Counting up the red numbers at The Greenbrier

A guard greets someone at the entrance to The Greenbrier Thursday. The Greenbrier made the decision Wednesday evening to suspend operations due to coronavirus COVID-19, after consideration and upon the advice of state and national government and health officials. The White Sulphur Springs resort employs around 1,600 employees on active status, and is one of the biggest tourist hotspots in the state. (Jenny Harnish/The Register-Herald)

The Greenbrier resort announced this past Wednesday that it would cease all operations at noon Thursday and reopen at 11 a.m. April 17.

With employment that ranges between 1,600 and 2,000, depending on the season, the 710-room hotel and luxury resort near White Sulphur Springs is easily the largest private employer in Greenbrier County. With most, if not all, of those employees now on a low-earnings layoff, the county’s unemployment figures are expected to spike.

While the state’s unemployment rate stood at 5.4 percent in January, Greenbrier County’s jumped a full point – from 4.7 percent in December to 5.7 percent in January.

West Virginia’s maximum weekly unemployment benefit is $424; the minimum is $24. Benefits may continue for a maximum of 26 weeks.

Resort employees approached by a reporter for information for this article declined to speak on the record, citing nondisclosure agreements they were required to sign in order to hold jobs at The Greenbrier.

One employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said her department was notified by a supervisor about the impending announcement of layoffs approximately a half-hour before the media were notified. Asked if the resort’s action came as a surprise, the employee said, “I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t have known it was coming.”

Peter Bostic, chairman of the Greenbrier Council of Labor Unions, told WVVA television reporter Haley Brown that employees would retain their health insurance under the terms set forth in the layoff.

Bostic did not return messages from The Register-Herald seeking further information.

Likewise, Cam Huffman, director of public relations and content at the resort, did not respond to a list of questions emailed to his work address Friday morning.

The Greenbrier is owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice. His daughter, Dr. Jill Justice, is the resort’s president.

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