CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nearly 11,000 West Virginia workers will lose their unemployment benefits before Christmas unless Congress passes legislation to extend them.
Nationally, more than 2 million Americans could lose unemployment benefits, which began to run out on Wednesday, this month.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said, "Last month, when we were in session, we tried to extend those unemployment benefits. It should have been noncontroversial and passed unanimously in a bipartisan fashion.
"That failed, because Republicans chose not to be bipartisan, exercising their perceived mandate from the elections to cut spending..."
"Republicans voted against extending these benefits because they said they were not paid for. At the same time, they want to extend the George Bush tax cuts for the super wealthy -- the upper 2 percent in our nation -- which will cost us $700 billion over the next 10 years."
On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said some members of Congress propose to link continuing tax breaks for the wealthy with extending unemployment insurance. Hoyer indicated he is opposed to linking the two issues.
Hoyer believes extending unemployment insurance is a "moral imperative."
Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., had no immediate comment about their perspectives on the issue.
Nationally, the average unemployment check is $303 a week, although it varies among states.
West Virginians United for Social and Economic Justice sent a letter Nov. 12 to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asking him to back legislation extending unemployment benefits.
"The Congressional Budget Office projects unemployment will remain at around 9.5 percent well into 2011. Thus, unemployment insurance extensions are critical not only to support millions of families, but just as important in order to keep our economy moving," the letter stated.
Gary Zuckett, director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said Goldman Sachs estimates that ending federal unemployment insurance programs could cut American economic growth by half a percentage point.