Life as we knew it has changed. We don't know how long the "new normal" will last and, face it, there's nothing normal about it.
In addition to changes in election dates and processes, there are immediate and pressing needs in District 17 and throughout West Virginia. People are out of work, which for many means losing access to health insurance. Food insecurity has taken on a dire new meaning for children, seniors and folks who never imagined themselves in such a vulnerable place.
While elections in the time of COVID-19 do matter, money in the bank and food on the table matter right now. Too many people are focused on sheer survival, and those of us who have thrown our hat in the ring to be public servants must find ourselves stepping up to serve instead of merely campaigning.
Knowledge is power. As much as I would like everyone's vote on June 9, the more important use of my political soapbox right now is to provide the information that could help you, your family or your next door neighbor get your ducks in a row and make it through this crisis:
UNEMPLOYMENT: If you've lost hours or been let go due to Coronavirus, even if you're a self-employed contract or gig worker, you should apply for unemployment compensation through the Federal CARES Act Relief Legislation. You will need to be persistent and patient! If you haven't already filed, go to www.workforcewv.org, or call 1-800-252-JOBS (1-800-252-5627).
HEALTH CARE: If you’ve lost your employer-sponsored health coverage, COBRA may not be your only choice. You may be eligible for affordable health coverage through the Medicaid expansion or the health insurance marketplace, but it’s important that you start in the right place in order to select the most affordable option. WV Navigator is a free service that provides health insurance enrollment assistance via phone. Call them at 1-844-WV-CARES (1-844-982-2737) or 304-356-5834. They will give you individualized help based on your household size, income, and personal situation.
FOOD & OTHER EMERGENCY NEEDS: In addition to our local schools providing lunches to students, a number of organizations and citizen groups are stepping up to help with food needs. Because the situation changes weekly, the best source to find out availability of food supplies and other emergency help is going to the website www.211.org and entering your zip code. Or call 2-1-1 and if you're in Cabell or Wayne county, press "Option 3." Another local source by email is Information and Referral section of our public library. Even though they are closed, the staff are all helping from home and checking the email email@example.com. Whether it's questions about food, medicine, rent or not feeling safe and secure in your home, there are people ready to help you navigate your particular situation.
Our tradition in West Virginia is to be proud and self-sufficient, but please know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. It's a sign of resilience to recognize that we need each other in hard times, both to give and receive help. So if you're struggling, please reach out. You can pay it forward later.
And if you've collected your documentation, reached out to these lifelines and still find yourself unable to make the ends meet, one person needs to hear directly from you, and that is our Governor, who is doing his best to stay on top of this emergency and deploy help where it's most needed. If you're having trouble, you're probably one of many. You can reach Governor Justice's office at 304-558-2000, or go to governor.wv.gov and click on the Email box.
Raising our voices
Issues, insights and day-to-day adventures along the campaign trail