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The Coronavirus Emergency and Public Benefits Programs (Food Stamps, Medicaid, Pandemic EBT, WV Works, Pandemic Assistance)

Last Updated On: 6/16/2020 9:43:28 AM

As the coronavirus emergency has gotten worse, Congress has passed three pieces of legislation to help Americans.  Some of them relate to public benefit programs like food stamps (SNAP), Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), Medicaid, and WV WORKS (TANF, cash welfare assistance).   The State of West Virginia is also offering some help in programs like the Pandemic Diversionary Cash Assistance benefit. 

There are still a lot of issues “up in the air. ” There may or may not be more help coming.  We’ll answer as much as we can, and we’ll update this space when we have more information.

MEDICAID

I have symptoms of the coronavirus, but I don’t have health insurance and I can’t afford to pay for testing.  Can I get tested and treated for free?

Yes.  West Virginia got permission from the federal government to use Medicaid to pay 100% of the cost for BOTH TESTING AND TREATMENT.  Even if you have no health insurance at all.   You should contact your county health department, or a community health center.  Explain your symptoms, and ask for a test.  The provider will take care of the paperwork so that Medicaid will pay the cost. 

If you test positive and have COVID-19, Medicaid will also pay for your treatment.  

Don’t delay!  Don’t worry about the cost, because it’s covered.  Please, get tested.  You need to know, so you can avoid infecting your family and friends.

If you don’t have health insurance, or if you lost your insurance because you lost your job, read this article for more information about options to get health insurance coverage.

Because of the coronavirus emergency I missed my review for my Medicaid case (or for WV CHIP).  Will I get cut off?

No.  Because of the coronavirus emergency, the State of West Virginia will delayall Medicaid or WV CHIP case reviews for three months.

If you missed a review because of the coronavirus emergency, or if you have a review scheduled soon, your review will be rescheduled at a later date. This is being done automatically.  You do not need to contact DHHR to ask for rescheduling. 

DHHR has sent a letter to everyone getting Medicaid or WV CHIP, saying that their “redetermination dates” have been extended for three months.  If you get a form letter from DHHR giving you a date for a review during the next three months, DHHR says you should “please disregard.”  When the three month extension is over, you will get another letter setting another date.

If your Medicaid gets cut off for something like this, you should apply for Legal Aid services and we may be able to assist you.

I've lost my job and my income, so I can’t pay my premiums and copayments for my Medicaid (or WV CHIP).  Am I going to lose my coverage?

No.  During West Virginia’s “declared State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” you will not have to pay any premiums or copayments.  This applies to both Medicaid and WV CHIP.

Whenever the State of Emergency is lifted by the Governor, the requirements for premiums and copays then will go back into effect. 

SNAP (FOOD STAMPS)

I lost my job and my income because of the coronavirus emergency. I wasn’t getting SNAP (food stamps) before.  Can I apply for food stamps (SNAP) now?  How long will it take to get them?  

Yes, you should apply for SNAP (food stamp) benefits immediately.  You should ask for “expedited” benefits, to get them processed as fast as possible. If you provide a verified ID, then the Expedited Application should be handled very quickly.

The federal government has given States waivers during the coronavirus emergency of some of the normal bureaucratic requirements, such as proof from the employer about loss of job.  If you run into any delay or other problem trying to get Expedited SNAP benefits, apply for help from Legal Aid and we may be able to assist.

Right now it’s hard to know the “best” way to contact DHHR to apply for Expedited SNAP benefits.

  • You can contact the Customer Service Center at 1-877-716-1212, which would avoid having to go to the local office. But there may be a lot of people calling that number.
  • There is an online application process. Click this link to start the online application.  We do not know how long DHHR is taking to process online applications now with a reduced staff. 
  • Or you can go to your local DHHR office.  You can find your local office on DHHR's website. 

