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"Train Wreck" Coming For West Virginia Jobless Benefits?

February 12, 2009

Charleston, WV - West Virginia’s legislative session is getting underway, and lawmakers already are paying close attention to funding unemployment benefits. According to one union official, there is enough money for the moment, but continued benefits are threatened because the formula that decides how much employers contribute has remained unchanged for 25 years. During that time, benefits have increased with inflation, according to Steve White with the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation. But, he adds, now the recession means rising unemployment will bring more people into the system.

"The payout's going up, but the threshold where the money’s going in has stayed fixed. That is going to head for a train wreck unless it’s addressed."

West Virginia's unemployment benefits are as much as $100 per week less than other states in the region, according to White. He believes that is harmful to the unemployed, as well as the economy.

"These unemployment benefits help not only people who need them, but they help the economy keep going."

One proposal would freeze or reduce benefits, but White says he favors another proposal that would update the employer contribution system.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV