Thursday, April 29, 2021
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced a program offering funeral assistance for COVID-19 deaths in the United States since January 20, 2020.
Who is eligible to apply?
Those who paid for funeral expenses since January 20, 2020 for an individual whose death in the United States was caused by or likely caused by COVID-19.
If someone else helped you pay for funeral expenses can they also apply for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance?
FEMA will generally only provide COVID-19 Funeral Assistance to one applicant per deceased individual.
How do you apply?
Unfortunately there is no paper application or online application available. The only way to apply at this time is by calling FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number, 1-844-684-6333 TTY: 1-800-462-7585 Monday through Friday between 9am and 9pm Eastern Time. Callers will be asked questions to get registered for the rest of the application process. You'll probably get a busy signal many times so you might have to keep on trying to get through.
What information will you need to give when you call to apply/register?
The applicant responsible for COVID-19 funeral expenses will need to provide the following information below when they call FEMA to register for assistance. We recommend gathering this information now as we prepare to open the application process.
- Social Security number for the applicant and the deceased individual
- Date of birth for the applicant and the deceased individual
- Current mailing address for the applicant
- Current telephone number for the applicant
- Location or address where the deceased individual passed away
- Information about burial or funeral insurance policies
- Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations
- CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations
- Routing and account number of the applicant’s checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested)
After your registration call you will have to submit documentation which can be done online or by mail.
What documentation is required to submit after registration?
You must provide
- a copy of the death certificate,
- proof of funeral expenses incurred, and
- proof of assistance received from any other source.
The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by, “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution. Documentation for expenses (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) must include the applicant’s name as the person responsible for the expense, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and that funeral expenses were incurred after January 20, 2020.
The applicant must also provide FEMA with proof of funds received from other sources specifically used for funeral costs. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance may not duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance or financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government programs or agencies, or other sources. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will be reduced by the amount of other assistance the applicant received for the same expenses.
What if you received life insurance benefits or expect you might receive life insurance benefits?
Funeral expenses that were paid for with pre-paid funeral insurance are considered to be a duplication. So are funeral expenses that have already been paid for with burial or funeral insurance. But life insurance proceeds are not generally considered a duplication of benefits.
What funeral expenses are covered?
COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. Any receipts received for expenses that are not related to funeral services will not be determined eligible expenses. Expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation typically include, but are not limited to:
- Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
- Transfer of remains
- Casket or urn
- Burial plot or cremation niche
- Marker or headstone
- Clergy or officiant services
- Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
- Use of funeral home equipment or staff
- Cremation or interment costs
- Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
- Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances
For more information about this new FEMA benefit see www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq
If you personally are at least 60 years old and a West Virginia resident with questions about this or other legal issues, you can talk to an attorney for free at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068.
Monday, April 12, 2021
You may have been a victim of unemployment benefits fraud and not even known about it. Until you get a 1099-g in the mail you know nothing about.
If you get any suspicious tax documents in the mail that don't make sense to you, or if you tried to file your tax return and it got rejected by the IRS because they say your taxes have already been filed, you might be a victim of identity theft.
Ignoring it won't make it go away, and eventually it might cause you a problem. It is likely to be easier to resolve the quicker you start to take action.
West Virginia seniors age 60 and over can talk to a lawyer for free about these and other legal problems by calling West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 1-800-229-5068.
Tuesday, April 06, 2021
If you receive Social Security, SSI, or Social Security Disability income by direct deposit or Direct Express card and don't file federal tax returns you may receive your 3rd stimulus payment as early as tomorrow.
The Social Security Administration sent updated beneficiary contact and bank account information to the IRS in late March, and we have been waiting for the IRS to publish information about when and how the third stimulus payments would be received. The IRS online Get My Payment tool has been showing Status Unavailable for so many folks trying to find out when they should expect their payments.
However you receive your monthly benefits from Social Security Administration is how you should expect to receive this payment from the IRS, which for most folks is either by direct deposit or Direct Express card.
The income limit to be eligible for the full payment of $1400 is $75,000/yr. If you have qualifying dependents you may be eligible to receive $1400 payments for each of them, too, including dependents who are over the age of 17. If you receive your stimulus payment, but you have a qualifying dependent that should make you eligible for additional money, you may have to file a tax return next year for 2021 to get a tax credit for the amount you were eligible for but did not receive.
