More than 6,100 jobless workers in West Virginia will run out of unemployment benefits by the end of 2009, according to estimates from the National Employment Law Project. Of these workers, nearly 4,000 are expected to lose their benefits by the end of September. Their job prospects remain gloomy, as the state's unemployment rate has more than doubled since January.
The recession is taking a steep toll on our state's working families.The national unemployment rate doubled over an 18-month period, but it took West Virginia only five months to see its unemployment rate increase two-fold.
According to a brief released recently, West Virginia could provide additional help to jobless workers under provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). States with high unemployment rates may provide up to 20 more weeks of "Extended Benefits," fully paid by the federal government. These would kick in when a worker remains jobless after exhausting other unemployment benefits.
All that West Virginia needs to do to take advantage of these federal funds is for the Legislature to enact a temporary change in the state's trigger for Extended Benefits. Doing so will generate an estimated $33.6 million for West Virginia's workers and economy.
With nearly one in 10 of our neighbors out of work, extended benefits would ease their hardship, possibly boost local businesses and cost the state of West Virginia nothing in the process. This is a policy where everyone wins.