CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Major changes could be on the way for people who collect unemployment benefits in West Virginia. The number of weeks they collect could be about to be reduced.

The economy can fluctuate wildly in the Mountain State with the ups and downs of the fossil fuel economy. So lawmakers say they would like some flexibility.

The State Senate, on a vote of 27-5, has approved some sweeping changes to the state’s unemployment system. There are concerns about fraud and people not looking hard enough to go back to work. If the House of Delegates and the Governor agree, there would be changes in weekly benefits.

Right now in West Virginia, you can receive a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment. Under the new bill, when unemployment is low, as it is right now, there would be only 12 weeks of checks. If unemployment is bad, as it was during the early pandemic, benefits would be capped at 20 weeks.

“Between there and 26 weeks so see very little change, which usually indicates people aren’t actively trying to get that active employment. And when we have a workforce participation, one of the worst in the country, we want to try to help those people get back in the workforce,” said State Sen. Tom Takubo, (R) Kanawha – Majority Leader.

“I have been on unemployment before. I have survived on unemployment benefits before. I know how difficult it is when things are bad and you are out there struggling and trying to find work to take care of your family,” said State Sen. Mike Caputo, (D) Marion – Minority Whip.

The State Senate passed a similar measure last year, but it failed to become law.

Unemployment is at 4.1% in West Virginia as of Monday but was more than 15% in the early days of COVID-19.

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates for consideration there. With an 88-to-12 Republican supermajority, there’s a good chance it could pass there.