This third stimulus payment is not generally subject to government debt garnishment, so if you owe child support or back taxes you should still be able to receive this payment.
If you are a West Virginian age 60 or over and have questions or concerns about your stimulus payments, or other legal questions or problems you can call WV Senior Legal Aid and talk to an attorney for free at 1-800-229-5068.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
We still don't know. According to a statement from Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Andrew Saul published Friday, March 26, the SSA has turned over updated contact and bank account information for SS, SSDI, and SSI beneficiaries to the IRS for the purpose of getting payments to beneficiaries who did not file 2019 or 2020 federal tax returns. The IRS actually issues the payments. Of course, many low-income beneficiaries do not normally file federal tax returns because they aren't required to. Many of these low-income folks really need this stimulus money as soon as possible, and the delays and uncertainty are a burden for them.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP), the federal legislation that authorized the 3rd stimulus payments, has different criteria and limits than the first two stimulus payments. Generally eligible individuals should receive $1400 each, and payments at the full $1400 for each of their dependents of any age, as well.
Low-income seniors and people with disabilities make up the pool of people still waiting for payments and answers. Many are grandparents raising grandchildren or senior caregivers with adult dependents who can really use this money and would likely spend it back into the economy quickly.
For beneficiaries who have not filed taxes we still don't know if the IRS will provide a way to report your dependents so you get the correct amount of stimulus payment. For the first 2 rounds of stimulus payments the IRS had an online tool available to do that, especially helpful for folks who do not otherwise need to file taxes. The IRS has not announced whether that tool, or something like it, will be available for this third round. If these low-income beneficiaries with dependents have to file taxes it will require a huge amount of resources to make tax assistance to all these people quickly, and many will miss out on the additional dependent payments.
As soon as the IRS announces more information how and when low-income SS, SSDI, and SSI beneficiaries can get their 3rd stimulus payments we will publish it here. Every American needs to know with certainty from credible sources when and how to expect the stimulus payments so they can protect themselves financial exploitation and scams.
Any West Virginia senior age 60 or over with a legal problem or question can contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid to talk to a lawyer for free at 1-800-229-5068.
Monday, March 22, 2021
If you are a renter who is struggling to pay rent or utilities because of financial hardship due to the Coronavirus, you may be eligible for assistance from the The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program (MRAP). MRAP is now open and accepting applications.
Eligible tenants must have:
- household income under 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) which varies by county, see the chart here www.wvhdf.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Income-Limits-Eff-4.1.2020-80.pdf
- one or more household members suffering financial hardship due to the pandemic (such as a period of unemployment, reduction in household income, incurring significant costs)
- one or more household members at risk of homelessness because of past due utility or behind on rent
Kinds of payments that can be covered include rent, past due rent, past due utilities and energy costs.
Payments due April 1, 2020 and after can be eligible for coverage.
There is no cap on the assistance amount available to a renter, but there is a 15 month limit total, and there are some limits for certain kinds of payments.
Even HUD and other housing beneficiaries can be eligible for assistance but only for the amount owed by the tenant that is not covered by another benefit source.
The covered payments will not go to the tenant, but rather will go directly to the landlord or service provider who is owed the arrearage. Landlords cannot apply directly, only tenants can apply and if found eligible then their landlords will need to complete some documentation to get paid.
You can apply for Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program (MRAP) online here https://apply.wvmrap.com/
If you are a West Virginia resident age 60 or over you can call WV Senior Legal Aid for answers and help at 1-800-229-5068.
If you are under age 60 you may be able to get assistance through a local MRAP partner from this list www.wvhdf.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-3-5-WV-County-211-Office-MRAP-Partner-List.pdf
Wednesday, March 03, 2021
Monday, February 08, 2021
The West Virginia state legislature meets for 2 months every year, and this year's session begins on February 10, 2021. Some pandemic precautions will be in place at the Capitol, so public participation in person will be quite limited, though the proceedings are scheduled to be done in person in the House and Senate chambers.
You can see the calendar for the session at https://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bulletin_Board/calendar/calendar_2021.cfm
Throughout the session you can see some daily highlights posted on the legislature's blog https://blog.wvlegislature.gov/
Governor Jim Justice will present his State of the State address on Wednesday night which will be broadcast live starting at 7p on WV Public radio and public television. You can find your local public tv channel here https://www.wvpublic.org/find-wvpb-television and your local public radio station here https://www.wvpublic.org/find-wv-public-radio
Wednesday, February 03, 2021
Katherine Johnson’s extraordinary life began in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia in 1918 and took her to a long career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Hampton, Virginia. She died February 24, 2020 at age 101.
Much of her life history was revealed in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures” and the book by the same name, ”Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race,” by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Mrs. Johnson’s love of learning and mathematics helped her excel in school and college at West Virginia State, and at West Virginia University as a graduate student. While she was enrolled in the WVU math program as a graduate student for just one semester, she played a ground-breaking role in integrating African-American students into the master’s program in 1939.
With the can-do attitude that served her well all her life, Mrs. Johnson’s work with NASA involved making complex and unique calculations of the orbital mechanics which were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.
Her 33-year career in the space program started with the very first space flights of Alan Shepard and then John Glenn and extended through to the planning for coordinating the vehicles involved in the 1969 moon landing, Space Shuttle missions, and even a mission to Mars. The astronauts were brought home safely on the failed Apollo 13 mission because of her calculations. She was part of the high-level Space Task Group responsible for launch and landing data. She co-authored 26 research papers.
Mrs. Johnson’s attitude was: “I always tried to do my best, because I did not want anyone to bring my work back to be redone – and they never did!”
The space agency noted her ‘historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist.”
Her experiences also made her a strong proponent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as an educational focus.
For her achievements, Mrs. Johnson received numerous honors: the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2015; the Congressional Gold Medal in 2020 posthumously; and a Silver Snoopy award, often called the astronaut’s award, for her work in assisting astronauts during the space missions.
She received 13 honorary degrees, including an honorary doctorate from WVU in 2015 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2019. Four buildings have been named for her; two are major NASA facilities. The Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility is located in Fairmont, WV.
From her first marriage, she had three daughters; Joylette, Constance, and Katherine. She later was remarried for almost 60 years, and happily, her family expanded to include 6 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren at the time of her death in 2020.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has created an online registration system for state residents to sign up to get notified of when they can get vaccinated. The system went online Monday 1/25/21.
You don't have to be any certain age or in a priority category to voluntarily pre-register on the site. You have to create an account in the system by providing information like your birthdate and home address. You will have to provide a way to be contacted, such as email or phone or text, for when an appointment becomes available for you to get vaccinated. You have to create a username and password that you'll need to be able to retrieve later to log in for updates and information.
The system will still apply the state's vaccine plan priorities, so older people should expect to be ahead of younger people as appointments for vaccination become available in your geographic area.
Learn more about the system here https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/Pages/Vaccine.aspx and click the Sign Up Here gray button at the bottom of the page to create your account.
Senior West Virginians age 60 and over who have concerns or questions about this can call WV Senior Legal Aid at 1.800.229.5068 for help.
Friday, January 08, 2021
Seniors are among the most vulnerable to both the novel coronavirus and consumer scams related to it. Of course senior West Virginians are seeking information about how to prevent getting infected, so being skeptical is as important as it has ever been.
To help protect yourself from the opportunistic virus scammers:
- Know that vaccination and testing is FREE. If someone is asking you to pay, it's a scam.
- Recognize that URGENCY and SCARCITY are easily used by scammers to trick you into making bad decisions. Cavemen scammers probably used these tactics, they are so old and effective. Take a minute to breathe and consult your trusted sources before giving your money or your personal information to anyone no matter how much pressure you are under. In fact, the more pressured you feel the more likely you are about to get scammed.
- Know that the government IS NOT going to call you and ask for personal information for you to get vaccine or treatment. This is also true about the IRS, remember those scams? It's that time of year, they'll be coming around again soon, too.
- Don't rely on social media posts about vaccine or treatment or testing. VERIFY that information from the real sources, like your local health department https://dhhr.wv.gov/localhealth/pages/map.aspx, your Governor's website https://governor.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx, the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) website https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx.
- Be aware of scammers pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number, financial information, or attempt to set up a COVID-19 test for you and collect payment information for the test. If you want to verify that a call from a contact tracer is legitimate call your local health department. Learn more about this here http://seniorlegalaid.blogspot.com/2020/06/contact-tracer-or-scammer.html
- DON'T RESPOND to text messages, Facebook messenger, or other social media direct messages about virus testing, treatment, or vaccine, and don't click any links about it in messages. Even if the message is from someone you know scammers can hack your friends' accounts and deliver fake messages.
- PROTECT your personal information and don't give it out if you aren't sure. Get help figuring it out.
If you suspect you have been contacted by a scammer, or you have been the victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginia resident you can call WV Senior Legal Aid at 1-800-229-5068 for confidential advice about scams and other legal issues.
Monday, December 28, 2020
There are 3 ways you can request your reports: online, by phone, or by mail. You can request and access your reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get your reports mailed to you by either calling 1-877-322-8228 or by mailing a completed request form which you can download from here www.annualcreditreport.com/manualRequestForm.action
For security purposes you will have to go through a verification process if you make your request online or by telephone. You'll be asked a few questions about some specific credit accounts in your report and you'll get multiple choice answers to choose from. For example, they may ask you which finance company your car payment is through, or how much is your monthly mortgage payment.
Reviewing your credit reports is a good way to catch identity theft and fraud. The same old fraudsters are pulling new tricks related to the pandemic, so it's as important as ever to keep vigilant about your credit and financial accounts.
If you see suspicious or confusing information on your credit reports you can get help figuring out what to do next. If you are at least 60 yrs old and a West Virginia resident you can all WV Senior Legal Aid at 1.800.228.5068 for help in any part of this process.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
The federal CARES Act creates some help for people who are struggling to pay their mortgages because of COVID-related issues. The deadline to request the help is 12/31/2020.
Who is eligible? People who have federally-backed mortgages (like FHA, USDA, VA mortgages, for example) who are having trouble making the payments because of the pandemic.
What if my mortgage isn't federally backed? Many private mortgage lenders are offering pandemic-related relief, too.
What kind of relief is available? A forebearance, meaning a temporary reduction or pause in your obligation to make your mortgage payments for up to 180 days with a possible extension of another 180 days.
Do I have to prove my financial hardship? No. If you qualify for the CARES Act relief the mortgage servicer can not legally require you to produce evidence of your financial hardship.
What happens after the forebearance period, if I get one? You'll still be required to pay back the missed mortgage payments, but you can not be required to pay it in a lump sum if you qualify for the CARES Act relief. You'll have a repayment plan, so that is something you and the mortgage servicer should work out before your forebearance is up.
Do I have to pay application fees or other fees to get the relief? No. Under the CARES Act you can not be charged fees for the relief. If anyone asks you to pay upfront fees to get the relief it is likely a scam, report it to consumer protection authorities like the Federal Trade Commission https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ and be careful.
The deadline for this relief is just a couple weeks away! If you are struggling to meet your mortgage payments, or you are already behind, you can call your mortgage servicer to ask about what relief you might be eligible for. You might get the break you need.
You probably already got a letter from the federal Social Security Administration about your 2021 benefits increase. But in case you didn't, starting in January you'll be getting a 1.3% Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increase on your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
The COLA by law is calculated using a formula based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the previous year's third quarter. So in years when there is more consumer price inflation the COLA is likely to be higher for the following year. This 1.3% increase is one of the lowest since the COLA was implemented in 1975, though there have been 3 years where there was no increase at all.
You don't have to do anything to receive the increase, it will come automatically in your benefits starting with your January disbursement. Strangely enough, SS and SSI pay benefits for the previous month, so technically the COLA applies to your December benefits, but you receive them in the January disbursement.
The average monthly Social Security benefit amount in 2020 was $1503, so the average increase from this COLA will be $19.53. Might get you a few bottles of your favorite caramel-colored beverage.
For more information see the Social Security Administration's website page about the COLA .
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Friday, October 23, 2020
On 10/21/20 the Governor announced that West Virginians whose utilities went unpaid because of COVID-19 may be eligible for CARES Act funding to pay them.
According to the press release: "Customers of electric, natural gas, water, and sewer utility companies who have experienced economic hardship and/or uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, causing them to have unpaid utility bills from the period of March 1 – July 31 of this year, may receive financial assistance to pay those bills."
The utility companies will receive the funds, and are sending out letters to potentially eligible customers with the application for help.
Even if you're not sure you qualify, might as well apply. Even if it doesn't cover your entire arrearage, might as well apply.
If you have unpaid utilities from this time be on the lookout for a letter from your utility company that will include the application. Your completed application must be returned by NOVEMBER 12, 2020.
