CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced $25 million in CARES Act funding for assisting West Virginians with unpaid utility bills resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice says the funding will help both the West Virginians who were unable to pay their electric, natural gas, water and sewer utility bills between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020, as a result of the pandemic, as well as the utility companies who worked to prevent utilities from being shut off for those unable to pay.
“We appreciate Governor Justice recognizing the dilemma in which thousands of West Virginians are finding themselves,” stated PSC Chairman Charlotte Lane. “$25 million will make a huge difference to struggling families across West Virginia. My fellow Commissioners and I would like to thank the utility Companies for voluntarily not terminating customers during this difficult time brought about by COVID-19.”
Applications for the utility assistance program will be sent out to qualifying West Virginians, according to Justice. The West Virginia Public Service Commission says past due balances for bills issued before or after the eligibility period, or are not connected to a COVID-19 related event, such as job loss, are not eligible for payment through this grant program.
The governor says those who qualify will be receiving letters from their utility companies in the next few days. Customers must complete and return the application to the utility company or the Dollar Energy Fund by Thursday, Nov 12.
“I truly hope and believe this money will assist West Virginians that are struggling with this pandemic,” Justice said.
West Virginia American Water says its water and wastewater customers who were unable to pay their bill during the period of March 1, 2020, to July 31, 2020, may be eligible for a one-time assistance grant to cover utility costs during that time frame.
“West Virginia American Water has worked closely with the Public Service Commission, Consumer Advocate Division and Governor Justice’s team for several months to help bring together this CARES Act funded utility assistance program,” said Robert Burton, president of West Virginia American Water. “We are very pleased that our customers can now receive much-needed assistance on their water and wastewater bills as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown.”
West Virginia American Water says the funds for one-time utility assistance grants are limited and eligible customers are urged to apply quickly. The company says its customers will receive the personalized application in the mail, and that it must be verified and submitted to the Dollar Energy Fund for review and approval.
“We recognize this generous grant program will not alleviate delinquency, but the Public Service Commission itself has specially trained consumer affairs technicians who are available to assist customers in arranging payment arrangements with utility companies,” Lane said.
WV American Water says only customers who receive an application will be eligible for funding.
Customers who receive applications from American Water should send the application back in the self-addressed stamped envelope enclosed in the packet by the Nov. 12 deadline.
After the application is reviewed, the company says the request will be submitted to the state for payment remittance directly to the utility on the customer’s behalf.
Customers will be responsible for submitting payment on any additional past due balance not covered by the utility assistance program to avoid late fees or service disconnections.
West Virginia American Water says those who need assistance paying their bills can also use the company’s other customer assistance options and can call 1-800-685-8660 for more information.
The PSC says public service districts and municipal utilities will work with their local Regional Planning and Development Councils, the West Virginia Rural Water Association and the West Virginia Municipal League on this grant process.
All monies provided though the CARES Act Relief Fund must be spent by December 30, 2020, according to the PSC.