COLUMBIA, S.C. (WJBF) — Unemployment claims in South Carolina continue to rise since the start of the pandemic. Americans who are self-employed, gig workers, or freelancers can now apply.
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce is working to make sure the application process is a smooth one. Here in South Carolina close to 269,000 new claims came into the unemployment insurance program in the last four weeks. “We’ve never seen this record number of claims coming into the unemployment program,” Chief Administrative Officer Jamie Suber said.
The agency expanding quickly to keep up with the surge in calls. “I think when we look back four weeks, we average over close to 50 dedicated representatives. I think now going into next week we’ll go from 50 to close to 400 plus,” he shared.
It’s needed too. The agency finally got more information from the Department of Labor involving independent contractors. “We are working very hard with our vendor to make those modifications and configure our system. So this program will be made available to those in need in the upcoming weeks. We’re working tirelessly to ensure that those that may be ineligible for regular UI may be eligible for the pandemic unemployment assistance program,” Suber added.
For those already enrolled in the unemployment program, you’ll see additional green thanks to the federal pandemic unemployment compensation plan. The program provides those getting at least one dollar of unemployment during the week to see a little extra. “So those individuals that have already been found eligible for regular UI benefits now are receiving the additional $600 on top of that. Regular UI benefits as well as the additional $600 that total up close to 115 million in payments,” Suber shared.
The news couldn’t come at a better time at one local hospital. It was announced Aiken Regional would furlough 54 of its employees to offset losses. Those employees will be eligible for benefits, too.
To put those new numbers into perspective, officials say those new claims equal out to about 11 percent of the state’s total workforce.
Long hold times have plagued the system. Residents can visit https://dew.sc.gov/ to get answers to general questions.