COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Officials with the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) say it’s normal anytime a new federal program is implemented to have high call volumes. This as dozens of viewers have complained to WIS-TV that they’re experiencing long wait times and struggling to get answers surrounding their unemployment assistance.
This week, the DEW started sending out one-time payments through the federal Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, which South Carolina was approved for at the beginning of September. For weeks, many have been wondering when they would receive this additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits, on top of the approximate $100 they receive each week from the state.
With South Carolina approved to provide LWA benefits for a total of six weeks, the DEW has said those who qualify will receive a one-time payment of $1,800. Those checks have started going out this week, but the confusion continues as claimants complain that they haven’t been able to correctly submit their paperwork online to receive payment.
Some also say that trying to get help from the DEW over the phone can, at times, mean waiting on hold for hours.
Andrea Mallard of Lexington County said, “It’s almost like being Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz because you feel like you’re having to go through all these little people to try to get to this big guy behind a screen that’s not going to communicate with you.”
The 48-year-old adding that, “I’ve never had to file for unemployment and with this catastrophe that we’re all enduring, I was a victim of it and they don’t take into consideration these day-to-day battles that these families are having to deal with.”
While Mallard did recently receive her one-time payment, like many others, she was not able to cash the check right away.
Officials with the DEW say they are working with their banking vendor, Bank of America, to ensure that people can cash or deposit those checks at different businesses across the state. However, claimants are being encouraged to first try with larger financial institutions because some places may not have enough cash on hand.
For banks or financial institutions that have questions about cashing or depositing these checks, one DEW representative says there is a phone line specifically for financial institutions and cash checking companies to contact the DEW directly should they need to verify anything regarding the check.