The problem with taking food and lodging deductions is that he doesn't have a "tax home", so he's not "away from home" while traveling, making meals and lodging "personal", non-deductible, expenses. Mileage, tolls, and parking fees at prospective employers are allowable, but not meals and lodging, unless you want to take a very aggressive stance. In any case, WV doesn't recognize itemized deductions, so the WV tax is left untouched. Mileage at 55 cents/mile x 8,125 miles would be $4,468.75, so you would still need to find $1,231.25 in additional deductions before any Federal itemized deductions would start to be allowed. Actual vehicle expenses would probably be higher, but better records would have had to have been kept; not only the locations of the jobs applied for, separating business and non-business mileage, but the actual gas prices, prices and location of any vehicle repairs or maintenance, auto insurance, vehicle registration payments, the original basis (probably cost, unless there was a trade-in of vehicles partially used for business reasons), and probably some other factors I haven't considered.
I don't know what "employee" business expenses
would be appropriate for an unemployed electrician; perhaps there's some indication in the IRS audit manual. All I can think of, off-hand, are: If he owns his own tools, then tool depreciation would probably still be allowable. Union dues and training (as long as it's helpful in his current occupation and doesn't qualify him for a new occupation) should be deductible.
As for the year it's paid back, once he pays back $5048 (provided he pays back at least $3000 per year), his modified tax due for 2009 is $0, and he would get a full credit for whatever Federal tax he paid for 2009, probably not including interest and penalties. I suppose the interest (from April 15, 2010 to whenever his 2009 income tax is actually paid) and penalty (there shouldn't be any Federal penalty, but there may be a WV penalty) would not be refundable.