Additional $300 unemployment checks might take weeks to arrive, DEW officials say

Additional $300 unemployment checks might take weeks to arrive, DEW officials say
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce says the number of initial unemployment claims received through the week ending Saturday was twice that of the previous week. (Source: AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Unemployed South Carolinians saw a big dip in their weekly checks after the CARES Act funding ended in July, but state employment officials said on Thursday that more money could be coming to those who are unemployed.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce applied for a grant program called the Lost Wages Assistance Program that would put an additional $300 each week in the pockets of many who are unemployed.

President Donald Trump created the Lost Wages Assistance Grant Program in response to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program expiring in late July. The Federal Emergency Management Agency can allocate up to $44 billion from this program to help those struggling with unemployment due to the coronavirus.

DEW Chief of Staff Jamie Suber said it could be two to four weeks before anyone sees this money. The agency submitted the application Wednesday and they are waiting for approval.

However, for many people who are on unemployment currently, they said the boost in weekly checks can’t come soon enough.

“It’s as close to unbearable as you can think of,” Gaston resident Bill Boozer said. “You are trying to stay positive because of corona and you want to stay home, but you are worried about money coming in, you are worried about paying your house payment worried about food on the table, and you can’t go out to eat so you have to worry about staying at home and having food.”

It’s a struggle that Boozer and many others depending on their weekly unemployment checks said got worse at the end of July when the CARES Act funding expired.

“When they were giving out those $600 checks I was able to pay my bills, but when they cut it down to $77 a week, it made it hard to even keep gas in the car,” Gaston resident Melissa McAlister said.

FEMA approved 32 other states for funding over the last two weeks. DEW officials said they had been waiting on the go-ahead from Governor Henry McMaster, which they received Wednesday.

“Based on the request, those individuals would potentially receive an additional $300 on top of their weekly benefit amount for those receiving over $100,” Suber said.

However, Suber said those receiving claims under $100 a week won’t qualify.

“They would still receive just their calculated benefit amount,” Suber said.

The payments will be retroactive to August 1, meaning that even if the program isn’t rolled out for another three to four weeks, claimants will receive the stipend for every week since the beginning of August.

“We do see this as something that will help out individuals in need,” Suber said.

Boozer said it’s a way to make ends meet until he can find work. He added he’s hopeful that he will be starting a new job in the next week or two.

“If you’re like most people that I know, you want a job, you want to work and provide for your family, and you need to feel good about what you’re doing,” Boozer said.

The Lost Wages Assistance grant does have a funding cap. Once the $44 billion is allocated, the program will end. The LWA program will expire on December 26 if the funds have not run out before then.

On Thursday, DEW also released the latest unemployment numbers for the week of August 22. More than 5,000 new claims for unemployment were submitted last week in South Carolina, according to state employment officials. That is a decrease of more than 1,700 claims from the week before.

In the past five months, the total number of claims is more than 725,000 in South Carolina.

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