CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An order from Gov. Jim Justice loosens unemployment benefits for the thousands of West Virginians losing their jobs during coronavirus precautions.

Justice acknowledged that recent actions to close restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms and other gathering places will have serious economic effects on West Virginia workers.

During a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Capitol, Justice said 1,200 West Virginians had applied for unemployment benefits the prior day, compared to 5,300 for the entire month of February.

“Our employees that are worried about having a paycheck to be able to pay the power bill and the insurance and everything else, they’ve got all kinds of anxiety and everything else,” Justice said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

MORE: Read the governor’s order on unemployment benefits. 

The order waives a one-week waiting period for benefits.

It also waives “able to work and available to work” requirements as well as work search requirements.

Those changes remain in place for the duration of the governor’s emergency declaration. The order also gives the Department of Commerce authority to make other necessary changes to ease unemployment effects on workers right now.

MORE: Flyer instructing West Virginians how to apply for unemployment benefits.

West Virginians applying for unemployment benefits are being told not to go to a local unemployment office in person but rather to apply online or by telephone at 1-800-252-JOBS, which is 1-800-252-5627.

The first step is to create a job seeker profile immediately and then file a claim right away.

Gary Howell

Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, said today that the surge of people seeking unemployment benefits made clear the necessity to loosen requirements.

Howell said he has been working closely with restaurant owners Mineral County and believes 200 workers have been laid off there already.

“Yesterday my restaurant owners began telling me that their employees were being told they had to wait to sign up for unemployment and would have to look for work,” Howell said.

“The workers said this made no sense since the government forced them out of their jobs and they are told to stay home by the government — so how can they look for work?”

Howell passed along those concerns to the Governor’s Office.

“The action for the Governor’s office to correct this problem was swift and I would like to say thank you,” Howell said.