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COVID-19 Help for West Virginians (Presentation)

On Friday, April 16, Legal Aid of WV and Mountain State Justice delivered a presentation on COVID-19 help for West Virginians. This included information on housing, benefits, and other topics where those who have been impacted by the months-long effects of the pandemic might find some financial relief.

You can watch the full video presentation on the Legal Aid of WV or Mountain State Justice facebook pages. 

You can also access the COVID 19- Help for West Virginians Presentation as a PDF here.  

 

CDC Order on Eviction Extended

The CDC has extended the order to temporarily stop evictions for non-payment of rent if certain conditions apply. The CDC Order now temporarily halts evictions for non-payment until after July 31, 2021. This order has been extended to help families remain in their homes while West Virginia works to distribute emergency rental assistance to help tenants and landlords with arrears to prevent evictions. This will be the last extension.

The CDC Order prevents people from being evicted for non-payment of rent if all the following are true:

  • -Your income was no more than $99,000 in 2020 ($198,00 for joint filers); or you expect to earn no more than $99,000 in 2021 ($198,000 for joint filers); or you have no income to report to the IRS for 2020; or you received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) in 2020 or 2021.
  • -You have sought government assistance to make rental payments;
  • -You are unable to pay rent because of loss of income or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • -You will make any payments, partial or full, that you can afford; and
  • -You are likely to become homeless, move into a homeless shelter, or be forced into a shared living situation (i.e., moving in with friends or family) if evicted.

This means that people may still be evicted for any valid reason other than the non-payment of rent.

The CDC Order is not an automatic protection from eviction. Each person on the lease must complete and sign a CDC declaration form. This form must be provided to your landlord or the court if an eviction case has been filed. For more information on evictions during COVID-19, read our article.

Rent is still due during this time. If you are behind on rent due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for help with rent and utilities through the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program. More information is available online, along with the application. If you can’t apply online, contact 211 to ask for a paper application.

If you are being evicted and need help, you can apply for Legal Aid by calling 1-866-255-4370 or complete our Online Application and we will contact you.

American Rescue Plan Updates

On March 11, 2021, a new law called the American Rescue Plan Act was passed to provide more help to people struggling because of COVID-19. This law offers assistance that can help many West Virginians get through this tough time.
Here is some information about parts of the new law that may help you:

  • Stimulus Payments: A $1,400 stimulus payment for an adult who makes up to $75,000 a year, or $2,800 for a couple earning up to $150,000 a year (plus $1,400 for each qualifying child or dependent),
  • Help with Rent and Utilities: Provides more funding for rent and utility help for people who meet certain rules (Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program),
  • Increased Food Stamps: Temporarily increases the amount people receive for food stamps and provides more help to families with children for the summer,
  • Help with Health Insurance Premiums: Provides additional premium assistance to families who purchase health insurance from the ACA marketplace and helps with COBRA premiums if you lost your job,
  • Child Tax Credit: Allows parents to receive a tax credit of up to $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 for children 17 and under, and
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: Expands eligibility for the EITC credit to adults with no children and increases the credit to $1,502 from $543,

Unemployment Benefits:

  • Extended Time: All types of unemployment benefits can now continue through September 6, 2021. This covers:
    • People receiving the initial basic benefit (maximum 26 weeks total); and
    • People receiving “extended” benefits (paid only after the initial basic benefits run out); and
    • People receiving “PUA” benefits for the Self-Employed and/or “Gig workers.”
  • Increased Amount: An extra $300 per week will be added to the benefit amount a person is now receiving through September 6, 2021.
  • Impact on Taxes: Up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits are tax free for the 2020 tax year for individuals making less than $150,000.

This is just a summary of important parts of the new law. There are other parts of the law that may help you too. We are working to update our COVID-19 articles with more information. Please check back soon.
If you have specific questions or need more help, you can apply for help from Legal Aid of West Virginia. Call 1-866-255-4370, Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Or apply on our website.

New HUD Initiative Focuses on Children Aging out of Foster Care

Foster Youth to Independence Initiative (FYI) is a new U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program to offer housing vouchers for youth aging out of the foster care system who are at risk of experiencing homelessness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 20,000 young people age out foster care each year. The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare estimates that approximately 25% of those young people will experience homeless within four years of leaving foster care.

