Where to help and get help and how to cope
Coronavirus Resources for Washington County Families
Compiled and updated regularly by your neighbors at
WIN - Washington County Independent Neighbors.

Washington County and COVID-19
The rate of new cases has sharply increased recently. The good news is that simple measures such as washing hands, wearing a mask, and physical distancing can slow this down again. For the latest information about the spread of the novel coronavirus in Washington County, scroll through the following charts that Virginia Public Access Project (vpap.org) compiled using updated Virginia Department of Health data.
Recent Updates & Information from Va., U.S., & Washington Co.
Virginia Coronavirus Update
Virginia economic, employment, utility, transportation/DMV, childcare, education, courts and jails, and other information, in addition to health updates.
NEW - COVIDWISE App from the Virginia Dept. of Health
A new COVID-19 digital app for Virginians has been developed - "COVIDWISE".
  • This app provides updates, testing information, and other relevant knowledge regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It will inform you if you have been exposed.
  • The app does not track user data, privacy is protected.
  • Virginia is the first state in the country to develop this kind of application.
Governor's executive order requiring face coverings
Virginians are required to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain spread of the novel coronavirus. Governor Ralph Northam's executive order is intended to ensure workers and consumers are protected as the Commonwealth gradually eases public health restrictions. The Governor's statewide requirement for wearing face coverings is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitation, and washing hands regularly.
(Details under "Face Coverings" in Family Care, Illness & Prevention)
Virginia Department of Health
Updates and maps the toll of the Novel Coronavirus across Virginia.
Offers up-to-date information about what to do & how. Gov. Northam removed a ban on elective surgeries May 1.

Local COVID-19 Testing Sites - Testing is now available for everyone experiencing symptoms or anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19:
  • Visit this Department of Health web page for Coronavirus testing sites around Washington Co. and the region. Testing is available in Abingdon, Bristol, Meadowview, Saltville, Marion, and beyond. Testing is by appointment only at all sites. Click on the "More Info" link at each site listing for telephone numbers to make your appointment and testing hours.
  • Ballad Health Remote Testing Sites: Please call 833-822-5523 to be screened if you are concerned you may be ill with COVID-19. This Ballad Health Nurse Connect line is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

The Virginia Department of Health is hiring 1,300 new employees to conduct and oversee the contact tracing process. Interested applicants will find a listing of the number of open positions in the orange box on the left hand side of the page, and a link to the staffing agencies who will conduct the hiring process. You can find a link to that information here.

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) launched a new online data dashboard to provide up-to-date statistics on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across the Commonwealth, ventilator usage, current hospital bed availability, and metrics on the number of hospitals experiencing challenges obtaining or replenishing critical inventories of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other needed medical supplies.

** Elective in-patient and out-patient surgeries and dental procedures are now permitted in Virginia.
** Hospital emergency rooms are open and safe. If you or someone in your family is experiencing a medical emergency, don't hesitate, call 911.
** The Mount Rogers health district also needs volunteers for the Va. Dept. of Health Medical Reserve Corps. They can use both medical and non-medical volunteers. For more details scroll down to the volunteer section. Apply here.
Here's a recent article about volunteering for the Medical Reserve Corps.
NEW - Forward Virginia: A Blueprint for Easing Public Health Restrictions - Phase 3 of Reopening Virginia
Virginia entered Phase Three of reopening, July 1st. Detailed, sector-specific guidelines for Phase Three can be found here. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions go here.

The Commonwealth will maintain a "Safer at Home" strategy with continued strong recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.

Due to experience in other states with rising COVID rates, bar seating and congregatingat restaurant and beverage establishment bars remain prohibited.

Below are changes in Phase Three of the Forward Virginia plan:
    NEW - Re-opening Guidelines for 2020-21 School Year
    Virginia schools will slowly resume in-person classes for summer school and the coming academic year. Announced June 9th, the K-12 phased reopening plan was developed by the Office of the Secretary of Education, Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and is informed by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    "School will be open for all students next year, but instruction will look different," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. "The phased, hybrid approach allows Pre-K-12 students to have valuable class time and face-to-face interaction with their peers, while prioritizing health and safety by ensuring physical distancing measures are maintained. This plan keeps equity at the forefront by giving divisions the opportunity to deliver in-person instruction to those who need it the most."

    All Pre-K-12 schools in Virginia will be required to deliver new instruction to students for the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of the operational status of school buildings. Schools will follow a phased approach to reopening this fall in order to allow school divisions flexibility to protect children:

    • Phase 1: Most instruction is still online; however, there are in-classroom exemptions for students with disabilities.
    • Phase 2: Some students will return to in-classroom instruction with first priority to include Pre-K through 3rd graders, English-learning students, and students with disabilities. Most schools are prepared to enter this phase currently.
    • Phase 3: In-school instruction will resume for all students; however, schools must practice social distancing and face coverings will still be required. There will likely be a blending of in-person and remote instruction to ensure social distancing is practiced, and remote working & telework options will be available for higher risk faculty and students.
    Beginning with Phase Two, local divisions and private schools must submit plans to the VDOE which include policies and procedures for implementing Virginia Department of Health and CDC virus mitigation strategies. Public schools must also adopt plans to offer new instruction to all students regardless of operational status.

    Detailed information can be found in the guidance document available here. VDOE has also developed comprehensive guidance to aid schools in planning for a return to in-person instruction and activities: "Recover, Redesign, Restart."

