West Virginia cautions laid-off workers about benefits


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia workers who are collecting unemployment checks are being warned that they must return to work if offered the chance or else risk losing those benefits.

Small businesses in the state, including hair salons and barbershops, and restaurants with outdoor seating can reopen next week under guidance from Gov. Jim Justice. Hospital elective surgeries, dentist offices, physical therapists and other patient services resumed this week.

Acting WorkForce West Virginia Commissioner Scott Adkins said in a news release that unemployment recipients must be aware of federal requirements that they be available to work and actively seek jobs.

Laid-off employees who refuse to return to work and continue to file unemployment claims are considered to be committing fraud and potentially may be disqualified from receiving benefits, the statement said. Benefits obtained through fraud must be repaid.

In addition, workers become ineligible for unemployment benefits if they quit a job without good cause or refuse an offer for a job comparable to their previous one.

Returning employees who have reduced work hours may still qualify for unemployment benefits and should continue to file weekly claims and report their earnings, the statement said.

“Unemployment benefits are intended for people who are unemployed or working reduced hours due to no fault of their own,” Adkins said.

More than 164,000 unemployment claims have been filed with WorkForce West Virginia since March 1.

And more than 13,600 claims have been filed by self-employed residents, independent contractors, ride-sharing drivers and others who typically aren’t eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits. The state began offering this pandemic unemployment assistance on April 24.

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