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 Economic Development Authority, John O'Neal, is helping answer questions every Wednesday at 5 p.m.
WVVA: John, federal assistance for small businesses and unemployed workers has expired or has deadlines approaching. What do our viewers need to know about these programs?
O'Neal: President Trump issued an Executive Order extending unemployment benefits of $400 per week for those that are still struggling to find work. Further information on this program can be found at the Workforce West Virginia website.
Also, 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.
The September 30 deadline to apply for this program is rapidly approaching. Guidelines for this small business assistance grant program can be found here.
WVVA: What is the most recent information on the overall status of the economy in our state now?
O'Neal: The recent news is very good for our state and the country. In West Virginia the unemployment rate continues to decline. In April there were 125,000 West Virginians receiving unemployment benefits. By the end of July that number had declined to 75,000.
Over 50,000 West Virginians have gone back to work in the last couple of months, and that number is going to get better when the August numbers are released. It appears that many businesses are hiring, and that many West Virginians are returning to work.
Also, consumer sales activity has returned now to above pre-pandemic levels. This is very important, as consumer sales are the major driver of our economy. New home sales have rebounded very strongly, and are growing at a record pace.
Finally, current West Virginia state tax collections have come in well above estimates. That is a strong indicator that business activity is healthy.
It appears that the West Virginia economy is rebounding very well back to its strong position prior to when the lockdowns were imposed. The opening of colleges and secondary schools, as well as the return of sporting events lends further hope that the worst of the effects of the pandemic are behind us.