    In each phase, PreK-12 schools must follow July 23rd CDC Guidance for Schools, including social and physical distancing, enhanced health and hygiene procedures, cleaning and disinfecting measures, and other mitigation strategies. These precautions include, but are not limited to:
    • Daily health screenings of students and staff
    • Providing remote learning exceptions and teleworking for students and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness
    • The use of cloth face coverings by staff when at least six feet physical distancing cannot be maintained
    • Encouraging the use of face coverings in students, as developmentally appropriate, in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained

    Here's a parent resource guide
    to enhance children's education while at home. Beginning April 13, Blue Ridge Public TV launched "VA TV Classroom". They will broadcast teacher lessons on televisions across Virginia. Special education and student services for students with disabilities - info from the Va. Dept. of Education. (More children's education resources in following section > Family Care Illness and Prevention.)
    NEW - COVID Workplace Safety Rules implemented by the Virginia Dept of Labor & Industry
    Virginia is the first state in the nation to issue mandatory workplace safety rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to mandating social distancing, the rules require all employers to:
    • assess their workplaces for potential exposure to the virus,
    • mandate face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions or when social distancing isn't possible,
    • sanitize common areas daily,
    • provide easy and frequent access to handwashing and hand sanitizer,
    • notify employees within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus, and
    • bar employees known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 from returning to work for for at least three days after symptoms subside, at least 10 days after they were first diagnosed or until they test negative for the virus.
    The regulations, which will be implemented the week of July 27, set more stringent requirements for jobs deemed medium, high or very high risk.

    High and very high risk jobs are defined as those in which there is a high probability an employee will come in contact with people known or suspected to be infected with the virus, such as health care workers and first responders.

    Medium risk jobs are defined as those that "require more than minimal occupational contact" with other employees or the general public, such as workers in settings like restaurants, grocery and retail stores, correctional facilities, factories and plants.

    For workers in those two categories, employers would be required to provide training addressing the regulations, screen employees for the virus at the beginning of each shift and provide appropriate personal protective equipment, including appropriate respiratory protection.

    The maximum penalty for violating the rules is set at $13,000, but "willful and repeat" violations could result in fines up to $130,000. The rules include whistleblower protections that bar retaliation against employees who raise complaints either publicly or with the Department of Labor and Industry.

    Gov. Northam's March 30th "Stay at Home" order continues in effect, directing Virginians to stay home !! except for getting food, supplies, medical care, to go to work, to care for others, and to get fresh air and exercise until June 10th. No public or private gatherings of 10 or more people anywhere or any time. Maintain 6 foot physical distancing. The order offers guidance for religious services.
    NEW - CDC Healthy Schools Guidelines
    "CDC [Center for Disease Control] integrated research and best practices related to promoting healthy eating and physical activity in schools, culminating in the School Health Guidelines. There are 9 School Health Guidelines that serve as the foundation for developing, implementing, and evaluating school-based healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices for students."

    Here's a CDC readiness checklist for school reopening.

    "As some communities in the United States open K-12 schools, CDC offers the following considerations for ways in which schools can help protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19...These considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which schools must comply."
    On April 15, Governor Ralph Northam reported that social distancing is working, and because of that, the state is flattening the curve of COVID-19. He also said Virginians efforts are working to slow the virus so that hospitals and other healthcare facilities can keep up. That means accepting the new normal of wearing face masks, working from home if possible and continuing to maintain physical distancing.
    Federal Government

    All U.S. government activities related to coronavirus. From actions on health and safety to travel, immigration, and transportation to education.

    NEW - Center for Disease Control (CDC) regularly updated information for high risk populations and preventive care for all people.
    * Children who are medically complex, who have neurologic, genetic, metabolic conditions, or who have congenital heart disease are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than other children.
    * Older adults
    *
    People of any age with underlying medical conditions:
    -- chronic kidney disease
    -- COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and other chronic lung diseases
    -- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood, bone marrow, or organ transplant; HIV; use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines
    -- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
    -- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    -- Sickle cell disease
    -- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
    * Check here for additional conditions that may place people at higher risk.


    Washington Co., VA Covid-19
    Updates on Washington County office closures, solid waste schedule changes, voting and voter registration and more.
    Family Care, Illness, and Prevention
    Handwashing
    Here's information and a video from the Center for Disease Control showing proper method to prevent virus spread.
    Social Distancing
    Your best chance to stay well and keep our community health services from being overwhelmed. Here's how to do it right. At this link, you can see how Washington Co. and all Virginia localities are doing with carrying out social distancing, (not well). Here is why social distancing must be maintained over what seems a long time.
    Face Coverings
    Center for Disease Control advises use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus. Wearing a face mask is one way of showing you care about protecting others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as a voluntary public health measure. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators - in short supply and reserved for hospital personnel and first responders. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing. Face mask FAQs from the CDC.

    Mounting evidence shows that face masks reduce COVID transmission. Virginia Tech researcher Linsey Marr, studied recent analysis and says, "I would be comfortable sending my kids back to school if everyone's wearing masks and they're staying as far apart as possible." Here are three hints for more effective DIY masks.
    Governor Northam's statewide requirement for wearing face coverings
    Governor Northam's order requiring wearing face coverings -beginning May 29th - is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitation, and washing hands regularly.

    In announcing the face covering requirement, the Governor said: "This is a matter of public health, and as a result, any enforcement that is needed will be done by our health officials. This is not a criminal manner – and our law enforcement, our police, and our sheriffs will not have a role in enforcing this. I'm not looking for people to get in trouble by not wearing a mask, but I am looking for people to please do the right thing. I am asking people to respect one another." Face coverings have been found to protect others from virus transmission from the wearer, not the wearer from transmission from others. You, wearing a mask, are protecting others. Conversely, others wearing face coverings serve to protect you.

