MORGANTOWN — Legal Aid of West Virginia is looking to assist low-income residents, particularly those who faced job loss due to COVID-19, with navigating available benefits.
“It’s pretty basic — give me a call, and let’s just discuss the issue,” said Nick Helmick, a community navigator for Legal Aid of West Virginia.
Through Legal Aid’s Community Navigator Program, West Virginians can receive free assistance with completing forms, reviewing applications and processing requests. Navigators are available to assist with navigating topics, including:
- Public benefits
- The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program
- Taxes, including child tax credit
- Other programs available to low-income West Virginians.
Community Navigators will be available to assist those in need through Aug. 20. There are no eligibility requirements for the service, and all who may benefit from the program are encouraged to reach out.
Throughout COVID-19, a number of federal legislation was passed relating to Coronavirus Relief, the CARES Act, the American Rescue Act and more. Clint Adams, Legal Aid of West Virginia legal director, said many of these plans had provisions to help low-income West Virginians. However, many were unaware of available assistance or how to apply.
“It’s great to have those, and they’re terrific programs,” Adams said. “Most of them require you to apply for them and to apply for them, you have to know that they exist.”
Bringing awareness to these benefits has become one essential goal of the navigator program. Through making residents aware of application deadlines and available benefits, the state’s four community navigators hope to help as many people as possible.
“If [people] don’t know about the dates and they drag their feet or they don’t even know that program exists, then they may miss out on something that could really benefit them,” Helmick said.
If the program is unable to assist with a particular issue, Helmick said navigators are able to connect West Virginians with alternative help from Legal Aid or direct them to other programs. As a statewide nonprofit organization, which provides free legal services and advocacy, Legal Aid of West Virginia also offers free legal support in several areas outside of the navigator program for those who qualify.
“It might be more of a general unemployment or legal issue,” Helmick said. “Even if I can’t help them, it’s kind of acting as a middleman between my work and Legal Aid’s general work.”
Helmick is based in Morgantown and available to assist those residing in Berkeley, Brooke, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Jefferson, Marion, Marshall, Mineral, Morgan, Monongalia, Ohio, Preston, Tyler and Wetzel counties.
Those interested in the program residing in Helmick’s region can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 304-989-5596.
For those residing in other regions of the state, alternative community navigators include:
- Brian Fletcher, based in Huntington, can be reached at email@example.com or 304-989-5023. Fletcher serves Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Clay, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Mingo, Putnam, Wayne and Webster counties.
- Donna Franks, based in Lewisburg, can be reached at Dfranks@lawv.net or 304-989-5318. Franks serves Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming counties.
- David Strange, based in Clarksburg, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-989-7499. Strange serves Barbour, Calhoun, Doddridge, Grant, Gilmer, Harrison, Jackson, Lewis, Pendleton, Pleasants, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, Wirt and Wood counties.
For more information on Legal Aid of West Virginia and other programs offered, visit legalaidwv.org or call 1-866-255-4370.