FYI will now offer housing vouchers to public housing authorities to assist unaccompanied youth who are 18 years of age, but under the age of 25, who have been involved with the child welfare system after their 16th birthday who are, or have recently left within the last 90 days, the foster care system and are at risk of being homeless. Public Housing Agencies that partner with Public Child Welfare Agencies may request these vouchers to assist eligible youth in areas that does not participate in the HUD’s Family Unification Program (FUP). To see if your area participates in HUD’s FUP please see https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/fyi_tpv.

These housing vouchers may be utilized for up to 36 months. This program will help in offering not only housing but services to help successfully transition to adulthood and independent living through supportive services like basic life skills support, education and employment. This program is also available for pregnant and/or parenting youth who meet eligibility requirements.

Ohio Congressman Mike Turner said it best when he said, “Aging out of foster care should not mean aging into homelessness.”

To view a HUD webinar and other videos explaining FYI in more detail please see-
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/Foster_Youth_to_Independence_Public_Webinar_080619.pdf
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yvW6GIWB2I&feature=youtu.be

For answers to frequently asked questions on FYI please see-
https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/FYI_TPV_FAQs%20_Version_10-30-19.pdf

The Family Drug Court Treatment Act

The Family Drug Court Treatment Act was passed by the West Virginia Legislature in March of 2019. This Act gives the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals the authority to implement Family Treatment Court pilot programs in four circuits. The Supreme Court has designated Randolph County (2oth Circuit) as well as Boone County (25th Circuit) and Ohio County (1st Circuit) as the first three Circuit Courts to initiate programs. The pilot programs are designed to provide structure and accountability to aid in the recovery of parents with substance use disorder in order to keep custody of their children.

Circuit Judge David Wilmoth will oversee the Family Treatment Court in Randolph County. The initial group will include twenty participants. It will not require that the parents be in an abuse and neglect proceeding. The goal of the program is to connect participants with services in child rearing, nutrition, and physical activity as well as drug treatment and mental health treatment. The program is partially funded by a $900,000 grant from the Federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Drug Control Policy.

Anyone interested in participating in the program may contact Judge Wilmoth’s office at 304-636-3815.

The Indian Child Welfare Act

Parents who have Native American heritage often have questions about the Indian Child Welfare Act and how it applies to their cases. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law that protects children with Native American heritage from being separated from their culture and history. The ICWA promotes the stability of Indian (Native American and Alaska Native) children, keeps children connected to their communities, and protects Native American parents and tribes. The ICWA was created in 1978 to reduce the high number of Native American families being unnecessarily separated and to reduce the number of Native American children placed in non-Native American foster and adoptive homes. Even with the ICWA, Native American children are much more likely to be removed from their homes and communities than other children.

The ICWA affects any state child custody proceeding, either voluntary or involuntary, that could result in out-of-home placement of the child or that could prohibit the parent from regaining custody of the child at the parent’s request. It does not apply to custody proceedings between the child’s biological parents. The ICWA especially applies to child abuse and neglect cases and adoption cases.

Not all children who claim Native American heritage are subject to the protections of the ICWA, however. An “Indian child” is defined in the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1903(4), as a person under the age of eighteen (18) who is either a member or citizen of a federally-recognized Indian Tribe or is eligible for membership or citizenship in an Indian Tribe and is also the biological child of a member or citizen of an Indian Tribe. Claiming Native American heritage alone is not enough to utilize the protections of the ICWA. Membership in a federally-recognized tribe or community is a requirement.

Currently, there are five hundred seventy-three (573) Native American and Alaska Native tribes that are recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Each tribe has its own membership requirements and admission process. For example, in order to qualify for membership in the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, an applicant must be at least eighteen (18) years old, must prove that they have an ancestor named on the Baker Roll of 1924, and must have proof that they are at least one sixteenth (1/16) Cherokee by blood. The Baker Roll was created by Fred A. Baker who created an official census of all members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee in 1924.

Whether the ICWA applies is the first determination the court should make after identifying jurisdiction over a case. The ICWA does not mean that children cannot be removed from their homes through state court proceedings. The ICWA provides added protections and safeguards for Native American families throughout a court case to ensure that active efforts are provided to the family to prevent the removal of children, that placements within the child’s Native American community are identified when removal is appropriate, and that the child’s tribe and the child’s parents are given the opportunity to be actively involved in the proceeding.

TINY DISCLAIMER: This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.