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SB Wednesday: details on week 9 of West Virginia’s comeback plan

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BLUEFIELD, W.Va (WVVA) - WVVA is helping to answer your questions about small business loans, unemployment, taxes, business reopening, and more. John O'Neal, Executive Director of the Mercer County Development Authority, stopped by the studio to help answer questions.

On Tuesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that we are in "week 9" of his West Virginia Strong Comeback Plan.

"The reopening of West Virginia continues at a steady pace. It is finally starting to feel like summer for parents and kids that enjoy their outdoor sports," said O'Neal.

"Youth league athletic contests have resumed, with spectators permitted to attend and cheer on their kids. Youth summer camps, equestrian events, and outdoor motor sports are back on track as well," said O'Neal.

"Next week outdoor fairs and festivals are slated to return. Though all of these activities are subject to distancing and sanitation guidelines," said O'Neal.

With so much of the state's businesses getting back online, WVVA asked O'Neal if there has been any evidence yet of an economic recovery in West Virginia.

"The state-imposed lockdown resulted in a recession. A number of our businesses were hit hard, and, unfortunately, some did not survive. However, the reopening is moving forward now at a strong pace now, and there is some recent good news," said O'Neal.

"Consumer spending has rebounded quite well in the Mountain State. Opportunity Insights, which is a Harvard-based research firm, conducted a state by state study, and concluded that consumer spending in West Virginia has returned to pre-pandemic levels, actually slightly higher than January levels," said O'Neal.

"The recovery in spending began when government relief funds made their way into people's hands in mid-April, and continued to grow as people started back to work," said O'Neal.

WVVA asked O'Neal "do you have any updated information on the status of employment in the state?"

"The latest report from Workforce WV indicates that there is a huge increase in West Virginians returning to work. In May the West Virginia unemployment rate improved by nearly three full percentage points. More than 23,000 West Virginians went back to work last month," said O'Neal.

"The rate of unemployment is still very high, over 12%, but it is decreasing rapidly as businesses continue to reopen, people are venturing out and spending, and pandemic unemployment benefits are starting to expire," said O'Neal.

The West Virginia Comeback plan is well under way. More information on the recovery plan, go here.

Melinda Zosh

Evening Anchor and Producer

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