    A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth (a mask, scarf, or bandana). Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals. Under the Governor's executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:
    * Personal care and grooming businesses
    * Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retail including grocery stores and pharmacies
    * Food and beverage establishments
    * Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open
    * Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas
    * State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services
    * Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes

    Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children over the age of two are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering to the extent possible.

    NEW - A study, comparing nations mandating use of face masks, undertaken by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, indicates that face coverings dramatically lower COVID-19 death rates.
    Protection Coming to the Workplace
    On May 26th, Governor Northam directed the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards for occupational safety that will protect employees from exposure to and the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. These occupational safety standards will require the approval by vote of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and must address personal protective equipment, sanitation, record-keeping of incidents, and hazard communication. Upon approval, the Department of Labor and Industry will be able to enforce the standards through civil penalties and business closures.


    Feeling Sick?
    If you're not feeling well or think you have been exposed to COVID-19, consult with your Primary Care Physician or:
    • Ballad Health's Nurse Connect: 833.822.5523
    • Washington County Health Department: 276.676.5604
    • Many insurers are offering telemedicine with no copayments.
    COVID-19 Testing Sites
    Testing is now available for everyone experiencing symptoms or anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19:
    • Visit this Department of Health web page for Coronavirus testing sites around Washington Co. and the region. Testing is available in Abingdon, Bristol, Meadowview, Saltville, Marion, and beyond. Testing is by appointment only at all sites. Click on the "More Info" link at each site listing for telephone numbers to make your appointment and testing hours.
    • Ballad Health Remote Testing Sites: Please call 833-822-5523 to be screened if you are concerned you may be ill with COVID-19. This Ballad Health Nurse Connect line is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
    • Virginia is one of seven states that will explore the usage of rapid antigen testing (results coming within 20 minutes).
    Dialysis Patients
    Possible Prescription Drug Cost Relief
    Pfizer RxPathways connects eligible patients to a range of assistance programs that offer insurance support, co-pay help, and medicines for free or at a savings. One of these programs provides eligible patients with their Pfizer medicines for free.
    Sick Leave
    The U.S. CARES ACT establishes paid leave for employees to stay home to take care of their child or if they are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. An employee laid off on March 1, 2020 or later, and subsequently rehired by the same employer, is eligible for paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, so long as the employee was employed for at least 30 of the last 60 calendar days prior to layoff. Talk to your employer.
    Highlands Community Services
    Offering current clients tele-health mental health counseling. HCS offices are closed, but Crisis Services are always available; call 276 525-1557 and press 7, 8:30 am-5:00 pm. After hours, call 1 866 589-0269. Access points to additional mental health services are listed here.

    Community Services Boards (like Highlands Community Services) across Virginia have transitioned from some in-person strategies to working remotely. Many Virginians may be in need of additional mental health or behavioral health support and services. Linked here is a document that is updated periodically with activities and resources from local Community Service Boards.
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-8255, or the Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990.
    Abuse Alternatives 24-hr. Hotline
    423-764-2287 or 800-987-6499, TTY/Hearing Impaired: 423-652-9750.
    Talking With Children
    How to Talk to Children about the coronavirus.
    Support for Child Education & Development
    Donate Blood
    We are facing a shortage of blood donations. Marsh Regional Blood Center continues to seek donations at mobile sites across region that are open and safe.
    Food Assistance
    Dial 2-1-1
    For emergency "safety net" help in Virginia

    Virginia Dept. of Social Services has launched COVID-19 Virginia Resources, a mobile app and website designed to streamline access to critical and actionable resources from 2-1-1 Virginia, CommonHelp, and a myriad of other state and federal agencies. Clink on this link to download on your device: https://covid. virginia.gov/.
    Emergency SNAP & TANF Benefits
    Emergency SNAP benefits were issued to 225,000 Virginia households on April 16. Work requirements for SNAP families have been waived. The $600/week supplemental federal unemployment compensation counts as income when calculating SNAP benefits. Virginia has also applied to the federal government to allow families who are receiving SNAP to use online purchasing options. Families receiving TANF can apply for a one-time emergency benefit of $500 to help meet their needs.
    USDA Commodity Food Program
    Seniors over 60, participating in the USDA Commodity Food Program, are no longer required to sign for the food they receive. Additionally, participants are able to receive 2 boxes every other month rather than one box monthly, to minimize physical contact.
    Women Infant & Children Program
    WIC: Applicants and WIC participants no longer must come into the clinic to enroll or re-enroll or to pick up their WIC EBT cards or paper coupons; Virginia has also deferred certain requirements used to determine nutritional risk. The program will permit appropriate substitutes for the types and amounts of certain WIC-prescribed foods if their availability is limited.
    Safe Grocery Shopping Tips
    Grocery shopping is one of the hardest times to maintain social distancing, and we all need to eat. Most chain grocery stores offer pick-up and delivery services. You order the products you want online, pay with a credit or debit card, and select whether you want to pick up your groceries at a drive-up point at a time of your choosing for free or a fee of about $5 -- think of it as a fee for saving you shopping time -- or have your groceries delivered (for a larger fee, varying according to your location).
    Tips for Take Out
    1. Keep surface sanitization and social distancing in mind: Take a few minutes to create a safe food environment for when the food arrives by cleaning any surfaces it will touch.
    2. Pay (and tip) in advance to minimize person-to-person interaction with the driver or restaurant takeout clerk.
    3. Ask the driver to leave the food at the doorstep. Wait until the driver is at least 6 feet away before picking up the food.
    4. Remove the food from the takeout containers, and dispose of them properly.
    5. After disposing packaging, wash your hands thoroughly.
    6. Wipe counters and other surfaces where you unpacked the food.
    Farmers Markets
    Abingdon Farmers Market has reopened on Saturdays from 10 am-noon. They list these guidelines.
    1. Only 50 customers at a time in the market.
    2. Social distancing
    3. Vendors must wear facemasks.
    4. No samples or Arts and Crafts vendors.
    Check here for updates and for when the Tuesday market will reopen. T

