COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than 100,000 South Carolinians are still relying on unemployment benefits to help make ends meet.
For many of them, that weekly income has been cut off since the middle of December.
Friday, thousands received some relief as the Department of Employment and Workforce launched its Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extension program.
“When you don’t know how you are going to provide anything for anybody, it’s an awful feeling,” said 41-year-old Irmo mom Whitney Miracle. “It’s defeating.”
Miracle lost her job last March when the pandemic hit, and she hasn’t been able to find work. When South Carolina’s Extended Benefits program expired December 12, she says she had no money to pay bills.
“To have that support of unemployment to just drop out, you’re left not sure what’s going to happen,” Miracle said. “It’s terrifying.”
But the PEUC extension will provide her with 13 additional weeks of payments. She received her first deposit Thursday night.
“We saw our payments had been made, so I was elated,” she explained. “It coming through was a blessing.”
DEW says it didn’t receive guidance from the Department of Labor on how to implement the three federal programs until January 3. Chief of Staff Jamie Suber says the program is very technical, and the agency had to work with their vendor to ensure people would be paid correctly.
“We do know people are hurting people are in need, but I know that in regard to states rolling out programs, we are leading the pack,” said Suber. “We are one of the trailblazing states in regard to rolling out all three programs as quickly as we’ve done.”
DEW paid out more than $49 million in one day. If you believe you are eligible for PEUC but have not yet been paid, DEW says you need to log into your portal and ensure you’ve certified each week dating back to January 2. You receive money until you do that.
WIS also asked DEW what people should do if their account has a pending notice.
“Please reach out to us,” said Suber. “Obviously, we are still seeing high call volumes on Mondays and Tuesdays, but still reach out to us. We will do all we can to research your inquiry and provide you as quickly as possible some type of resolution.”
Suber says the agency has seen a spike in calls over the past three weeks, but he says they still have 450 call center employees ready to help.
This PEUC extension is the third and final program DEW had to implement. The first program, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program extension rolled out January 4. That provides an extra $300 a week to those receiving benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program extension, which provides benefits for self-employed and gig workers, launched on January 8.
DEW also notes there are currently 75,000 available jobs posted on the SC Works website. You can access that site by clicking this link.