Blog Posts > Ending Enhanced Unemployment Benefits Failed to Increase Employment and Instead Increased Hardship in West Virginia
August 13, 2021

Ending Enhanced Unemployment Benefits Failed to Increase Employment and Instead Increased Hardship in West Virginia

In June, Gov. Justice prematurely ended all federally funded pandemic unemployment benefit programs. These enhanced unemployment benefits, which the governor terminated 12 weeks before required, have played a major role in West Virginia’s economic recovery.

The governor justified his decision to end the enhanced benefits by claiming that doing so would encourage people to return to work. But two months later, the data shows otherwise.

While state unemployment claims have been dropping steadily throughout the year, they were actually decreasing faster when the $300 federal enhanced benefit was in place than they have been since ending the benefits.The same is true for other states that ended the federal pandemic benefits earlier than required. States that prematurely ended the enhanced benefits are not seeing unemployment claims fall any faster than the states that kept the benefits.

Further, there has been no boost to the employment rate in West Virginia since ending the enhanced unemployment benefits, and again, this holds true for the other states that also ended their benefits early.

While prematurely terminating the enhanced benefits failed to increase employment as predicted, the decision has had a dramatic impact on the lives of the workers who were relying on those benefits to meet their needs while trying to find jobs. Cutting off unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of workers in West Virginia — and sharply reducing benefits for tens of thousands more — during an ongoing pandemic has led to greater financial hardship in the state. This outcome was predictable.

Instead of pulling the rug out from under West Virginia workers who are still navigating a changing economy, our state and federal elected officials should focus on worker and family supports that ensure that everyone has a fair chance to succeed.

At the state level, the WVCBP’s recovery blueprint shows a path forward for investing in work supports like investments in child care, enactment of paid sick days, and fair scheduling provisions.

And at the national level, our federal delegation should support the “Build Back Better” recovery package, which would grow opportunity for families in our state by securing paid family and medical leave for workers, investing in our child care and home- and community-based services workforce, and extending working family tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Read Sean’s full blog post here.

West Virginia’s Prison Mortality Rate Second-Highest in the Country

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal justice experts and advocates have focused on ensuring the safety of incarcerated people from the virus. But even before the pandemic, jails and prisons were unsafe places for the people incarcerated within them. According to the latest report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on mortality in prisons, 2018 was the deadliest year since the BJS began collecting data on deaths in 2001, with 4,135 deaths in prisons across the country. 

Previous reports have highlighted West Virginia’s high jail mortality rate compared to the rest of the country. Unfortunately, West Virginia’s prisons also have a high death rate. From 2001 to 2018, West Virginia had the second-highest prison mortality rate, falling behind only Louisiana. 

Year to year, people die in West Virginia’s prisons at a rate about 1.5 times higher than the national average. 
Heart disease and cancer were identified as the two leading causes of death in West Virginia’s prisons between 2001 and 2018. West Virginia has the second-highest rate of deaths in prison for both heart disease and “any other illness,” and it has the fourth-highest rate of prison deaths caused by cancer. 

Relatively poor health amongst the general population in West Virginia, increasingly long prison sentences, and an aging prison population all likely contribute to West Virginia’s high prison mortality rate. All of these problems are exacerbated within correctional facilities across the country, where health care delivery and funding are under tight constraints. From 2010 – 2015, spending on health care per-incarcerated person decreased by 25 percent in West Virginia.

To reduce the abysmal death rate within West Virginia’s incarceration facilities, state and local leaders must identify ways to decarcerate prisons and jails, including undertaking a true attempt at sentencing reform that aims to reduce long sentences. This decarceration can be done while still protecting public safety by following best practices including alternative sentencing, appropriate probation monitoring, and increasing the number of people that receive parole every year. Ultimately, focusing on the phases both pre- and post-incarceration — including finding ways to advance the socioeconomic conditions of vulnerable communities and improving the reentry process — will achieve more to increase public safety than continuing punitive practices.

Read Quenton’s full blog post here.

Emerging Stronger from the Pandemic: A Blueprint for an Equitable Economic Recovery in West Virginia

West Virginia faces a pivotal moment as we begin to emerge and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Our newest report, Emerging Stronger from the Pandemic: A Blueprint for an Equitable Economic Recovery in West Virginia, explores lessons learned from the pandemic, as well as provides policy recommendations by topic area that would serve as an equity-centered pathway forward for our state and its people.

The report’s areas of focus include:

– Tax and Budget

– Family and Economic Security

– Health

– Labor

– Education
The report’s recommendations are not comprehensive, but they do show the WVCBP’s vision for a West Virginia where everyone has a meaningful opportunity to thrive. The piece both details priorities that the WVCBP has long advocated for and new policy ideas that have emerged from conversations with West Virginians and our partners.

As West Virginia emerges from COVID-19, it has a chance to emerge stronger than ever before. But to do so, the state must make bold changes. A strong economy can be built in West Virginia by prioritizing the prosperity of all in the Mountain State.

Read the full report here.

Passage of Budget Resolution Critical Step Toward Enacting Powerful Recovery Policies Nationwide

On Wednesday, the US Senate voted to advance a budget resolution paving the way to craft and enact a slate of investments known as the “Build Back Better” plan.