    Glade Spring Farmers Market is open Saturdays, 8:30 am-noon. COVID-19 rules in place. New sidewalks are being installed blocking the personnel doors on the parking lot side so use the first roll-up doors. Check here for updates.
    Faith In Action
    Provides food to 800-900 families every month. They are responding to much higher needs as people are laid off of work. Food Pantry hours are 10:00 AM-1:00 PM Monday & Friday, and 5:00-7:00 PM on Tuesday evenings at 798 Hillman Hwy., behind St. John Lutheran Church. They offer Financial Crisis Assistance to people in need and Neighbor to Neighbor assistance for paying electric bills, (276) 628-4813.
    Feeding Southwest Virginia
    Providing hot meals Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays from 10am-1pm - take away only - at their Abingdon Distribution Center. They operate a mobile food pantry that has 13 different drop-offs in communities throughout southwest Virginia. Abingdon Distribution Center, 21452 Gravel Lake Road, Abingdon, VA 24211. Phone: (276) 628-9266.
    Washington County Public Schools-Feeding Program
    Closed but are offering breakfast and lunch for pick-up to families with children. Call your child's school for daily meal delivery if unable to pick up. They will feed any child under 18 years years old, including those not yet in school. Please see the press release.
    Abingdon Community Center
    Operates a Meals-on-Wheels program. You can also pick up meals or have them delivered. Call 276-628-3911. Cancelled all of their events, including Bingo, a fundraiser that pays for the Meals-on-Wheels program. They continue to offer this needed feeding service with new protocols in place at 300 Senior Dr., in Abingdon.
    District Three Government Co-operative
    Home Delivered Meals and Senior Medical Transportation will continue operations with extra precautions, such as wellness check calls, before the driver arrives at the home.
    Glade Spring Senior Center
    Operates a food pantry. They package and deliver food in the community on the third Monday of the month. The food pantry is open on the third Wednesday of each month.
    It's a God Thing! - One Way Ministries
    Offers a drive-through food pantry. Check here for calendar of distribution days, 101 W Laurel Ave. in Damascus, Phone (276) 475-3318
    Help with Utility Bills
    No Utility Shut Offs
    On March 12th, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed an emergency petition with the State Corporation Commission that prevents utility disconnections (electricity, natural gas, water, and sewer) for non-payment and suspend late charges for as long as Virginia is in a state of emergency. Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency also on March 12th.

    NEW - The SCC extended the moratorium on service disconnections for non-payment until August 31st. Utilities regulated by the SCC must offer extended payment plans with no late fees or reconnection charges to residential and small business customers whose unpaid bill amounts are the result of COVID-19 issues.

    Don't just stop paying your bills! Call your utility (including internet) to ask for delay ("forbearance") of your payment due date, if you need to do so because of loss of employment or income.

    Attorney General Mark Herring and almost 60 General Assembly members have appealed to the State Corporation Commission calling for extension and/or expansions of the utility disconnection moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current utility shut off moratorium is set to expire June 15th.

    Faith in Action for help with bills through Financial Crisis Assistance to people in need and Neighbor to Neighbor assistance for paying electric bills, (276) 628-4813.
    Wifi Access
    • You can access free wifi service from your car in the parking lots of Washington County public schools and public libraries.
    • Xfinity offers free wifi at dozens of hot spots around Washington Co., which you can find mapped at this link.
    • Xfinity will not disconnect your internet or mobile service for nonpayment, and will not impose late fees if you call Xfinity to let them know that you can't pay your bills during this period. Xfinity is offering a Visa prepaid card worth about two months of internet service to eligible university students needing internet service. No upfront fees or installation costs.
    Family Economic relief
    Much more information in the FOOD and UTILITIES and FINANCIAL CRISIS, EMPLOYMENT & BUSINESS RESOURCES and LOCAL SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES sections
    Dial 2-1-1
    For emergency "safety net" help in Virginia.
    Now Hiring Contact Tracers
    The Virginia Department of Health will hire 1,300 individuals to conduct and oversee the contact tracing process. Interested applicants will find a listing of the number of open positions in the orange box on the left hand side of the page, and a link to the staffing agencies who will conduct the hiring process. You can find a link to that information here.
    NEW - Filing for Unemployment Compensation
    Here are the step by step directions to apply for unemployment.
    Unemployment Compensation Expansion
    The new Federal U.S. CARES Act allows part-time employees and self-employed persons (who may not have paid into unemployment compensation) to receive unemployment benefits for the first time under the temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through the end of 2020. Gig workers like Uber drivers, freelancers, and contract workers should also be eligible for benefits, if they are unable to work because of COVID-19. Unemployment funds for laid-off/furloughed workers: Supporting our Workforce: "Frequently asked Questions for Workers Regarding COVID-19" document can be found here. Unemployment funds for laid-off/furloughed workers: Supporting our Workforce: "Frequently asked Questions for Workers Regarding COVID-19" document can be found here.

    Virginia implemented the provision of the new Federal U.S. CARES Act (bailout bill), which adds $600 per week from the federal government on top of whatever base amount a worker receives from the state. That boosted payment will last for four months. The legislation also adds 13 weeks of additional unemployment insurance.

