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McMaster directs South Carolina to return to pre-COVID unemployment program

SC DEW
SC DEW((Source: WIS))
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 4:27 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - Gov. Henry McMaster has directed state officials to return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs beginning next month.

According to a statement from his office, the governor on Thursday directed the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce to terminate the state’s involvement in all federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs starting June 30.

“South Carolina’s businesses have borne the brunt of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those businesses that have survived – both large and small, and including those in the hospitality, tourism, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors – now face an unprecedented labor shortage,” McMaster wrote in a letter to DEW Executive Director Dan Ellzey.

“This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits,” the governor continued. “In many instances, these payments are greater than the worker’s previous paychecks. What was intended to be a short-term financial assistance for the vulnerable and displaced during the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal entitlement, incentivizing and paying workers to stay at home rather than encouraging them to return to the workplace.”

The move comes as South Carolina is embattled in a workforce shortage, according to state officials.

Ellzey said there are currently 81,684 open positions in South Carolina, with hotel and foodservice industries being hit the hardest.

“No area of the economy has been spared from the pain of a labor shortage,” he said. “While the federal funds supported our unemployed workers during the peak of COVID-19, we fully agree that reemployment is the best recovery plan for South Carolinians and the economic health of the state.”

Ellzey also said last week’s initial claims for unemployment were the lowest statewide since the pandemic began.

“Employers around the state are eager to hire and anxious to get South Carolina back to business,” he said.

In a memo to the governor, