CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order on Thursday, directing WorkForce West Virginia and the West Virginia Department of Commerce to provide unemployment benefits to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and administer them to the maximum extent permitted by federal law.
Justice’s executive order allows WorkForce to waive the one-week waiting period for eligible West Virginians to receive unemployment benefits, waive the able and available work requirement, as well as waive the work search requirement.
Unemployment benefits will be available to eligible individuals who are requested by a medical professional, local health authority or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19, even if they are not actually diagnosed.
Since Justice declared a state of emergency on March 16, WorkForce has processed more than 4,000 new claims for unemployment benefits. To manage and process the influx of claims, WorkForce has extended phone hours to 7 p.m., permitted staff to work overtime and on weekends, train additional staff, train and utilize Department of Commerce staff and deploy temporary employees.
West Virginia residents seeking to file an initial claim for unemployment benefits should do so online at workforcewv.org.
“As we face these uncertain times, we want to reassure every person who has recently lost their job that financial assistance is available to them,” said Scott Adkins, acting commissioner for WorkForce West Virginia. “But there’s no time to waste. As soon as employment ends, you should file for benefits because each day you wait is a day you have to wait for that much-needed help.”
The fastest way to file for benefits is online at workforcewv.org. A step-by-step guide to filing an initial claim may be found by going to the Unemployment section of WorkForce West Virginia’s website and then clicking the Claimants tab. Residents who do not have internet access, have a disability requiring assistive technology or need further assistance should call 1-800-252-JOBS.
It is important to file a new claim immediately after employment ends.
To file an initial claim, applications need to register as a job seeker at workforcewv.org.
After filing an initial claim, a WorkForce West Virginia staff member will contact the applicant by email or by phone. To learn more about WorkForce West Virginia services and programs, visit workforce.org.
In order to qualify for this benefit program, employees must have earned West Virginia wages during the past 12 to 18 months and have earned at least a minimum amount of wages as determined by West Virginia’s guidelines.
Employees must also be able to work and available for work each week they are collecting benefits. Eligibility for unemployment compensation will be determined during the process of filing a claim. Individuals who are unsure if they qualify should still apply.
According to WVMetroNews, Justice said Wednesday that 1,200 West Virginians had applied for unemployment benefits the prior day, compared to 5,300 for the entire month of February.
“Our employees that are worried about having a paycheck to be able to pay the power bill and the insurance and everything else, they’ve got all kinds of anxiety and everything else,” Justice said Thursday on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
One industry that is being hit hard in West Virginia is the hotel and motel industry, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Since the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, The Mountain State has lost 5,593 direct hotel-related jobs and another 12,516 total jobs were lost from industries that support hotel industry, such as vendors that supply food, linen cleaning services and staffing.