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SB Wednesday: unemployment benefits and status of West Virginia’s economy

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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 is the Executive Director of the Mercer County Economic Development Authority, and he is helping answer questions.

WVVA: Much of the federal assistance for small businesses and unemployed workers that came through the CARES Act has expired or has deadlines approaching. What do our viewers need to know about these programs?

O'Neal: First, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Program, which provided an additional $600 per week for unemployed workers did expire at the end of July. President Trump issued an Executive Order extending the benefit at a reduced rate of $400 per week.

The Order requires states to contribute $100 of the total. Governor Jim Justice said that West Virginia will participate, but it is going to take another couple of weeks to come online. It is possible that the claims will be paid retroactively, back to the beginning of August.

This program is temporary, and will last for several weeks, not for many months. Secondly, for our small business owners, Governor Jim Justice created the West Virginia CARES Act Small Business Grant Program.

This program can provides up to $5,000 for West Virginia-based small businesses with up to 35 employees. About $10,000,000 has been awarded thus far to nearly 2,500 West Virginia small businesses.

Recently the program was expanded to include up to $2,000 for sole proprietors and self-employed persons. Small business owners may apply until September 30. Guidelines for this small business assistance grant program can be found here.

WVVA: What are the most recent reports on the status of 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 since the pandemic hit.

We have gone from 16% unemployment in April, to 9.9% at the end of July. 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.

Finally, new home sales have been very strong the past two months, at record levels. It appears that we are experiencing a very quick and strong recovery to pre pandemic levels in several sectors of our economy.

Melinda Zosh

Evening Anchor and Producer

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