CHARLESTON — Governor Jim Justice continued his press briefings for the week via YouTube Wednesday afternoon, providing ongoing updates on the state’s response efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice proudly announced that $25 Million of the CARES Act relief funds can now go to qualifying West Virginians to help pay their delinquent utility bills.
“Customers of electric, natural gas, water and sewer utility companies who have experienced economic hardship and/or uncertainty resulting from the COVID pandemic, causing them to have unpaid utility bills from the period of March 1 through July 31 of this year may receive financial assistance to pay those bills,” the governor said.
Justice explained that the money will be distributed to the local public service districts to get it to the customers in need. He stated, “West Virginia residential customers who qualify for these funds will be receiving letters with an application from their utility companies within the next few days. Customers must complete and return the application by Thursday, November 12.”
Chairwoman of the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Charlotte Lane thanked the governor for setting aside the money. She shared that over 133,000 West Virginians are eligible for this funding and pleaded for those eligible to open the bills and not throw them away. Lane urged customers to complete and submit their applications to their utility company or to the Dollar Energy Fund before November 12.
Lane stated, “We recognize that this generous grant program will not alleviate everyone’s delinquency, but the Public Service Commission itself has specially trained Consumer Affairs technicians who are available to assist customers in negotiating payment arrangements with their utility companies,” and the companies are offering payment plans to help those behind on bills.
“Our goal together is for people to continue to receive service and for our utility companies to remain strong, so that they can continue to provide service to all West Virginians,” Lane explained.
Consumer Advocate Jackie Roberts also thanked the governor and informed those who do not receive a letter to contact their utility companies, as some mistakes can happen.
He announced there are currently 20 outbreaks linked to school systems, with 68 confirmed cases, and 14 active church-related outbreaks, including Upshur County. The governor also mentioned outbreaks in 43 long-term care facilities. Regarding correctional facilities across the state, he reported 12 active inmate cases and 10 active staff cases. Justice also continued to remind residents to get their flu shots, as flu season is approaching.
Justice reminded local officials to apply and reapply for the CARES Act grant funding before the December 31 deadline, which has already awarded over $155 Million to West Virginia cities and counties. He reminded the residents about the free COVID-19 mobile testing lanes available for the next two weeks, pleading for all who can to get tested.
The state’s current statistics, as of Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the coronavirus.wv.gov dashboard are as follows: Different from the School Alert map, the County Alert map shows 31 counties in the “Green,” eight counties in the “Yellow,” Jefferson, Berkeley, Ritchie, Jackson, Upshur, Braxton, Webster, Clay and Boone counties in the “Gold,” with Doddridge, Wirt, Pendleton, Wayne, Mingo and Monroe in the “Orange,” and Wyoming County in the “Red.” The WV Cumulative Percent of Tests Positive was at 2.84 percent. The Daily Percentage of Positive Cases rose to 3.36 percent. The state’s 15,215 recovered cases far exceed the number of active cases, at 5,106. Hospitalization was at 188 patients, but the state’s Fatality Rate still stands at less than 2 percent, with 413 deaths attributed to COVID-19. West Virginia has now tested over 38.6 percent of its population, conducting 695,527 tests, leading the nation’s average of almost 37.3 percent. West Virginia’s Rt value continued to increase to 1.04 percent, as tracked at https://rt.live/.
State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad reported that the Department of Health and Human Resources has formed a Strike Team to address and treat any outbreaks in nursing homes throughout the state within 24 to 48 hours. The team consisted of National Guard members and partnerships throughout the state to provide different specialists and physicians.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch reported that the three employees have tested positive for the coronavirus and the DHHR is taking necessary precautions to clean, isolate, contact-trace, and prevent further spread.