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Even at $26 million a week, Justice says West Virginia is up for unemployment benefit match

Gov. Jim Justice says a plan for enhanced unemployment ordered by President Donald Trump would cost West Virginia $26 million a week.

“West Virginia’s gonna pay it,” Justice said. “We’re going to pay it and very willingly we’re going to pay it.”

One of the orders Trump signed would extend enhanced unemployment benefits at a reduced rate of $400 a week. The rate that expired without an agreement of Congress was $600.

Under the  order, the federal government would cover $300 in enhanced aid per person per week while states would be responsible for the remaining $100.

Justice said unemployed West Virginians who are struggling deserve the payment, although he couldn’t yet answer how the state will cover it.

One possibility is a portion of the federal CARES Act relief that West Virginia has on hand.

“We’ve got the money set aside as we did in how we bucketed the money,” Justice said.

West Virginia received $1.25 billion for state and local governments, and Justice has wanted to set aside about half, $687 million, for unemployment insurance costs.

“God knows, I’m glad we did it,” Justice said.

So one approach would have West Virginia matching the federal portion of the enhanced unemployment benefits with federal relief money.

If all $687 million is available and the cost is $26 million a week for the state, then that money would last about half the year, 26 weeks.

If the CARES Act money can’t be used as a match, then the answer is unclear.

“At the end of the day, we’ll figure it out,” Justice said.

Scott Adkins, the acting director for Workforce West Virginia, said the state is still waiting to hear more about how the payments and match system would work.

“Mechanically, we’re still working through that,” Adkins said.

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