CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As many as 6,900 West Virginians are among the estimated more than 1.3 million people across the United States who will see their federal emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits end on Saturday.
The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives failed to approve an extension for the program that provides those benefits, which were first implemented in 2008 after the recession, before leaving Washington, D.C. for the holiday break.
Dave Watson, assistant director of benefits for WorkForce West Virginia, said they’ve been taking a lot of calls from state residents about the coming end of the benefits. “Most claimants are understanding and know where it’s come (from),” said Watson of the Congressional inaction. “There is some concern.”
Watson said the number of affected West Virginians is an estimate based on the people collecting EUC, or the long-term unemployment benefits, in the Mountain State as of November.
In West Virginia, when a person loses his or her job, he or she is eligible for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits from the state. After that 26 week window closes, those who have still not found work in the Mountain State qualify for 28 weeks of EUC benefits which are paid by the federal government, meaning a possible 54 total weeks of unemployment.
It’s those federal payments that are ending because Republicans opposed a one year extension which would have cost an estimated $25 billion.
Democrats are expected to push for a three month extension of EUC benefits when members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House return to Washington, D.C. in January. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he would support an extension only if corresponding cuts are made elsewhere in the federal budget.
Watson said any extension, depending on its specifics and when it was approved, would take time to implement fully to resume payments.
Until the matter is addressed, Watson said those losing their benefits this weekend can find additional job resources at www.workforcewv.org and at WorkForce West Virginia offices across the state.
“There’s other services we provide too such as potential training, job openings and other employment-type services,” said Watson.
West Virginia’s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in November, compared with seven percent nationwide.