Logan County, WV hit hard by unemployment cuts - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Logan County, WV hit hard by unemployment cuts

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The former coal hotbed, Logan County, is among West Virginia's hardest-hit counties by the U.S. Congress's failure to renew an extension to unemployment benefits.

Nearly 7,000 West Virginians are going to lose their benefits this weekend, including 544 in Logan County, according to the Labor Department and Congress's Ways and Means Committee.

We caught up with Steve Smith, a carpenter by trade, who is selling homemade chairs and novelties along Route 10 in West Logan.  He does this to earn extra money, since there is not much opportunity here for someone with his skill set.

His customer, Dennis Browning of Holden, was also a carpenter, and a coal miner.  "Like, at one time, we said we were proud to be a coal miner," says Browning. "But there's no jobs, as far as Logan County, no more."

Browning recalls having to scrap to make ends meet, because once he left the mines, he could not just jump into another job with comparable pay, without a college degree.
Now, with Logan County at a low point economically, unemployment benefits are being slashed from 54 weeks to 26.

We asked Browning what other jobs are available around here.  "Well, you can get a job at one of those hamburger places," says Browning, as he loads a homemade chair into his truck.

In Logan, we met gourmet coffee shop owner, Michael Cline, who says he has been lucky to not have had to lay off employees.  "We haven't really put money into infrastructure to prepare for the coal industry going south, if and when it does," says Cline with a tone of certainty that coal is not a part of this region's future.

Cline, the owner of the eclectic Hot Cup Gourmet Coffee Shop in downtown Logan, comes from a long line of coal miners.

He broke the mold by going into the coffee business, and says he would like to see more dialogue in his community about a future without coal.

"We need to do what Pittsburgh did and what North Carolina did," says Cline. "We should prepare for new infrastructure and some sort of income into the state whether it be tourism or maybe hemp growth."

New and controversial ideas may be what helps this community let go of a dying industry, and solve its problems of long-term unemployment and poverty.

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