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Unemployment claims drop again as state awaits federal guidance

Staff Report //August 13, 2020//

Unemployment claims drop again as state awaits federal guidance

Staff Report //August 13, 2020//

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Unemployment claims dropped below 6,000 for the first time in 21 weeks in South Carolina.

The 5,921 initial claims filed for the week ending Aug. 8 marked a decrease of 2,988 from the previous week and the lowest number since mid-March, according to data from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

The agency has paid more than $3.75 billion in a combination of state and federal unemployment benefits in that period.

“A new milestone has been reached as initial claims numbers come in under 6,000 new filers this week,” Dan Ellzey, DEW executive director, said in a news release. “However, to keep things in context, this is still three times higher than the weekly totals we were experiencing in the weeks prior to the COVID-19 pandemic fully affecting South Carolina.”

Ellzey said the agency is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor after a presidential memorandum was signed last week that would provide up to $400 a week in additional benefits to eligible claimants.

The additional benefit, between the extension of the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits sought by Democrats and a $200-a-week benefit proposed by Republicans, requires states to pay 25% of the supplement benefit. The $400-a-week benefit, projected to be available for approximately five weeks, would be available to anyone receiving at least $100 a week in unemployment benefits and who provides self-certification or whole or partial unemployment because of disruptions caused by the COVID-10 health crisis, according to the memorandum.

“While we do not yet have guidance from the Department of Labor on how to implement this program, we do know several things,” Ellzey said. “First, there will be additional funds added to an eligible claimant’s weekly benefit amount. Second, the payments will be made retroactive to claim week ending August 1, 2020. For that reason, it is critical for claimants to continue certifying each week that they are unemployed to ensure any back pay owed to them is processed without delay.”

Ellzey said expected system coding changes mean it will likely take several weeks before any additional retroactive benefits are received.

For the week ending Aug. 8, Richland County led the state in initial unemployment filings for the second straight week, with 583. Greenville County saw 547 claims filed, Charleston County 368, Horry County 365 and Lexington County 340.