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SB Wednesday: West Virginia unemployment benefits, possibility of second round of stimulus checks

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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.

Executive Director of the Mercer County Development Economic Authority, John O'Neal, stopped by the WVVA studio to answer questions.

WVVA: The Special $600 per week bonus on unemployment claims ended recently. John what can you tell us about the status of this program?

O'Neal: The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Program, which provided an additional $600 per week, expired at the end of July. All claims filed after August 1 do not include the extra $600 per week benefit. President Trump issued an Executive Order allowing the benefit to continue, but at a reduced rate of $400 per week.

It is going to take some time for states to adjust and determine if they want to participate. The Executive Order requires states to contribute $100 per week of the total. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has indicated that West Virginia will participate, but no date has been set yet for the new benefit to kick in.

WVVA: Is there any news or data concerning the economic recovery in our state now?

O'Neal: The recent news has been very good for our state and the country. In West Virginia the unemployment rate recently dropped to single digits for the first time in several months.

In April our unemployment rate was nearly 16%, but at the end of July that number had dipped to 9.9%, which is better than the national average of 10.2%. That is a major improvement. It appears that many businesses are hiring, and that many West Virginians are returning to work.

Also, the July consumer sales activities indicate that consumer sales activity has returned now to pre-pandemic levels. This is very important, as consumer sales are the major driver of our economy.

WVVA: John, we have heard much talk about an additional economic recovery package, maybe even another stimulus plan. What is the latest?

O'Neal: There has been much speculation about an additional stimulus bill. The President and Congress both want one, but have not been able to agree on the specifics.

The President and his economic advisors are pushing for a stimulus bill that would be similar to the last one, which would provide $1200 per person, $2400 per couple, $500 per child, with a max of $3400 per family. Congress is in recess now until after Labor Day.

The two major political parties are having their National Conventions. I expect that there will be an agreement on a Stimulus Package in September.

Join us for Small Business Wednesday every Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Melinda Zosh

Evening Anchor and Producer

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