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CHARLESTON — West Virginia would pay unemployed people a $500 sign-up bonus for returning to work under a plan expected to be finalized soon.

The bonus would be half of what Republican Gov. Jim Justice initially suggested could be offered to workers.

He said earlier in May that the bonus would be $1,000, which would require the employer to pay half and the state to cover the rest.

On Tuesday he said he didn’t want to “put any additional pain on our small businesses” even though he believed some would “gladly step up and pay the $500 match.”

He said he expects the bonus, which “may only be the $500,” to come out of the state’s coffers. The governor said the program could be finalized by the time of his next coronavirus briefing, likely later this week.

“We need to encourage people to get back to work,” Justice said.

Justice announced earlier this month the state will end its additional pandemic-era boost for unemployment benefits on June 19, including the additional $300 a week for those without a job.

West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.8% in April, the lowest since March 2020, when it was 5.3%.

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