability of their property.” The primary purpose of this Act is to provide compensation to innocent victims of crime who have suffered personal injury and who have incurred out-of-pocket losses as a result of criminally injurious conduct. The program is administered by the West Virginia Court of Claims and the Act establishes a fund which pays compensation and medical benefits to innocent victims of crime if they meet basic requirements.
What requirements are needed in order to qualify? You must: (1) be a victim of a crime that took place in West Virginia, or be a West Virginia resident who was injured in another state that does not have a compensation program, or be a West Virginia resident who was injured outside of the United States as a result of terrorism, (2) you must have suffered a personal injury as a result of that crime, (3) you must have suffered an economic loss, (4) you must make a report to the police within 72 hours of the crime taking place, (5) you must fully cooperate with the police investigation, and (6) you must have been an innocent victim. It is also important to note that if a victim dies as a result of the crime- a spouse, dependent, legal guardian, executor/executrix, or anyone who pays for the medical or funeral expenses of the victim is also eligible to apply for these funds.
If you meet all of these requirements you can file an application within two years of the crime taking place or if the victim is a minor at the time the crime takes place- a claim must be filed prior to the minor’s 20th birthday. As long as there are no other sources of reimbursement available such as medical insurance, employment benefits, other state benefits, life insurance, etc. the fund can reimburse the following expenses if they are incurred as a direct result of a crime: medical/dental bills, mental health counseling by a licensed counselor, lost wages/income, funeral/burial expenses, lost support of eligible dependents, replacement service loss, mileage to a medical treatment facility, and medically necessary personal property items such as eyeglasses. The maximum allowable benefits to or on behalf of a victim are up to $35,000 if the victim suffers injury, and up to $50,000 if the victim suffers death.
In order to apply for these funds, a Crime Victims Compensation Fund application must be completed. You can access the application at the following link: https://www.wvlegislature.gov/Joint/Victims/claim.cfm, you may print and complete the following pdf: https://www.vwapwv.com/pdf/cv_app_2016.pdf, or you may call the Fund at 1-877-562-6878 or (304) 347-4850. Applications may also be obtained from local county prosecuting attorney offices. After the application is received, the claim will then be assigned to a claim investigator for review to determine eligibility. Upon completion of the application review process, the claim investigator files with the Court a Finding of Fact and Recommendation of which you will be given a copy of and a chance to respond within 30 days if a response is needed. One of the three Court of Claims Judges will review the documents and render a decision. A copy of the Judge’s Order will be sent to the claimant and if you disagree with the Judge’s decision you have appeal rights and you will be given 21 days to request a hearing on the matter. If a monetary award is approved, the funds will be distributed to the claimant for approved expenses and wage/income loss, and directly to the provider for medical or funeral/burial expenses. This fund is a great resource to assist innocent victims or their families in rebuilding their lives after a crime has taken place. For more information, please visit https://www.wvlegislature.gov/Joint/Victims/eligibility.cfm or call the Fund toll free at 1-877-562-6878.
Based on the COVID-19 Relief Bill passed by Congress in December 2020, the State of West Virginia has developed the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program, operated by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. This program will be offering financial help to renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19. If you are eligible, the program can provide help to pay for:
past due rent,
current utility bills,
past due utility bills,
and other expenses related to housing incurred due COVID-19.
2. One or more individuals in the household has qualified for unemployment benefits, or has experienced a reduction in household income, or incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardship due to COVID-19; AND
3. One or more individuals in the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. This could be things like a past due utility or overdue rent notice or an eviction notice. Landlords and tenants can apply for this assistance together.
The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program will direct payments to eligible tenants, landlords and utility companies as required by the guidelines. This a new program. It will be a few weeks before you can apply for help. In the meantime, go to Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program | WVHDF for more information and to sign up for updates. Also, in the meantime, you should start to collect paperwork, like past due bills, overdue rent notices, or eviction notices. When the program is available, you will want that paperwork handy so you can quickly apply for help. If you have questions about evictions during COVID-19, read more in our article.
More and more resources are popping up to provide assistance to the public during the pandemic, here is one that was recently shared by the Family Resource Network of the Eastern Panhandle. This resource is a statewide resource.
Are you or your loved ones feeling anxious, overwhelmed or emotionally exhausted? First Choice Services has launched a new 24/7 emotional strength helpline called HELP304 to help navigate these uncertain and unprecedented times. Available via phone, text, or online chat, professional crisis counselors are trained to listen and help you find the way forward with stress-management strategies as well as community resources and referrals. Talk to someone who cares and can help today. Contact the helpline via phone or text at 877-HELP304 (877-435-7304) or online chat at https://www.help304.com.