CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials Wednesday for a press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.

$25 MILLION IN CARES ACT DOLLARS BEING PROVIDED TO HELP QUALIFYING WEST VIRGINIANS PAY UTILITY BILLS
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that the $25 million of CARES Act relief funds allocated to assist qualifying West Virginians pay their utility bills are now ready to be distributed.
The money will go to local Public Service Districts so they can pass it along to customers.
Customers of electric, natural gas, water, and sewer utility companies who have experienced economic hardship and/or uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, causing them to have unpaid utility bills from the period of March 1 – July 31 of this year, may receive financial assistance to pay those bills.
“Take advantage of this, West Virginia. We’ve got $25 million coming your way,” Gov. Justice said. “I truly hope and believe that this money will assist West Virginians that are still struggling with this pandemic.”
West Virginia residential customers who qualify for these funds will be receiving letters with an application from their utility companies in the next few days.
Customers must complete and return the application by Thursday, November 12, 2020.
The Governor was joined for the announcement by Charlotte Lane, chairman of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.
“We thank you, Governor, for making this money available to everyone to help them with their utility bills,” Lane said. “Governor Justice recognizes that there are thousands of West Virginians who are finding themselves having to choose between paying their utility bills, buying food or medicine, or paying for other essentials.
“This $25 million of CARES Act money that has been allocated by the Governor will help qualified West Virginians and it will make a difference in their lives,” Lane continued.
Lane added that over 133,000 residential utility customers across the state who have unpaid utility bills within the specified time frame qualify to receive this financial assistance.
“We recognize that this generous grant program will not alleviate everyone’s delinquency,” Lane said. “But the Public Service Commission has specially trained consumer affairs technicians who are available to assist customers in negotiating payment arrangements with the utility companies.
“The utilities themselves are continuing to work with customers who are behind in their bills and are offering payment plans. We really appreciate that utility companies are working with people and have not terminated customers during this very difficult time,” Lane continued. “My fellow commissioners and I would like to thank Governor Justice for making this money available for people who need help.
“Our goal together is for people to continue to receive service and for our utility companies to remain strong so they can continue to provide service to all West Virginians.”

COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that the number of active COVID-19 cases across the state is now 5,106, up from 5,095 Monday. The cumulative percent of positive cases increased slightly to 2.84 percent, up from 2.83 percent Monday.
Meanwhile, West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt –  increased to 1.04 Wednesday. However, that mark was still good enough to be tied for the 13th-best such rate of any state in the country.
West Virginia continues to outperform the national average – as well as the rates of all of its bordering states – in percentage of population positive, and percentage of positive test results.

AGGRESSIVE TESTING CONTINUES ACROSS STATE
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice offered a reminder that free testing events are now scheduled over the coming weeks in 38 counties across West Virginia.
As part of the Governor’s Aggressive Testing initiative, each county reaching Red or Orange status in the DHHR’s County Alert System map (Click “County Alert System” tab) is required to set up at least one free testing site within the same day. Each county reaching Gold status is required to set up at least one free testing site within 48 hours. As of Wednesday, the only Red county was Wyoming County. Orange counties included Doddridge, Mingo, Monroe, Pendleton, Wayne, and Wirt counties. Gold counties included Berkeley, Boone, Braxton, Clay, Jackson, Jefferson, Ritchie, Upshur, and Webster counties.
This testing is available to all residents in selected counties, including asymptomatic individuals. Proof of insurance is not required. Attendees should bring identification, such as a driver’s license or proof of address, to help in returning test results. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

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