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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

Critics: Changes in WV unemployment benefits will harm families amid inflation

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024   

Critics say a bill passed by West Virginia lawmakers increases the bureaucratic red tape folks who rely on unemployment benefits have to navigate and could financially hurt families already struggling with the high cost of living and ongoing inflation.

Kelly Allen, executive director with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the bill includes new reporting from employers and job research requirements for recipients, but keeps the maximum number of benefits available at 26 weeks.

"Safety-net kind of programs like this, that help bridge families between jobs and keep them economically secure, is a really important tool," Allen said.

Senate Bill 841 also limits the amount of money employers pay into the unemployment fund to $9,500 of an employee's earnings. Supporters of the bill argue the state's trust fund is in peril and say the measure helps save money. The bill goes into effect on July 1.

Allen pointed out that research shows unemployment insurance helps families stay afloat during economic downturns, and provides continuous income for basic household needs. She added that unemployment insurance has also been linked to reduced rates of child abuse and neglect.

"We know that generous unemployment insurance and robust unemployment insurance benefits mitigate the impact that those economic shocks have on families and the data shows can actually reduce child welfare involvement, " Allen continued.

According to state data, the state's unemployment rate was nearly 5% as of the beginning of this year.

Disclosure: West Virginia Citizen Action Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Environment, Health Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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