I Lost My Job And My Income Because of the Coronavirus Emergency.  I have been getting SNAP (food stamps), but with no income I need more.  Can I get an increase in my SNAP (food stamp) benefits?

Yes.  Whenever you have a change of financial situation you can contact DHHR to have your SNAP benefits adjusted.  DHHR won’t know you have lost income unless you tell them.

Also, even during the Coronavirus Emergency, you are required to report any increase in income.  So if you report a loss of income now, and then later find a job and your income goes up, you will need to report that to DHHR.  

I have an ABAWD work requirement for my SNAP. Because of the coronavirus emergency I’m not getting hours and I can’t meet the work requirement.  Am I going to be cut off?

No. The emergency legislation passed by Congress suspended all work and training requirements for SNAP for the duration of the public health crisis.

You should tell DHHR that your hours have gone down (or disappeared completely) because of the coronavirus emergency.  However, during the public health emergency DHHR will not penalize anyone for not meeting the ABAWD work requirement.  You have to tell DHHR that you’re not working and why, but you will not be cut off during the coronavirus emergency.

If a worker (or the DHHR computer) makes a mistake and you get penalized for not meeting your work requirement, apply for help from Legal Aid and we will see if we can assist you.

I am due for a review of my SNAP (food stamps) eligibility soon.  Will my food stamps be cut off if I can’t go to that appointment?

No. The West Virginia SNAP (food stamp) program is “extending” all SNAP Program case reviews for three months.  This is done automatically. You do not have to contact DHHR to ask for an extension.

Households that were scheduled for a review in April will have to do one in July.  

I've heard that some people may get an extra SNAP amount because of the coronavirus emergency.  Is that right, and who will get it?

In the normal SNAP (food stamp) program, there is a maximum amount that can be paid based on household size.  Not all households get the maximum amount, though, depending on income and some other factors.

However, for the months of April and May of 2020 during the coronavirus emergency, West Virginia will pay an “emergency allotment” to every SNAP household that is not already getting the maximum amount.  The emergency allotment payment will be whatever amount is needed to bring that household up to the maximum permitted payment.

The April emergency allotment will go on your SNAP EBT card on April 3.  In May the emergency allotment will go on your card on your regular “re-fill” date.

If you are already getting the maximum amount, your benefits will not change.  

PANDEMIC ELECTRONIC BENEFITS TRANSFER

What is the Pandemic EBT or P-EBT?

It is a pre-loaded EBT card used for food when school is out of session. 

Who qualifies?

School aged children who already receive free or reduced priced meals. If your child already qualified for free or reduced-price meals, or your child attends a Community Eligible Provision (CEP) school or county where everyone eats at no cost, there is nothing you need to do. You will be notified when the program is implemented.

How much is the benefit?

Based on recently updated information from the WV Dept. of Education, calculation of household allotments is based on a rate of $5.70 each day school was closed for each eligible child. The totals for each month are:

  • $68.40 per eligible child for March
  • $125.40 per eligible child for April, and
  • $119.70 per eligible child for May.

The amounts may come in multiple payments.  

When will I receive the card?

Students who receive SNAP, WV Works, or Medicaid will start to receive at least some of their payments at the end of May. All others should receive their payments by the end ofJune. 

If a student's family receives SNAP, the benefits will be loaded on your EBT card. 

If you have not received your P-EBT by June 30, 2020, please use this link www.emergencymealsurvey.com/wv to submit a claims resolution form.  This form will be available starting June 30, 2020, which is DHHR’s targeted date to have all P-EBT distributed. This form is not an application for benefits, but will allow a formal ticket to be created for your individual case if you have still not received full benefits by that time. 

Will this affect my other benefits?

No. SNAP or TANF will not be impacted. 

My child did not qualify for free or reduced priced meals, but may qualify now, how do I apply?

Complete a meal benefit application by visiting School Café. However, if your student a Community Eligible Provision (CEP) school or county, you do not need to complete an application. 

