COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice announces additional unemployment benefits to be distributed next week

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CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined West Virginia health leaders and other officials today for his latest daily press briefing regarding the State’s COVID-19 response.
ADDITIONAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS TO BE DISTRIBUTED NEXT WEEK
During Wednesday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that, beginning early next week, WorkForce West Virginia will begin distributing an additional $400 per week in Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) payments to West Virginians who are unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.“I am very happy to announce that these dollars are going to start flowing to those in need,” Gov. Justice said.

These benefits are the result of a series of recent executive orders by President Donald J. Trump, extending federal enhanced unemployment insurance benefits through the end of 2020. Under the order, $300 of the weekly total is being paid for by the federal government, while the remaining $100 is being paid for by the State.

“Keep in mind that we were only one of four states that stepped up to the plate and said we were going to do the extra $100,” Gov. Justice said.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) initially approved West Virginia’s application for these LWA funds two weeks ago.

“It’s taken a little while because, once we got the go-ahead from FEMA, we had to devise our own system to administer the monies and get them going out, while making sure the right fraud protections were in place,” Gov. Justice said. “Now we’re going to get everyone their money and will be doing so very quickly.”

During his remarks Wednesday, acting Commissioner of WorkForce West Virginia Scott Adkins reported that, as of today, FEMA has approved West Virginia to utilize $103 million in LWA benefits.

West Virginia is currently approved to pay five weeks of benefits, retroactive to the week ending Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, running through the week ending Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.

“If you’re eligible for all five weeks, you’ll get a single check or a single deposit in your account for $2,000, minus any taxes you have chosen to withhold,” Adkins said. “Any individuals who returned to work prior to August 1st will not be eligible.”

To be eligible for LWA, recipients must receive at least $100 in weekly unemployment benefits and they must certify that they are unemployed or at least partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Individuals receiving unemployment benefits at a rate of less than $100 per week are not eligible for the $300 FEMA share of the LWA funds, but will receive the $100 State share in addition to their regular unemployment benefits.

“West Virginia is the only state in the union that is providing that particular benefit,” Adkins said.

‘We understand this benefit is critical to many West Virginians,” Adkins continued. “We are diligently planning and testing our systems to make sure we are paying people as quickly as possible.”

Adkins added that, once the FEMA benefits are fully exhausted, those benefits will cease.

Click here for more information on the WorkForce West Virginia website

RELEASE TIME MOVED UP FOR DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S SATURDAY COUNTY ALERT MAP
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice and State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch announced that, in an effort to provide more preparation time for students, parents, teachers, and service personnel, the release time for the West Virginia Department of Education’s Saturday County Alert Map has been moved up to 5 p.m.For the past two weeks, the map had been released at 9 p.m.

“We’re going to back that up to give you a few more hours to line up what you would need for the next week if your county would happen to slip into orange,” Gov. Justice said.

“On Saturday night, we had 3,700 people per minute trying to log on to look at the map, so we know how important it is to everybody,” Superintendent Burch said. “We’ve also heard from many parents who have indicated that earlier would be better.”

WEDNESDAY MAP UPDATE
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice provided a look at West Virginia’s latest mid-week map update.The map is updated live on the DHHR’s COVID-19 Dashboard (Click “County Alert System” tab) throughout the week for informational purposes and to provide an indication of how each county is trending ahead of each Saturday; the time when each county is assigned its official color designation for the next week, which determines the level of scholastic, athletic, and extracurricular activities permitted in each county for that particular week.

As of Wednesday morning, a total of 28 counties were green, while 18 counties were yellow.

Eight counties were orange: Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, Mingo, Monroe, Pocahontas, Putnam, and Wayne counties.

One county was red: Monongalia County.

COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS UPDATE
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that West Virginia’s statewide rate of COVID-19 transmission – also known as Rt – increased to 1.35, the worst such rate in the country. The Governor added that West Virginia’s number of active cases has reached a new record high of 2,806.“This situation is getting more critical by the day,” Gov. Justice said. “I’m calling on all West Virginians; you’re going to have to buckle down, we have to do better.”

Still, West Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers have been among the best in the nation. West Virginia has outperformed the national average, as well as the rates of all of its bordering states, in percentage of population tested, percentage of population positive, and percentage of positive test results. West Virginia has also outperformed the national average in case fatality rate.

