COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thousands of South Carolinians relying on unemployment will receive their last payments this month, as federal benefits are set to expire. This comes as many are already struggling to pay rent and bills.
Charleston resident, Sanya Oliver Spencer, is worried if this money stops coming in at the same time eviction protections are set to end, this could force her family and others to have to move. “People are going to be homeless; people are going to be hungry, and they are going to have a whole lot of problems on their hands,” Oliver explained.
She has been without work since the end of March after she was laid off from her job with Discover. “My company that I work for has been devastated,” said Oliver. “My account was ABC and Disney, and you see where Disney is laying off all them people.”
Oliver started drawing benefits in April, and she’s also still waiting on her $1,800 Lost Wages Assistance check that the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) began distributing at the end of September. “Every time I call, you’re being told the same thing,” she explained. “They are looking at your stuff, and it looks good; Just give it some more time. How much more time are you supposed to give it when obviously the system is not working.”
Federal programs provided Oliver and others weekly help longer than the state’s cap of 20 weeks, but the Extended Benefits (EB) program, which adds an additional 10 weeks, expires December 12. That’s because South Carolina’s three-month unemployment rate average dropped below 6.5 percent.
All other federal unemployment programs end on December 26. “We are all very committed in the Department of Employment and Workforce in helping South Carolinians through this time,” said Paul Famolari, DEW Deputy General Counsel. “In terms of deciding when these programs are stopped, or what their requirements are, our hands are tied; We really have to follow the law that the federal government passes down and the rules that they put in place.”
As families, like the Olivers, try to pinch pennies to prepare for what’s ahead, they’re urging lawmakers to act now to help keep them on their feet. “We are like stressed out to the limit because right now after we pay rent and whatever bills, there’s nothing,” said Oliver.
South Carolinians who have not yet exhausted their 20 weeks of state unemployment benefits will continue to receive them until they hit that cap. If federal programs aren’t extended or new ones approved, South Carolinians who applied for unemployment back in April will not be eligible to apply for help again until April of 2021.
DEW has also launched Project Job One to help match unemployed individuals with one of the 81,000 jobs available on their website.