For general questions on the P-EBT, contact your local DHHR office othe WV Department of Education at 304-558-2709.   

WV WORKS

I was meeting my work requirements for WV WORKS. But I lost my job due to the coronavirus. Will I lose my benefits?

The federal government has told States they can be “flexible” in recognizing that the coronavirus emergency may interfere with the ability of a WV Works participant to meet their Personal Responsibility Contract (PRC).

We at Legal Aid believe that a perfect example for flexibility is a person who lost their job because of a coronavirus shutdown order, or the Governor’s Safer at Home order. DHHR should recognize situations like that as “Good Cause” for not meeting the requirements of the Personal Responsibility Contract. That’s just one example.

If you can’t meet your work requirements because of the coronavirus emergency, contact your worker at DHHR. Let her know exactly what your situation is. Perhaps you have to stay home to take care of kids because their school is closed. Perhaps your employer’s business was shut down by the Governor’s order. Whatever the reason, tell your DHHR worker up front. Don’t wait for some review somewhere down the line, when the worker might say “but you should have told me about this.” We recommend that give your worker the full facts up front.

We do know that DHHR has told workers to be flexible, but we don’t know what instructions DHHR may have given to help workers understand what it means tp “be flexible” in their cases. We don’t know if front-line workers will assess cases the way we do. We will have to wait and see what happens.

If you get sanctioned for not fulfilling your work requirement, and you feel the reason was due to some aspect of the coronavirus emergency, you should apply for our services and we may be able to assist you. 

PANDEMIC DIVERSIONARY ASSISTANCE 

I don't receive WV Works. Can I get any other type of cash assistance help?

West Virginia's DHHR just announced that they now (as of April 22, 2020) have a one- time special assistance payment available called Pandemic Diversionary Cash Assistance (PDCA).  To be eligible for this help individuals:      
  • Must NOT be getting WV Works assistance;
  • Must have a dependent child in the home;
  • No or low income due to the COVID-19 emergency; and
  • Expect to return to previous employment, have a job offer or expect future income from another source.  

Individuals may not be eligible if they have sanctions from another DHHR program.   The payment may equal the same as the maximum WV Works payment amount.  

Contact your local DHHR office to apply.    

STIMULUS PAYMENTS AND DHHR BENEFIT PROGRAMS

I've heard about the Stimulus Payments coming soon ($1,200 to individuals; $2,400 to couples).  Can people receiving benefits like Medicaid, SNAP or WV WORKS get the stimulus payment?

Yes.  The only requirements to get a Stimulus Payment are: 
•      you are a citizen or a legal resident; 
•      have a Social Security Number; 
•      meet the income limits (which are way higher than anyone on income-limited public benefits have); and

•      aren’t claimed as a “dependent” on someone else’s tax return.

There is no disqualification if you are receiving income-limited public benefits.

For more information about the Stimulus Payment, Legal Aid has a different set of FAQs.

If I get a stimulus payment will that money affect benefits like Medicaid or SNAP?

No.The Stimulus Payments do not count as “income” or as “assets” during the next twelve months for any of the federal means tested programs.  That includes:

•      Medicaid
•      SNAP (food stamps)
•      TANF/WV WORKS (monthly cash welfare assistance)
•      Subsidized housing assistance (like Section 8 or Public Housing)
•      SSI (“Supplemental Security Income”)

•      Affordable Care Act premium assistance

The Stimulus Payment will not affect or reduce your SSI, SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, or any other federal benefit program based on income for twelve months after you receive the payment.  If you have not spent the payment after a year, it may be considered against your "asset" limit. 

I owe an overpayment back to DHHR for another problem.Will DHHR take my stimulus payment to pay off the overpayment?

No.  DHHR cannot “intercept” your Stimulus Payment money for an overpayment owed to DHHR.

However, your Stimulus Payment can be taken for past due Child Support payments that have been reported to the US Treasury Department.  

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.