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Veterans services back in full swing

Photo submitted by Robert Fitzgerald Washington County Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi, left, swears in the new Washington County Veterans Service Commissioner David Fitzgerald accompanied by James Crawford, right, commander of the Disabled American Veterans Pioneer Chapter 52 of Whipple.

Service to those who served is back in full swing for two local agencies.

The Washington County Veterans Service Commission not only swore in another commissioner, David Fitzgerald, Tuesday, but is also back to staffing its office and making appointments to aid local servicemen and women of the county.

“As the coronavirus spread we went from having the doors locked but still staffing, down to just one staff person in the office with a lockbox to process new paperwork and myself visiting each day,” said the commission’s executive director, Robert Fitzgerald. “But now we’re getting back to more people in the office and we want our veterans to know we’re here and still helping get them through the benefits programs and that we’ve expanded our emergency funding for the families most hit by this.”

The commission has expanded its funding availability, Fitzgerald said, to respond to financial constraints placed on local veterans’ families.

“Like if you have a utility bill coming up but you’ve lost your job, or you need help with groceries (we can help),” explained the director. “We’ve extended that lifetime cap to aid our vets, but then where we can’t help that’s usually where Emily (Maze) at Community Action can step in.”

Emily Maze, lead veteran case manager at Washington-Morgan Community Action, said Tuesday that in March, the need for housing aid spiked in southeast Ohio due to coronavirus.

“Most of our cases come from Washington County. Fitz refers a lot of veterans to us that are literally homeless and living on the street, he’ll call us right away and we’ll work with that veteran for sometimes months to get them back to being self-sufficient,” said Maze.

Now, beginning in May and running through the beginning of August, the federal CARES Act has opened up an additional $252,000 in Supportive Services for Veteran Families funding to help provide housing for local veterans and their families.

She said the SSVF team she works with is able to aid veterans who live under 50 percent of the area median income, are facing a housing crisis and were discharged from a U.S. Armed Service under any circumstance other than dishonorably.

“We’ve noticed also that (Veterans Affairs) hospitals have been trying to release non-critical patients but many don’t have a place to go,” explained Maze. “So part of that emergency funding allows us to remove that barrier we usually have of already having to have permanent housing identified and get them a hotel room.”

The funding eligibility in Washington, Noble, Monroe and Morgan counties that qualify under SSVF are: for an individual earning less than $22,800 and for a family of four earning less than $32,550.

The two agencies often partner as resources, Maze explained, and fellow case managers can also aid veterans with contacts for employment through the Washington County Job and Family Services agency where Washington County Veterans Service Commissioner Jared Smith aids in employment opportunities.

“We’ve even helped veterans trying to navigate getting that stimulus check,” said Maze. “We can’t do your taxes for you, but with the connections and resources we share we can find you help, whether that’s getting your kids enrolled in school or helping get that appointment for updating their shots, too.”

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Veterans housing resources:

– Washington-Morgan Community Action has an additional $252,00 to spend by August for 15 southeast Ohio county U.S. Armed Forces veterans facing homelessness, eviction or foreclosure.

– For more information contact Emily Maze at 740-373-3745, ext. 306.

– The Washington County Veterans Service Commission has extended funding to provide temporary assistance for veterans in need of grocery, vehicular repair or utility bill aid.

– For more information contact the commission at 740-568-9009.

* Both offices are staffed throughout the pandemic to meet the needs of local veterans.

Source: Times research.

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