CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The fund that helps out-of-work West Virginians while they seek jobs has avoided going broke and now expects to remain solvent for the rest of 2011, program officials say.
The Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund survived last month's forecast warning that benefits could outpace revenues. The fund's balance fall to as low as $30.5 million on April 8, according to U.S. Treasury Department figures, but scheduled revenues have since arrived. It was back up to $121 million as of Monday.
"We managed to get through that, and as the economy is going if it stays at this rate, we should be in good shape throughout the year," Russell Fry, acting executive director of WorkForce West Virginia, told legislative leaders Tuesday.
Fry's agency oversees the jobless benefits program. He provided figures to the House-Senate Committee on Government and Finance estimating that the balance will remain in the $100 million range between May and December.
The fund rebounded without restoring to a stopgap loan from a state construction fund, as authorized by the Legislature earlier this year at the request of acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
"We have not and do not predict that we'll have to borrow any money from the fund that you so graciously provided for emergencies," Fry said.
The new law allows the fund to borrow up to $20 million interest-free. It aims to offer West Virginia a less costly alternative to the hefty interest payments that accompany the federal loans that have kept the unemployment funds of 34 states solvent during and since the Great Recession.
Twenty-eight states, including all of West Virginia's neighbors except Maryland, continue to owe $40 billion.
West Virginia's unemployment rate, when adjusted for seasonal hiring trends, fell from 9.1 percent to 8.8 percent in April. Last month marked the first time since November that the state's rate was lower than the national rate, which rose slightly to 9 percent.
The state's fund provided benefits to more than 16,850 job-seeking residents during the last week of April, according to the latest available figures. That's down from the year-to-date high of 25,880 claimants from early February. Initial weekly claims filings as of April 30 were 1,470, down from the year's high of 3,290 from early January.