    File a claim for unemployment compensation at the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) website or call 1-866-832-2363, 8:15 am to 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday, and Saturday between 9:00 am-1:00 pm. You will likely receive quicker determination of benefits applying on-line, because VEC call centers are currently overwhelmed. The unemployment application website has been improved to accommodate a higher number of people filing for claims. If you can't get through, try the website at off-peak times. Here are detailed instructions for how to apply for unemployment compensation.

    Virginians who have experienced job or income loss as a result of the coronavirus crisis are encouraged to file an application for unemployment insurance using the VEC's online portal; select "Lack of Work" as your reason for separation. Here are resources for individuals applying for unemployment insurance benefits due to COVID-19 and FAQ on claims related to the coronavirus.

    The VEC directs, "no claim for unemployment insurance may be filed or processed until an actual lay off from employment has occurred, or until there has been an actual reduction in hours. If you will be filing because of a reduction in hours, you will not receive benefits unless your gross earnings are less than your weekly unemployment benefit amount."

    Document your attempts to file your claim. Note date and time you called, how long you waited, the name of any person you spoke with. Online, take screenshots of the website. This evidence might eventually help you collect benefits dating back to when you first attempted to file for them. If your claim is denied, you can appeal. Contact legal aid advocates who can help you through the process at low or no cost. Call your local elected official or local media to let them know how the process isn't working.
    For Those Receiving Unemployment Compensation
    Governor Northam directed that the one week waiting period and the requirement to conduct a weekly job search both be suspended.
    The VEC's Virginia Workforce Connection connects with potential employers, search for jobs, find training opportunities, and research wage data along with industry and occupational trends. Questions? workforce@governor.virginia.gov.

    Please note, recipients will be required to access the portal each week to claim their unemployment insurance payment. The VEC recommends filing claims on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday of each week. To complete and submit a weekly claim payment request, call 1-800-897-5630 or visit vec.virginia.gov.
    Loan and Bill Payment Delay - Deferment of Rent, Mortgage, Rent, College Loan, Credit Cards, and Utility Bills
    Don't just stop paying your bills! Call your lending institution, landlord, utility (including internet) to ask for delay ("forbearance") of your payment due date, if you need to do so because of loss of employment or income. The new U.S. CARES Act directs lenders holding federally-backed mortgages to suspend borrowers' payments for up to 12 months if they have lost income because of the coronavirus outbreak. This order covers the vast majority of existing mortgages. Typically, lenders are deferring loans for three months, payback is over 12 months waiving late fees. To qualify, you need to have suffered a financial hardship related to the coronavirus outbreak that makes you unable to meet basic living expenses. (This includes lost work because of all the business shutdowns. You don't need to have fallen ill or be caring for a sick family member.) Gov. Northam ordered that borrowers, who have federal mortgage loans through the Virginia Housing Department Authority (VHDA), may request up to three months payment deferral if they can demonstrate need because of COVID-19. These payments will be reimbursed over 12 months with late fees waived. Request that the skipped monthly payments be added on to the end of the mortgage, rather than a balloon bill of all missed payments required when you resume making payments. (Contact legal aid advocates about tenants' and mortgage payers' rights.)

    Additional legislation delays rental evictions or mortgage foreclosures for individuals who are not currently covered under the protections offered through the federal CARES Act or state and local protections. Under this new law, a tenant may receive a 60-day continuance of an eviction proceeding from a court if they appear in court and provide written evidence that they are not receiving payments or wages due to the state of emergency declared by the Governor. The Virginia General Assembly approved a 60-day grace period for those facing eviction, proposed by Gov. Northam, along with limits on late fees charged by landlords.

    The U.S. Cares law also applies to renters whose landlords received federally-backed mortgages (about 1/3 of Virginia landlords).The CARES Act suspends foreclosure and foreclosure-related evictions until July 25th, for tenants whose landlords have federally-backed mortgages. Pay something toward rent, and work out a payment plan with your landlord.

    NEW - RELIEF for TENANTS: Virginia is using $50 million in federal CARES Act funding to launch the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program in partnership with local nonprofit programs. The program began June 29th.

    That appropriation is a quarter of the $200 million that the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development had requested to operate the program, but deemed sufficient to start the program.

    Governor Northam said, "The program will help cover rent and mortgage payments on households experiencing financial instability due to the pandemic," he said. "Because we know the pandemic is having a disproportionate health and financial impact on people of color, this program will have an equity lens and target outreach to those communities."

    To identify the local Rent and Mortgage Relief Program administering organization and to conduct a self-assessment for eligibility, visit this website or call 211 VIRGINIA by dialing 2-1-1 from your phone. Tenants and homeowners are encouraged to know their rights and responsibilities and pay their rent and mortgages on time if they are able. See StayHomeVirginia.com for additional information and resources.

    New state legislation (effective July 1) caps late fees at 10 percent of the periodic rent or 10 percent of the remaining balance due, whichever is less. This new law prevents cascading late fees, allows charges only on the amount due, and sets a maximum late fee percentage for the first time in Virginia. (Contact legal aid advocates, for information about tenants' rights. )

    Tenants, sick or out-of-work, should ask for forbearance (delay) on rental payments. Request that the skipped monthly payments be payed over time, rather than in a single balloon bill of all missed payments required as soon as you resume making payments.

