S.C. residents looking for help with delays in unemployment benefits

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 11:48 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Some South Carolina residents are looking for help over drawn-out claims for unemployment benefits.

They say the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce has been unresponsive to their questions and slow on their claims, costing them valuable time and money.

Rock Hill resident Mary Nelson said she was laid off in January, and as part of the claims process the DEW requested documents showing proof of identity.

As of late March, she said she has received no aid and little information on when that will change, causing stress.

“Waking up every morning not knowing if your vehicle is still going to be outside. Waking up not knowing are your utilities still going to still be on. It’s every day, it’s always what’s going to happen today. If this don’t come, what’s going to happen,” she said.

Gaston resident Phillip Reville said after a months-long appeals process he was approved in January. However, he said the department has been similarly mum on answers about the money when he calls.

“It’s like [they say] I’m sorry we feel for you, but it’s the next level. But they never let you talk to the next level. You can’t speak to anybody,” he said.

DEW Director of Communications Dorothy Weaver told WIS the department could not comment on individual cases over privacy concerns, but the department would look into their situations.

She sent WIS the following statement:

“In the past year, we have processed nearly 1 million initial claims. 5 years’ worth of work – more than 5.5 million staff hours’ worth of work, completed in one year.

At the same time, UI fraud is rampant throughout the country, and our agency has increasingly responded to threats with new and improving measures to ensure that the right people receive benefits.

Every claimant matters to us, and some individuals have complex claims that have to be resolved by an agency professional with years of training and experience. We are doing all we can to help each individual, including implementing a new customer relationship management tool to better serve people when they interact with us.

With more than $5.5 billion paid to South Carolinians since March 15, 2020, we will continue to identify and work with every claimant to provide this critical support.”

The department also posts instructions and updates about the process on its website.

SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center Director Sue Berkowitz said delays have been a trend during the pandemic, and she’s struggled to work with the department on the behalf of clients.

“The whole point of unemployment insurance benefits is that it is a benefit that should be coming if not immediately, then shortly thereafter immediately. When you hear from folks that are appealing and waiting months and months, their lives are falling apart,” she said.

She recommended those who are concerned about the status of their payments to contact their state lawmakers, who may be able to speed up the process.

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