CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — So far eight states across the nation have ended their pandemic unemployment assistance which supplements displaced worker’s federal benefits. Critics say some able-bodied workers are just scamming the system.
“Some folks, you know are saying, ‘Look, I’m better off not working. You know, I can go trout fishing this afternoon. For crying out loud, I’m going to go trout fishing.’ And our businesses are suffering. Our businesses are pleading to our people, ‘We got to have you back to work,'” said Gov. Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia.
But supporters of continuing those benefits say people still really need the extra help. The unemployment rate has dropped to 5.9% from a pandemic high of 15.6% a year ago. But 48,000 West Virginians are still out of work.
“People are legitimately hurting right now and they need the extra money. Fraud does run rampant in unemployment and most of the fraud we’ve seen is from out of the state,” said Del. Kayla Young, (D) Kanawha.
Others wonder if the governor even has the authority to end state supplemental benefits.
“That’s federal money. And that’s what the federal government sent it to West Virginia to be used for,” said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha.
The governor did not give a target date for when state benefits might end, nor did he say whether West Virginia will again require mandatory job searches in order to qualify for the unemployment checks.
“Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance runs though September 6th. But the target date has been extended a number of times, and could be again,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.
The governor says his staff is looking at creating some form of incentives that would encourage people to go back to work, but he says the plan has not been finalized yet.