WV lawmakers weigh pros, cons of employer work-sharing program - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

WV lawmakers weigh pros, cons of work-sharing program for employers

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CHARLESTON, WV -

West Virginia lawmakers are not quite in favor of creating a voluntary work sharing program.

Lawmakers during an interim subcommittee meeting Jan. 7 voted to advance draft legislation to create the program, but it was defeated by a slim margin.

Legislative counsel Brian Skinner told lawmakers the program would allow an employer to opt into this plan rather than lay off several employees when business is bad. WorkForce West Virginia would first have to approve the plan, but then the business could decrease the hours of its workers and supplement their pay with unemployment benefits.

Skinner said the numbers could work out to be nearly identical, but some businesses could benefit from keeping those skilled workers on their staff because if and when the business bounces back, those staff members are still available.

Skinner said the program is for private businesses, and he said he anticipated it being used rarely, but it would be best suited for high-paid employees, such as steelworkers.

He said 24 states currently have some variation of the program, and none of them have seen any significant or harmful effects on their unemployment compensation funds.

However, Brenda Nichols Harper with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said her organization is against the proposed legislation. She said the state's unemployment compensation fund was nearly empty, and the state has worked hard to bring it up to its current $130 million,

She said the state already has a similar program in place, she called it Low Benefits Earning, and she said the new proposal would just create an extra governmental cost because of the necessary program approval and all the paperwork that will come from more people being allocated the benefits.