News 12 @ 6 o'clock -- January 26, 2009
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. --- It's an all too familiar scene at the Aiken County employment security commission. People waiting, looking and hoping to find a job or at least get benefits. And it's a routine job seeker Jennifer Levin says doesn't come easy.
"When I first got laid off, they told me i had to go to the unemployment office. Going in and out of the office a few times a week for like two or three hours at a time, not knowing if I was actually going to get my benefits," said Levin.
But all those benefits nearly dried up. Back in 2008 Gov. Mark Sanford threatened to end the payouts. But before that, an audit of the agency shows they lost around $2 million a week from 2002 to 2004. That's more than $200 million dollars gone.
"Every Tuesday I get a check in the mail so when it's not there, I get concerned," said Levin.
One reason the money dwindled, South Carolina, unlike most states allows employees to receive unemployment even if they lose their jobs because of their own misconduct. One example shown in the audit said an employee was fired for too many absences due to his incarceration. That's right he was paid to sit in jail and he ended up collecting almost $6,000 in unemployment. Its a trend that left the state more than $700 million in debt. All of it money to make sure the unemployed could get paid.
"It kind of makes you upset because there's so many people out there that actually lost their jobs and need money and they're actually looking for that money and depend on it," said Levin.
But now that the state's taking a closer look at where the money is going, people like Jennifer can rest assured they'll get their checks, at least for now.
The senate voted 41-2 to overhaul the agency so when something like this happens, someone can be held accountable.