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Protecting today to prepare for a new day

In these unprecedented times, people need certainty in the information that they receive so they can make the best decisions possible. To that end, we want to share some things our office has learned as we strive to maintain the rule of law, your constitutional freedoms and confidence in the integrity of the consumer supply chain.

We recently called on our state’s business leaders and elected officials to focus on what needs to happen to kick start our economy in a post coronavirus world.

The reality is this: Even in the midst of a crisis, my office is working around the clock so that West Virginia enforces laws evenly and ultimately leads the nation in restarting our economy and way of life.

One area of strength in this regard is the supply chain, which has been strong and steady throughout the pandemic. Grocers have been resilient in restocking shelves. Truckers, those running the cash registers and so many others, have truly stepped up to protect West Virginians.

Our office’s Consumer Protection Division has received many hundreds of calls about various issues, including price gouging and scams.

Both in times of adversity and peace, we investigate every single allegation of wrongdoing. Anyone who sees potential price gouging, scams, false advertising or other matters of concern should call our hotline at 1-800-368-8808 or file a complaint at www.wvago.gov.

With respect to price gouging, we are investigating every single one of these complaints. If the retail establishment illegally raised prices, we vigorously enforce the law and send cease-and-desist letters. Over a dozen of these letters have been sent out already.

We have also seen examples of deceptive advertising. For instance, we sent a cease-and-desist letter to a business that claimed CBD oil could cure coronavirus. That is obviously false advertising, and that is not something we will tolerate.

We have also heard many reports of landlord-tenant issues. Let’s be clear: Tenants still owe rent. The pandemic does not give people an excuse to not pay bills. At the same time, landlords should take people’s situations into account.

We have urged both sides to follow the law. For landlords, that means they can’t evict someone without going to court and getting an eviction decree. This is a balancing act, and we count on everyone to do the right thing.

Finally, let’s remember people have really struggled during this very difficult time. They have found themselves preoccupied with COVID-19. Many have struggled with their mental health or with restrictions that blocked visits to see loved ones in a hospital or nursing home. What terrible challenges our citizens are facing.

But as with any trial, we live with the promise of a new day coming. The other day while reading Scripture, a verse from Romans jumped out: “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Rom 6:5).

Despite the death and infection that surrounds us in this terrible time, we can’t lose sight of how we have an incredible future.

We will experience a rebirth in the weeks ahead. We will defeat this terrible plague. We will get back to work. We will spend time with our loved ones. We will have that human connection for which we all hunger every single day.

West Virginia has some amazing days in front of her, and together we will all experience a new West Virginia renaissance and see our state reach her full potential.

Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.

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