    Here's a list of new laws, approved by the 2020 General Assembly and effective July 1, which help tenants in Virginia.
    NEW - People Inc. is offering Rental Assistance
    For families affected by COVID-19. Call the People Inc. Rental Assistance hotline toll free at 833-437-0114 for more information and to apply.
    NEW - Housing Programs, Services and Resources
    The Virginia Housing Development Authority, partnering with Governor Northam, created StayHomeVirginia.com, a website for housing-centered information about programs, services and resources to help those who have experienced job or income loss and other impacts due to COVID-19. This source includes guidance on how to work with landlords, financial institutions and others to sustainably utilize temporary eviction and foreclosure protections during this crisis. Also, resources are listed for homeless Virginians.
    Payment Relief for Student Loan Borrowers
    For most federal student loan borrowers, the U.S. CARES Act offers substantial relief by automatically suspending monthly payments, and reducing interest to 0%, through September. This legislation directs federal debt collection agencies to suspend the garnishment of wages, tax refunds, Social Security benefits, and other collection actions on federally-held student loans.

    Borrowers should log on to their student loan servicer's website to access their account. From there, they should see that there is no payment due. If the system is still showing a payment due, contact the servicer to confirm that a payment is not required.Here are FAQ about student loan forbearance.

    NEW - Virginia has also secured relief options for more than 200,000 Virginians with privately held student loans, through the CARES Act - debt relief details and cooperating creditors. Detailed information here about this college debt relief and how to find out if your loan is government backed or privately held.
    Forbearance
    You may also negotiate forbearance on credit card debt and utility bills by calling your creditor, though these are not covered by the CARES Act. Many lenders say they are offering similar assistance for numerous other types of loans. Banks may offer assistance including refunds on fees, deferred payments, with no negative credit bureau reporting, to include deposit accounts, credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and small business loans.
    Economic Impact Payment
    U.S. CoronaVirus Relief (CARES Act): Enacted the last week of March, this new law directs that single people earning incomes below $75,000 will receive as much as $1,200 in an Economic Impact cash payment. Married couples would get $2,400, and parents would receive $500 for each child under age 17. Payments would be phased out beyond those income limits, and people making more than $99,000 will not be eligible at all. It will likely be weeks before the stimulus relief hits people's bank accounts, according to experts. People who do not have direct deposit information on file with the Internal Revenue Service may have to wait until June to receive cash payments. Nonfilers in 2018, including recent college graduates, and those who didn't file 2018 taxes because they had no obligation, must hurry up and file a return for 2019 to be included in the distribution.

    IMPORTANT UPDATE: Social Security beneficiaries do NOT have to file a return to receive Economic Impact Payment.The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced April 2nd that Social Security beneficiaries, not typically required to file tax returns, will not need to file an abbreviated tax return to receive an Economic Impact Payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts. If direct deposit doesn't include the Direct Express debit cards, that means unbanked Social Security beneficiaries will be forced to figure out how to cash their checks.
    If You Lose Your Health Insurance
    there are some options. One is to pay out of pocket to keep your old benefits through what's knows as COBRA, but that can be expensive. You are eligible by special open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act. You may be eligible for government aid in purchasing insurance. However, you must apply within 60 days of your employment separation to be eligible for Marketplace open enrollment. Unemployment insurance, including the $600/week federal unemployment assistance, counts as part of your income.

    Check with Washington Co. Department of Social Services to see whether your family qualifies for Medicaid or CHIP. The $600/week supplemental federal unemployment compensation does not count as income for eligibility purposes. Also, losing your job is considered a life event that enables you to enroll in your state-level health care exchange system set up under the Affordable Care Act.
    Virginia Health Insurance Companies' Updates
    The Virginia Association of Health Plans (VAHP) maintains a summary of individual health insurance company responses to COVID-19 in Virginia.
    (Much more resources in FOOD and UTILITIES and FINANCIAL CRISIS, EMPLOYMENT & BUSINESS Resources and LOCAL SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES sections)
    Financial Crisis, TAX, EMPLOYMENT & BUSINESS RESOURCES
    Federal Taxes
    Here's up-to-date guidance from the Internal Revenue Service to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus.
    Virginia Income Taxes
    Filing date without penalties with an extension is November 1st. But, if you owe any taxes, the payment date is June 1st (delayed from May 1st). No penalties or interest assessed if paid by June 1st.
    Virginia Department of Social Services - Washington County
    Gov. Northam has relaxed requirements, ended co-payments, and extended services for Medicaid and FAMIS healthcare services and more. The DSS office is currently closed to the public. Access information on programs and benefits online. Call (855) 635-4370 for medical assistance only. Washington Co. DSS has installed an agency drop box outside the building where people can drop off paperwork. It will be checked several times throughout the day.

    The $600/week additional federal unemployment assistance does not count as part of your income for eligibility for Medicaid and FAMIS services.

    If you need replacement EBT SNAP benefits, call your DSS worker first, leaving a message if necessary. If you can't connect with your worker, call 1-866-281-2448. (More about SNAP benefits under "Food & Utilities")

    The state DSS has a new website, which makes it easier to find the information you need to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency. It covers a variety of subjects including resources for food, domestic violence, feeling sick and more.

