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Gov. Justice announces program to help with late utility bills

Help is coming for some of the 133,000 West Virginians with delinquent utility bills.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Gov. Jim Justice announced that $25 million in CARES Act money has been allocated to help qualifying customers of residential electric, natural gas, water and sewer companies with unpaid utility bills from March 1 to July 31.

“Take advantage of that, West Virginia,” Justice said.

Local utility companies will send letters with applications in the next few days and anyone who doesn’t receive one or accidentally throws it out should call their utility company and request an application, Justice said.

“Please don’t throw this notice in the trash can,” Justice said.

The applications must be sent back by Nov. 12.

Consumer advocate Jackie Roberts said unpaid utility bills are a “serious problem” that brings unimaginable hardship.

The Morgantown Utility Board said its mailing applications to almost 1,700 customers who may qualify.

There are two main rules from the governor’s office that determine eligibility, MUB said.

“Foremost, the delinquency must be due to COVID-19, such as loss of job, reduction in hours worked or illness,” MUB Director of Communications Chris Dale said. “Also, the program only applies to bills issued between March 1 and July 31. The packets we are mailing include amounts for which each customer may be eligible for CARES Act funding.”

The funding is available on a first-come-first-serve basis and customers should apply as soon as possible, Dale said.

He also stressed that the Nov. 12 deadline is the most important thing to remember.

“Customers must absolutely ensure that applications are received by MUB no later than 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 12. This is the last point at which the state will accept applications, so there is no way we can extend the deadline. Customers can mail their applications or use the drop box located in our office parking area. The critical thing is that the application must be received in our office by 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 12,” he said.