CHARLESTON - The expiration of funding for long-term federal unemployment benefits will affect nearly 7,000 West Virginians who have been jobless for at least 26 weeks.
They are among more than 1 million people nationwide who are set to be cut off of the benefits when the funding expires on Dec. 28. Without an extension, another 1.9 million people would miss out on the benefits next year.
The number of West Virginia recipients fluctuates from month to month, David Watson, assistant director of benefits for WorkForce West Virginia, said.
In November, 6,933 people received the jobless benefits, WorkForce West Virginia reported. Smith said 1,322 recipients live in Charleston, while Huntington and Beckley each reported more than 500 recipients.
The average weekly claim for a West Virginian was $273 in 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a report.
People filing for unemployment would still receive some money in the beginning of January to account for the last week of December, Smith said.
People who are unemployed for 25 weeks or less can file for state unemployment benefits. But they must be looking for employment in order to receive the benefits, said Beth Nogay Carenbauer, acting director of unemployment compensation at WorkForce West Virginia.
"I think it is particularly important for individuals to start their job search early in their unemployment," Carenbauer said.
"The sooner you begin to look for the job, the better the prospects."
Jobseekers should look for positions that match their training, she said.
"Data indicates that any amount of education or training, particularly in demand occupations, can help with your employability," she said.
Workforce West Virginia's website, www.workforcewv.org , offers information about options for those facing benefit cuts, including details about training and open positions.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised a vote no later than Jan. 7 on a measure to extend federal benefits for the long-term unemployed for three months.
House Speaker John Boehner has said he's open to extending the benefits but only if accompanied by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget to cover the cost.
A one-year extension of federal jobless benefits would cost $25 billion.