    On March 19, Governor Northam announced these measures to increase access to health care for Virginia's Medicaid members and thousands of low-income residents:
    • Eliminate all co-payments for services covered by Medicaid and Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS), including COVID-19-related treatment as well as other medical care.
    • Ensure current Medicaid members do not inadvertently lose coverage due to lapses in paperwork or a change in circumstances.
    • Permit Medicaid members to obtain a 90-day supply of many routine prescriptions, an increase from the 30-day supply under previous rules.
    • Waive pre-approval requirements for many critical medical services, and enacting automatic extensions for approvals that are already in place.
    • Expand access to telehealth services, including allowing Medicaid reimbursement for providers who use telehealth with patients in the home.
    • Medicaid/FAMIS information can be found here.
    Child Care
    On April 15, Gov. Northam announced a $70 million financial incentive program to expand access to child care for essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Governor Northam directed the Department of Social Services to modify Virginia's Child Care Subsidy program, to increase support and flexibility for enrolled families and providers. The modifications:
    • Expanding eligibility for school-aged children currently designated for part-day care to full-day care.
    • Increasing the number of paid absences from 36 to 76 days for both level 1 and level 2 providers.
    • Automatically extending eligibility for families due for eligibility predetermination in the near future by 2 months and temporarily suspending the requirement for face-to-face interviews.
    Here's guidance, resources, and subsidy information for Virginia's childcare program
    Domestic Violence Hotline
    Victims of domestic violence are encouraged to report their case to the hotline serviced by the Department of Social Services: 1-800-838-8238.
    Small Business Administration (SBA) > Economic Injury Disaster Loans
    While the SBA is not a local agency, local businesses will be eligible for an economic injury disaster loan. SBA COVID-19 Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources. And here's a new Coronavirus Relief Options website.

    Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications here. Applicants may also call SBA's Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

    The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21, 2020. For more information about available SBA resources and services, please visit: SBA.gov/coronavirus.

    Here's a helpful side-by-side comparison of SBA's Economic Disaster Loan with the Paycheck Protection Loans, available through banks and credit unions. Additional information and applications for each kind of loan are linked at the end of the comparison sheet. The Federal CARES (bailout) bill provides $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 to provide emergency funds for small businesses to cover immediate operating costs.

    On April 23rd, Congress passed an additional $484 billion package, which included an additional $321 billion for the newly created Paycheck Protection Program. PPP was popular and ran out of its initial influx of $350 billion in just two weeks.

    Forgivable loans: There are $350 billion allocated for the Small Business Administration to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Any portion of that loan used to maintain payroll, keep workers on the books or pay for rent, mortgage and existing debt could be forgiven, provided workers stay employed through the end of June.

    Relief for existing loans: There are $17 billion to cover six months of payments for small businesses already using SBA loans.
    NEW - People Inc. offering Small Business Loans
    People Incorporated is offering forgivable U.S. Small Business Administration microloans to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBA will make all payments – including principal, interest and fees – for six months following the closing date on any loan closed between March 27, 2020 and September 27, 2020. Microloans may be offered for any amount starting at $500 up to $50,000. They may be for terms from six months to six years.
    Rapid Response Funds to Assist Small Business
    Rapid Response is a federal program to help workers, companies, and communities experiencing layoffs and closures and provide strategies to avert layoffs. This includes connecting workers and businesses to information, partners, new employment opportunities, funding, and training programs that can help lessen the impact of layoffs or avert layoffs all together.

    The Additional Rapid Response Assistance for COVID-19 available through the state provides funding to help businesses avert layoffs by providing assistance in sanitization of work spaces, implementing telework options to support social
    distancing that the company has not supported prior, or other innovative strategies that help keep employees on the job. Businesses may apply for assistance through their regional workforce boards. See "FIND THE WORKFORCE DIRECTOR FOR YOUR JURISDICTIONS" at the end of this link.
    Offer Help
    Volunteer - Virginia Medical Reserve Corps
    Governor Ralph Northam announced a statewide effort in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health's Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to recruit medical and non-medical volunteers in the fight against COVID-19. It is estimated up to 30,000 volunteers are needed to provide support for the expected surge in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout the Commonwealth. Also, MRC volunteers will be the backbone of contact tracing to snuff out COVID-19 outbreaks that will allow the Virginia economy to reopen at some point.

    The MRC is a force of dedicated volunteers who support the community in the event of a public health emergency. Local units are comprised of teams of medical and public health professionals and community members who volunteer their time, skills, and expertise to support ongoing public health initiatives and assist during emergencies.

    About 14,700 have people signed up with the MRC, nearly a third of them in the past couple of weeks. About half of the volunteers have professional medical experience. Training at higher education institutions is available for Virginians who want to learn basic medical skills to volunteer, upskill current health professionals to transmission intensive care or medical-surgical units, and short courses on ventilators usage.

    Nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students are particularly encouraged to apply. Non-medical volunteer positions that are needed include logistics, communication, coordination, technology and other support. MRC is working with colleges and universities to get students involved – especially those enrolled in medical or health degree programs. For information or to sign up to become an MRC volunteer, please visit vamrc.org. Volunteer for the Southwest Virginia Medical Reserve Corps.
    Donate
    Donate your time, contribute money or goods. To local private, non-profit agencies assisting our neighbors in need.

    Faith In Action: Much of their operating funding comes from their thrift store which they've had to close. They need our help with monetary donations, which can be made online or mailed to: Abingdon Faith in Action, PO Box 2419, Abingdon, VA 24210. They are accepting non-perishable food and personal items and mentioned needing saltine crackers and diapers, particularly size large. Donations can be dropped off at their physical location behind St. John Lutheran Church: 798 Hillman Hwy. NE, Abingdon, VA 24210 Phone: (276) 628-4813.

    The Community Center of Abingdon: Operates a Meals-on-Wheels program, serving almost 1000 meals a week. The Center cancelled all of their events, including Bingo, a fundraiser that pays for the Meals-on-Wheels program. They hope to reopen bingo later during the Governor's phased reopening. If you are younger, healthy and considered lower-risk for contracting COVID-19, consider volunteering to deliver meals. Many of their volunteers are older and we can help protect them by assisting in this way. Monetary donations can be dropped off or made online.

    Feeding Southwest Virginia: Non-perishable food can be dropped off at their office located near Domino's Pizza at Exit 17: Abingdon Distribution Center, 21452 Gravel Lake Road, Abingdon, VA 24211. Phone: (276) 628-9266.

