Emily Swain

Emily Swain, community impact director for Tygart Valley United Way, asked Fairmont City Council for support in applying for a CARES Act block grant.

FAIRMONT — As the pandemic appears to wind down, families are still hurting for financial help.

The Tygart Valley United Way announced the launch of the Fairmont Family Relief Fund on Friday to help families in need. Made possible by money from the CARES Act, the fund will help families affected by COVID who are struggling to pay rent, mortgage or utility bills in Fairmont.

“If families need help with back rent, we can help, if they have utilities they’re not caught up on, we can help with that,” said Chris Yost, program manager for Tygart Valley United Way.

Eligible families will be limited to a maximum of $2,000 in aid. The United Way was granted a total of $100,000 for the project, which aims to help a minimum of 50 families.

“We’re really thankful we were able to bring these dollars into the community,” said Brett White, executive director of the Tygart Valley United Way. “We wanted to make sure Fairmont was getting in on the dollars available.”

The money comes to Fairmont by way of a Community Development Block Grant, which is a longstanding federal grant program. Commonly referred to as CDBG’s, the grant dollars are disbursed in Washington to state capitals, which then channel them to the appropriate agencies in local communities to provide aid.

Some cities in West Virginia automatically get the grants, but Fairmont did not. To get Fairmont families help, the United Way applied in October 2020 and is now getting the funds to give to those in need.

“It was a long process that we had to go through with the state,” White said. “We hope the next couple rounds will come much faster, but this will be a much-needed service for the people of Fairmont.”

Fairmont City Council held an emergency meeting last October in order to hold a public hearing about the Fairmont Family Relief Fund.

“The funds will be used to pay service providers for people who cannot pay their mortgage or utility bills because of COVID. It’s a coronavirus response grant,” Fairmont City Clerk Janet Keller said last October. “The city of Fairmont is just the pass-through provider. We apply for the grant, but the grant’s funds actually go to the United Way for program management.”

Since the pandemic started, those in need have been calling the United Way for help, now they have the means to dole out that assistance.

“Even before COVID it was a big need, but COVID really exacerbated the amount of need there is,” Yost said. “We get calls every day about people needing help with rent or their water is being shut off. To have the opportunity to help these families is just so terrific.”

Applications for these dollars will start Monday. To apply, anyone can download the form off the United Way website or stop by their office in downtown Fairmont and pick one up outside.

Once the form is filled out and dropped off, the applicants will be invited to go over their needs with Yost before being approved. Applications will be open until June of 2022 or until the $100,000 is spent.

“Even since just the beginning of the pandemic we knew there would be a major need,” White said. “There’s still a lot of bills that haven’t come through yet, and we wanted to get this money out as soon as possible.”

Applications will be available outside the United Way office starting Monday. The applications can also be downloaded online at www.tvunitedway.org. For more information on the Fairmont Family Relief Fund, call the Tygart Valley United Way at 304-366-4550.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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