It's a very short deadline. Tell your friends about it, they may know someone who needs to know. Some folks just throw out mail from the utility company when they think it's just another bill they can't pay, so it's important for folks who need it to know this letter is coming.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
It might say it's a renewal of your Windows Defender subscription, or some other subscription service. It might say the fee for renewal is $299 and it will be charged from your checking account. It will probably say something about 24 hours and create some urgency for you, a hallmark of scams. It will likely have a phone number that it says to call if you don't want the subscription.
DON'T CALL the number. Don't reply in any form.
This is a phishing scam, and these kinds are rampant right now.
If you've been scammed you are not alone. No one is immune from this kind of victimization, no matter how educated, how smart, or how wealthy you are.
Hearing about the details of these scams before you get the email increases your likelihood you'll recognize and avoid when it lands in your inbox. So tell your friends! Pass it on.
Friday, October 02, 2020
Any registered West Virginia voter can vote absentee in the upcoming November election. Many already have. In order to get an absentee ballot you must complete an application for absentee ballot. You can get a printable application for absentee ballot here https://sos.wv.gov/FormSearch/Elections/Voter/Absentee%20Ballot%20Application.pdf or you can apply online at https://sites.omniballot.us/54/absentee/app/home. Though you must have a reason to vote absentee, anyone can check the first box claiming health concerns because of COVID-19 and that will be accepted by the Clerk as a valid reason to absentee vote for this election.
The last day to request an absentee ballot is October 28. After your absentee ballot application is received by your County Clerk, you will be mailed an absentee ballot.
Then once you fill out your absentee ballot you can either mail it in or hand deliver it to your County Clerk.
The last day to mail your completed absentee ballot is election day, November 3, 2020.
You can find answers to questions about voting in this election at the WV Secretary of State's website at https://sos.wv.gov/elections/Pages/FAQs.aspx
Thursday, September 03, 2020
The US Census Bureau has moved up the final deadline for getting counted in the 2020 census to September 30, 2020. That means you have one month less than previously announced to complete your census.
Seniors are among the most important West Virginians to get counted because so many of our programs and services for seniors are funded in part by federal dollars. Federal funding is distributed across the country through formulas that are based on these census figures.
So the more seniors who get counted in West Virginia the higher our share of federal funding for many programs for seniors like home delivered meals, transportation, and home care.
It's a crime to refuse to participate in the census, though we have never heard of anyone actually being prosecuted for it.
If you haven't completed your census yet for whatever reason, you still have time, but not much. You can submit your information online or find out how to submit it by phone or mail by going to https://my2020census.gov/
Wednesday, September 02, 2020
The general election is November 3, 2020, not so far away. Like in the primary election this year, you can choose to vote absentee in the general election in WV if you want to avoid the possibility of getting exposed to the coronavirus at the polls.
Unlike in the primary election, however, you will not automatically get a postcard with the application for you to complete to request an absentee ballot. This time you will have to get your own WV Absentee Ballot Application. You can either enter your request online at https://sites.omniballot.us/54/absentee/app/home or you can download at https://sos.wv.gov/FormSearch/Elections/Voter/Absentee%20Ballot%20Application.pdf If you are at least 60 yrs old and need help downloading or printing an application for absentee ballot you can call WV Senior Legal Aid at 1.800.229.5068.
The official deadline for you to get your application for absentee ballot submitted is October 28, 2020.
But there are practical concerns about the time it may take for your mailed application to arrive, so you risk missing that deadline if you cut it too close. According to the WV Secretary of State's office "Absentee applications received after October 28, even if postmarked, cannot be accepted by law."
Your completed absentee ballot must be postmarked no later than November 3, 2020 to count. If you change your mind after receiving your absentee ballot and want to go vote in person, YOU SHOULD BRING YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT WITH YOU to the polls. It must be destroyed there before you vote in person, or you'll have to vote a challenge ballot. It's complicated.
Another option to avoid crowds on election day is to early-vote in person. Early voting in person can be done from October 21 through October 31, check with your county courthouse for locations and times.
Older West Virginians, your vote is important. Your need to protect yourself from infection is important, too. Contact WV Senior Legal Aid at 1.800.229.5068 if you are at least 60 yrs old and have concerns or questions about election procedures or your rights.