Workers who lost income can apply for relief
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just two weeks after the United Way of Central West Virginia launched a fund to aid workers impacted by the recent water crisis, the West Virginia Emergency Fund has amassed more than $70,000 and will become available for applications Monday.
According to John Ballengee, UWCWV director, the fund received donations not only from local organizations and individuals, but from across the nation, including donors from Florida, Texas, Washington, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
"It reflects exactly what most West Virginians already realize: When there's an issue, people will step up and do their part," Ballengee said.
Distribution of funds is to begin Monday, and the tentative end date for submitting an application is Feb. 21. Affected workers will be able to qualify for as much as $200 in assistance, and Ballengee said the United Way has developed a formula to determine the amount of aid each person will receive.
"We will ask the employer to verify the hours lost and the hourly wage of the worker, and then we'll apply that to a grid we've put together for all of our partner agencies to use," he said.
The fund, which was established in response to the economic impacts of the recent Elk River chemical leak, was created to help those in the service sector who have lost part of their income after many restaurants, stores and hotels were forced to close during the do-not-use water ban issued by West Virginia American Water.
Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told the Gazette earlier this month while the water crisis did not shut down the economy in the region, it had a severe impact on restaurant, lodging and other hospitality businesses in Charleston and other affected communities.
"The impact to the local economies in the affected zones is very significant, but the impact statewide is a whole lot less, because there's a lot of shifting going on, where folks are buying at alternative locations," Muchow said.
Ballengee said he believes more pledges to the fund are forthcoming, and the United Way has partnered with agencies in five of the nine affected counties. According to Ballengee, anyone from the nine counties can apply for aid, and many of the partner agencies directly border areas affected by the spill.
"There will be very close access in all nine counties," he said. "There was a small part of Jackson County that was impacted -- we will have an assistance site in Ripley, but it may be as convenient for a worker in this piece of the puzzle to come to Kanawha County, and that would be perfectly OK. There's another part of Roane County -- we will not have an assistance site in Roane County, but we will in Clendenin, which is right on the border."
The aid is reserved for utility assistance, and Ballengee said that, in most cases, the payment will be sent directly to the utility company on the applicant's behalf. The aid will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, Ballengee said, and applications will not be accepted by phone, email or fax.
"We do need their utility bills and their completed application, so it will be a requirement that they come face-to-face with one of the approved providers," he said.
West Virginia Emergency Fund assistance agencies include EnAct in Hurricane and Clendenin, the Boone County Community Organization in Madison, Community Resources Inc. in Ripley and PRIDE Community Services in Logan. Catholic Charities, EnAct, Heart and Hand, Mountain Mission, the Salvation Army and Tyler Mountain/Cross Lanes Community Services are the assistance agencies located in Kanawha County.
According to Ballengee, applicants will need to check with individual assistance agencies for their operating hours. For a detailed list of assistance agencies or to learn more about the application process, visit www.unitedwaycwv.org beginning Monday.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com or 304-348-5189.