August Interim meetings, which we have once a month outside of the Regular Session. Numerous committees meet at the Capitol during this time and discuss a number of issues of concern, many of those issues having come up during the Regular Session before running out of time.
Thus, the issues are studied in the interim to see if any consensus can be reached before the next session. While we were preparing for this round of interim meetings we were hearing word about a potential special session. While details were hard to figure we knew that one issue we would be dealing with in a potential special session related to the unemployment program in the state and the benefits available for those enrolled in the program. As current law stands, West Virginia now provides 26 weeks of state-funded benefits, with federally provided benefits aiding the unemployed for another 33 weeks. The proposal would extend those benefits for another 20 weeks of federally funded benefits for a total of 79 weeks of benefits.
We were asked to move quickly on this measure because, as we have been told, around 2,600 people have already exhausted their unemployment benefits and another 4,000 more expected to lose theirs in the near future. This year’s federal stimulus bill offered the funding to extend unemployment benefits but also required each state to adopt a provision by Dec. 31 that would trigger the payments once a state’s total unemployment rate, a rate of the unemployed individuals divided by the total workforce, hits eight percent.
West Virginia reached that required threshold in mid-July and would now be eligible for this program. These funds are also available retroactively so that an individual who used up benefits earlier in the year would be eligible to receive payments for months where their benefits were depleted.
As always, we here in the House of Delegates are committed to working for all West Virginians during this tough economic time when we see companies closing and employees being laid off. We must do what we can within our budget to provide some comfort to families who are feeling the brunt of this economic downturn. However, we must also show fiscal restraint so we do not sacrifice future budgets and future generations and make the same mistakes past Legislatures have made.
We have been very careful in recent years to make very prudent decisions with our state budget and any surplus we ended the fiscal year with. Our “rainy day” fund, a fund for emergencies, is as sound as any other in the nation. We must continue the steps toward a bright economic future for our children and grandchildren.
On another topic, I would like to thank those involved who assisted Delegate Kominar and myself in securing several grants for various Mingo County projects.
The Hatfield and McCoy Trails received $220,000 for maintenance. This includes the trails in Boone, Logan, McDowell and Wyoming Counties as well as Mingo County. The Town of Gilbert received $192,000 for beautification and sidewalks improvements. The town of Gilbert also received $1,500,000 for Horsepen Creek and Gilbert Creek for the Baisden Water Extension project. Finally, the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority for King Coal Hgwy Water and Sewer Extension Phase I also received $1, 500, 000.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or on any other pieces of legislation when they come before the Legislature, feel free to contact me here at my Charleston office.
To write me, my address is Delegate Harry Keith White, Building 1, Room 460M, State Capitol, Charleston, WV 25305. To call me please call (304) 340-3230 or call Toll free at 1-877-565-3447 and ask to be transferred. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process.