    Glade Spring Senior Center: They are in need of two large freezers. If you are able to assist with this, contact Jerry Ferguson at 276-356-1151. Donations can be made to: Town Square Food Ministries, Box 338, Glade Spring, VA.


    Help the Arts! Please consider a donation to the arts in Washington County - hard hit by the social distancing requirements and non-existent tourist trade:

    * Barter Theatre - you can stream some of this season's shows, on demand. Starting in mid-July Barter is offering live shows at the old Moonlite Drive-in - Barter at the Moonlite.
    * The Arts Depot

    * Holston Mountain Artisans Cooperative


    Suggest other private, non-profit agencies - win@winwashingtoncounty.org
    Local Government & Private Non-profit agencies Responding to Covid-19
    Washington Co. Solid Waste
    Mountain Lynx Transit
    Limited all transit vehicles to no more than 10 people. Passengers are asked to not sit beside each other and the seat behind the driver will remain open at all times. Bus fares will not be collected through April 30th to reduce person to person contact. If you are feeling ill, please be responsible and do not ride public transit.
    Virginia Employment Commission
    DMV
    The Abingdon DMV is open. The office will be open by appointment only to focus on services needed in person. Residents are encouraged to utilize online and mail services when available.

    NEW - Validity of driver's licenses, including Commercial Driver Licenses and Medical Examiner Certificates, and vehicle credentials, including state inspection, has been extended again for those due to expire starting in March for up to 180 days, not to exceed October 31, 2020. Virginians eligible to renew their licenses, identification cards, or vehicle registration online are encouraged to do so. Mail-in options are also available for a number of transactions, such as vehicle registration, original title transactions, and driver's license renewal, if mailed a notice.

    Real ID deadline enforcement deadline has been extended from Oct 1, 2020 to Oct 1, 2021. That means that starting October 1, 2021, Virginians who wish to use their state-issued driver's license or identification card to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility must present a REAL ID compliant version. Otherwise, they'll have to present another federally acceptable form of ID, such as a valid U.S. passport. Real ID compliant driver's licenses can be obtained from DMV by presenting the proper identification.
    Virginia Department of Corrections
    State Employee Memo from Governor Northam
    Read here.
    United Way of Southwest Virginia
    Offers a Community Resource Guide or suggests use of 2-1-1 Virginia, a free service that can help you find the local resources you need. Call 1-800-230-6977 or visit the 2-1-1 website."
    For those with access to Facebook, United Way of Southwest Virginia is circulating an online fundraiser: "COVID-19 Response Fund for Southwest Virginia." Donate if you are able -- for questions, please contact Mary Anne Holbrook, Director of Community Relations, at (276) 525-4075. United Way of Southwest Virginia is accepting donations to establish the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a resiliency and social innovation initiative.

    United Way of Southwest Virginia is forming a regional advisory council comprised of donors to the fund, business and nonprofit organizations, and health and human service agencies to develop the response strategy for Southwest Virginia. United Way of Southwest Virginia will form strategic public-private partnerships with community organizations to meet the needs of individuals affected. Both immediate and long-term, these efforts will focus response efforts on vulnerable populations, including children, families, and the ALICE population. ALICE, an acronym coined by United Way that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed represents men, women, and families who work hard and earn more than the official Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living.

    You may make a gift three ways to United Way of SWVA: Online at COVID-19 Relief Fund, mail to COVID-19 Relief Fund, P.O. Box 644, Abingdon, VA 24212, Text 71777 with the word SWVARELIEF through Mobile Cause. Mary Anne Holbrook, Director of Community Relations, at (276) 525-4075.
    People, Incorporated
    Offers assistance with a number of issues that may be more urgent during this health crisis. The state and federal eligibility rules may have changed in response to COVID-19, so call and ask. All services are still available in some form although centers and offices are not currently open to the public. (276) 623-9000
    • Housing
    • Section 8 Rental Assistance
    • Senior Housing
    • Homeless Intervention Program
    • Community Economic Development
    • Business Development and Loan Services
    • Low Interest Consumer Loans (household expenses, car purchases, bill consolidation, etc.)
    • Dislocated Worker Program
    People Inc. offering RENTAL ASSISTANCE
    Call the People Inc. Rental Assistance hotline toll free at 833-437-0114 for more information and to apply. Details here.

    Employment and training programs for eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own or have received an official layoff notice. Early Head Start (children up to 3) and Head Start (children 3 to 5).


    The centers are currently closed, but services are still provided in other settings. Early childhood education, health, nutrition, social services, parent education, family development, and parental involvement for income-eligible families.
    Washington County Public Library
    All WCPL locations will remain closed until it is safe to reopen. While the library is closed, late fees will not accrue, and holds will not expire. Book drops are closed. Please keep all materials until the library reopens. The digital collection is available 24/7. You can access eBooks, eAudios, and eMagazines, plus online classes, and more with your library card. They will be frequently adding eBooks and eAudio for adults, teens, and children to OverDrive during the period that libraries are closed. Check back often for new titles! WCPL offers many online resources that are accessible from your home.

    Library staff are still available remotely to provide research assistance. Though our buildings are closed, you may access the wireless internet with your own laptop or device while in the library parking lot.
    Virginia Highlands Community College

    Lift Your Spirts
    "What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love for Virtual Orchestra," a video serenade to raise your spirits created by a virtual orchestra of 74 Berklee School of Music (and dance) students away from school because of the virus.
    Read the values WIN stands for in Washington County. Join 600 WIN members here. Membership is FREE.
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