By: Ashley Bishop | Posted: May 3, 2018 | Source: WCHSTV
As many people still wait for their water settlement checks to come, which are expected now in late June, thousands of people who receive government assistance may have to repay their settlement back to the government. (WCHS/WVAH)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — Not all people who were impacted when MCHM spilled into the Kanawha River will be getting a payout from the water crisis settlement.
As many people still wait for their water settlement checks to come, which are expected now in late June, thousands of people who receive government assistance may have to repay their settlement back to the government.
23-year old Emily Robinson is disabled and receives government assistance known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Like most government assistance, how much she receives depends on her monthly income.
“Dealing with social security and payments and issues is not one of the easiest things,” Robinson said.
While she lived through the 2014 water crisis and planned to apply for the settlement money, she was told by the local social security administration office that the payment of the $550 would impact her monthly assistance.
“We are going to count it as income and will have to take your check or part of your check until you can get it figured out,” Robinson said she was told by an employee.
A local non-profit that represents low income and disabled people started looking into this issue a few months ago and said this situation will impact many people in West Virginia.
“This could affect thousands upon thousands, upon thousands of people,” Legal Aid of West Virginia Senior Lawyer, Bruce Perrone said.
He estimates about 10,000 people in the counties impacted are on SSI and many more are receiving help from programs like Medicaid and SNAP.
“As soon as we heard about this settlement, we realized there are potential problems here and we realized it could lead to massive legal problems, and let’s try to head this off to the pass, let’s contact the agencies,” Perrone said.
Legal aid reached out and it took months to get answers.
“The answers we’ve gotten so far from both DHHR and social security are that, no the basic payments will not be counted as income. However there are some questions remaining about the procedure,” Perrone said.
They’re still waiting to hear what people will need to provide. Perrone said Robinson’s situation is unfortunate because she was thinking ahead.
“A payment of $550 into the house could make a real difference in their abilities to pay some bills to make some repairs to their car or house,” Perrone said.
While Robinson is glad others will benefit, she said the situation is frustrating.
“This is something they should have had figure out before they every announced it,” Robinson said speaking of the Social Security Administration.
Legal Aid of West Virginia said the best thing people should do right now is wait to see what other answer will come from DHHR and the Social Security Administration. Perrone does suggest people make copies of the check and paperwork they receive once the settlements are mailed out. He also advises people to tell the agency that you received payment and ask what should be done. Then of course, follow through with what they explain.