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Most Favor Benefit Extension When Thousands In WV At Risk

November 16, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Some 11,000 West Virginians are at risk of losing their unemployment benefits during the holiday season, if Congress lets federal support for extended unemployment insurance expire. But voters favor continuing that support by two-to-one, according to Guy Molyneux at Hart Research Associates, who just finished a poll.

"Sixty percent of American voters said, 'Yes;' they favor continuing the benefits. Just 37 percent of voters nationally said they opposed continuing those benefits."

Republicans in Congress have said they don't want to increase the deficit to continue help for the unemployed. But Molyneux says strong support among voters continued even when they were reminded of the federal deficit.

Continuing the support would not add weeks of unemployment insurance, just pay for the additional weeks now available.

Those additional weeks can be a lifeline for the long-term unemployed. Robert Pugh, 59, has worked steadily since he was 16, mostly as a chef, but more recently as a financial analyst. That job was eliminated this year, and he says he has about four weeks of benefits left.

"I'm barely surviving. I can pay my rent, buy enough food to eat, pay my insurance, gas in my car. If I run out I'm going to have to move out of my house and basically I'm going to be homeless."

There are an estimated two million people nationally who would be cut off in December unless Congress extends federal support.

Grant McLoughlin, executive vice president of Fresh Grocer, says the number of people they hire is directly affected.

"Our customer base is predominantly economically-challenged. If we suffer on the top line, then we're going to be forced to cut back our work force, which is only going to put more folks in the ranks of the unemployed."

According to the Congressional Budget Office, unemployment benefits are the single most-efficient form of economic stimulus. One estimate says there are 700,000 additional jobs because of federal support for the unemployed.

Congress has never ended these benefits when the unemployment rate is above seven percent, but would have to act by the end of the month to avoid doing so now.

More information is at www.nelp.org

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV