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Note: This is an action alert from our allies at WV Center on Budget and Policy:
Essential workers were championed throughout the pandemic for their critical jobs keeping our economy afloat. But now, West Virginia legislators are considering gutting earned unemployment benefits for those very same workers if they lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Senate Bill 2 would cut the number of weeks that displaced workers are eligible for unemployment insurance from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks. This action would make West Virginia a major outlier, as only two other states offer just 12 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Contrary to arguments in favor of SB 2, data indicates that slashing eligible weeks of unemployment benefits will not improve labor force participation. In fact, 9 of the 10 states with the highest labor force participation rates offer 26 weeks or more of unemployment insurance benefits.
Another claim that has been made in support of SB 2 is that by cutting weeks of unemployment benefits, we can reduce the “high cost” of unemployment taxes for businesses. We urge lawmakers to keep in mind that the unemployment tax rate is currently at a near-historic low and is expected to be reduced even further this year.
SB 2 will endanger economic security and peace of mind for workers, children, and families, while also harming our state’s economy and doing nothing to address lawmaker’s stated goal of “getting people back to work.” If West Virginia lawmakers are serious about wanting to fill job openings, they should address the barriers that keep people out of the labor force altogether, such as lack of access to child care and transportation, rather than punishing people who are actively looking for work.
Please consider contacting your legislators and urging them to vote no on Senate Bill 2.