This budget resolution is a critical step toward passing the transformational policies our country and our state need to create a stronger, fairer economy, advance racial equity, and ensure all our people have an opportunity to thrive.

You can read our full statement on this important development here.

Come Work With Us!

We’re hiring!

The WVCBP is seeking a federal campaign advocacy organizer to assist in developing and executing a federal campaign strategy that secures both public & legislative support for progressive policy at the federal level.

You can find the full job description here.

If interested, please submit an application packet to Kelly Allen at kallen@wvpolicy.org by 5pm on Monday, August 30, 2021. Application packet should include resume, an example of a campaign workplan you’ve executed, and a link to an earned media hit you’ve generated.

Public Input Critical to Deciding How WV’s ARPA Funds Should be Spent

The American Rescue Plan Act allocated $1.35 billion to West Virginia, and the state has already received half of these funds.

The WVCBP’s policy outreach director Seth DiStefano was recently featured on WOWK TV to discuss the need for local governments to proactively seek the input of those most impacted by the pandemic to determine how their communities’ recovery funds should be spent. Excerpt below:

“It is the responsibility of everyone from the Governor to our legislators to our county commissioners and city councils to really get out in the communities and meet people where they are,” said DiStefano.

Unlike CARES Act money, which Governor Justice had jurisdiction over, ARP funds have already gone out directly to local counties and municipalities.

DiStefano says first responders, workers on the frontlines, the people who lost jobs that aren’t coming back, and those who and the most vulnerable of falling through the cracks deserve to be heard and drive how the money should be spent.

You can watch the full segment here.

An Evening Dialogue in the Garden

Charleston folks! Join us and our friends from the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition and Keep Your Faith, Inc. next Thursday, Aug. 19 for an evening of fresh food and discussion of how we can use American Rescue Plan Act funds to increase access to nutritious food for all.

Register for the event here.

Picnic for Paid Leave – Morgantown

Morgantown folks! Join the Paid Leave Works for WV coalition on Aug. 30 at 5:30pm for a free, family-friendly evening to share and learn about paid leave, why it’s important, and how you can help West Virginia families secure this important support.

The coalition will provide free food, games, and more.

Urge West Virginia’s US Senators to Support the Build Back Better Recovery Package

Earlier this year, our federal policymakers sent money to families so people can pay their rent and put food on the table, helped school districts protect teachers’ health and get kids back into the classroom, and boosted vaccine distribution—all of which will help accelerate our economy and address the immediate health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Congress acted because we raised our voices together and demanded help. With short-term relief on the way, now Senator Manchin and Senator Capito need to look to our future and pass economic recovery legislation that ensures everyone can thrive, no matter what we look like or where we come from.

Our elected officials are drafting recovery legislation now, so it’s time to make yourself heard again. Tell them you want our government to support working families and invest in our economic recovery by making health care coverage more available and affordable, permanently expanding relief for struggling people, and ensuring children get the support they need to succeed.

Please join us in urging Senators Manchin and Capito to support the Build Back Better recovery agenda by sending them a letter here.

Child Tax Credit Survey for Parents

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized significant but temporary changes to the Child Tax Credit and last month, eligible families received the first of their monthly enhanced credits. Here are the four changes included in the ARP that might help you with the financial burden of raising a family:

1. The credit amount has been increased. The American Rescue Plan increased the amount of the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age 6, and $3,000 for other children under age 18.

2. The credit’s scope has been expanded. Children 17 years old and younger, as opposed to 16 years old and younger, will now be covered by the Child Tax Credit.

3. Credit amounts will be made through advance payments during 2021. Individuals eligible for a 2021 Child Tax Credit will receive advance payments of the individual’s credit, which the IRS and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service will make through periodic payments from July 1 to December 31, 2021. This change will allow struggling families to receive financial assistance now, rather than waiting until the 2022 tax filing season to receive the Child Tax Credit benefit.

4. The credit is now fully refundable. By making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, low- income households will be entitled to receive the full credit benefit, as significantly expanded and increased by the American Rescue Plan.

Research is already showing that the enhanced CTCs are helping to reduce food insecurity and financial hardship among families with children.

If you are a recipient of the Child Tax Credit, we’d love to hear how your family is being impacted to help us in our advocacy to make this credit expansion permanent. Please let us know by taking our survey here.

RESULTS Organizing and Advocacy Fellowship

RESULTS is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose movement of advocates works together toward equity and the end of poverty.

The RESULTS Fellowship seeks to inspire and train new advocates in the movement to influence political decisions that will bring an end poverty. The Fellowship is an opportunity for young adults (age 20-35) to broaden their experience and knowledge in the operations and organization of Congress while advocating on key poverty issues, like global health and affordable housing. RESULTS provides training and support to speak powerfully, engage with the media, advocate directly to members of Congress, and mobilize your community. RESULTS has proven over the past 40 years that when people like you use their voices effectively, we can make progress towards the end of poverty. The RESULTS Fellowship is an unpaid Fellowship for individuals living in the United States.

Access further details and the fellowship application here.

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