Click here to view the latest COVID-19 data

GOVERNOR AGAIN URGES AGAINST EVICTIONS DURING PANDEMIC
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice provided clarification that, while he continues to urge landlords to cease evictions throughout the duration of the pandemic, he is not legally able to force landlords to stop evicting people if they choose to do so.“I can tell you my personal feelings, I can plead with our landlords to please not evict people, but I cannot make them do that,” Gov. Justice said. “Now, there may be governors out there in other states that have that authority. I do not. But our Supreme Court could possibly act on this and halt those actions if they chose to do so and President Trump gave some relief under his executive order which directed the CDC to temporarily halt evictions through the end of the year. But it all takes cooperation.”
WEST VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD 180 DAYS OF SERVICE IN PANDEMIC
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice took time to recognize and thank the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard, who have now been actively responding to the pandemic for 180 consecutive days.“They’ve done great stuff,” Gov. Justice said. “They continue to run to the fire all over the place.

“At the height of our response, there were 700 Guard members who were working and called back to active duty to help us,” Gov. Justice continued. “There were multitudes of missions in all 55 counties.”

Currently, 330 WVNG personnel remain on duty responding to the pandemic.

“Today, I ask all West Virginians, just take a moment in prayer to thank them for all that they’ve done,” Gov. Justice said. “And if you happen to see them, please tell them what a good job they’re doing.”

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OUTBREAK REPORT
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that no new school-related COVID-19 outbreaks were reported to the DHHR since yesterday’s briefing.School-related outbreaks remain active within 11 facilities in five counties across the state. These outbreaks have been identified in Brooke County at Brooke Middle School and Brooke Intermediate North; Kanawha County at Ben Franklin Career and Technical Center, Cedar Grove Middle School, Chamberlain Elementary School, Horace Mann Middle School, Shoals Elementary School, and Sissonville High School; Lincoln County at Duval PK-8 School; Mason County at Point Pleasant Primary School; and Mingo County at Mingo Central High School.

Meanwhile, the Governor added that a recent church-related outbreak in Cabell County is no longer active at this time. Church-related outbreaks currently remain active in Kanawha, Monroe, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.

There are now 32 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state, down from 34 yesterday.

Within corrections facilities, Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County saw its number of active COVID-19 cases drop to 105.

Meanwhile, South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County and Western Regional Jail in Cabell County each have one active case among their inmate populations.

Across the entire DCR system, the number of active cases among employees has decreased to 31.

Click here to view the latest corrections facility update

WEST VIRGINIA REMAINS AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS IN CENSUS RESPONSE RATE; ALL URGED TO PARTICIPATE
Once more today, Gov. Justice asked all West Virginians to participate in the 2020 United States Census.West Virginia currently boasts the 2nd-best U.S. Census response rate in the country.

To date, 97.3 percent of West Virginians have been counted. For perspective, during the last Census in 2010, the state’s final response rate was just 74 percent.

West Virginians are able to complete the Census until Sept. 30, 2020.

Every West Virginian who does not respond to the Census represents a loss of $20,000 in federal funds over the next 10 years for the state and its local communities. The funds can go toward things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, school lunch programs, and more.

Be counted in minutes: 2020census.gov.

SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS: OVER $13 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on small businesses that have applied for funding through the Governor’s West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program, reporting that over 3,500 applications have been submitted, with more than $13 million being awarded to date.The initiative is providing $150 million of West Virginia’s CARES Act funding to qualifying businesses across the state. Any West Virginia-based small business, in existence on March 1, 2020, with 1-35 employees, is able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding.

Gov. Justice has also opened up the West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program to sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals in West Virginia.

Any sole proprietor or self-employed person, in operation on or before March 1, 2020, is now able to apply for up to $2,000 in grant funding.

Businesses planning to apply must first be registered as a vendor with the State to be eligible. Guidelines for the grants and instructions on how to apply are available at Grants.wv.gov.

The application will remain open until Sept. 30, 2020.

CITIES/COUNTIES GRANT FUNDING: OVER $105 MILLION HAS NOW BEEN AWARDED
Also today, Gov. Justice provided an update on cities and counties throughout West Virginia applying for funds through the federal CARES Act, reporting that more than $105 million has now been awarded all across the state. To date, 191 cities and counties have applied for this grant funding.A web portal is available for city and county government officials to apply. Interested parties can also call the helpline: 1-833-94-GRANT.

Each of the recipients of CARES Act funding, along with grant amounts, are now available to view through the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office COVID-19 transparency website.

FREE COVID-19 TESTING
Gov. Justice also updated the schedule of upcoming free community COVID-19 testing events taking place over the next several weeks at various dates and times in multiple counties across the state.The effort is part of a plan to provide free optional testing to all residents in several counties that are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. It targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing. However, other residents, including those who are asymptomatic are welcome to be tested.

Counties with upcoming free testing events include:

  • Cabell County
  • Doddridge County
  • Jackson County
  • Kanawha County
  • Mason County
  • Mercer County
  • Mingo County
  • Monongalia County
  • Morgan County
  • Nicholas County
  • Putnam County
  • Raleigh County
  • Wayne County

Click here to view dates and additional details

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.