S.C. job search requirement poses hurdle to some who are unemployed

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 8:32 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. - Some South Carolina residents on unemployment benefits are already running into problems meeting a renewed requirement to prove they’re looking for work.

The requirement was put on hold more than a year ago because of the pandemic but was reinstated this week by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.

Some say the website used to access the system, called SC Works, is too hard to use, and that can make it hard to get benefits.

“The SC DEW website just makes it, it’s not user-friendly. It’s incredibly clunky. Anyone who’s moderately tech savvy is going to struggle with their website,” said DeDe Wylie.

Employment officials say if you need help, you should reach out to your local SC Works center.

There’s one center in Aiken, and you can call it at 803-641-1065.

To comply with the rules, recipients will need to create a profile with SC Works and complete two searches weekly before each Saturday to ensure their benefits continue.

This can be done with the SC Works website or the SCWOS app (which is free).

The searches do not require applications or interviews, and there are exceptions.

Those include:

  • Being diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Quarantining as a result of COVID-19
  • Caring for someone as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

DEW Spokesperson Heather Biance said the department decided to bring the requirement back as the economic situation of the state improved.

“The reality is these federal programs will at some point go away, and we just don’t people to be caught off guard where at that point the unemployment goes away, and they’re without a job,” she said.

The return of the requirement has been met with criticism.

Wylie, of Sumter, said her mother lacks a computer, and the DEW website/customer service has unhelpful. She said it’s another hoop in a process that is already a challenge.

“You get frustrated and you’re going to get frustrated, you can’t get help and you’re going to give up. Well that’s going to kick you off the system and you’re going to quit getting assistance, and that’s not fair,” she said.

Wylie’s frustrations are echoed by SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center Director Sue Berkowitz.

Berkowitz has been outspoken on unemployment benefit issues in the past and is concerned this will compound them.

“This morning, I received I believe 10 or 12 emails from people who are already stuck in the system, that has nothing to do with whether or not they’ve completed the job search. This is being stuck in the system from all the other problems from the last number of weeks,” she said Monday.

Biance said there are resources online for those with questions, additionally, there are resources over the phone.

The time is now

Biance says now is the time to start thinking about finding a new job before the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation boost to benefits runs out.

“You can be selective now,” Biance said. “The reality is at some point these federal extension programs and the supplemental dollars though the FPUC program will expire and we do not want people to be caught off guard. We want people to go back to work on their terms.”

Biance says finding a job can be a long and difficult process, which is why the searches required for benefits do not have to result in an interview or even an application.

“They simply can search for a position or jobs available in their geographic region for something that they would be qualified for,” Biance said. “Some people may be overcomplicating it. State regulation does not state they have to apply for a job or interview for a job each week; they simply have to do a search.”

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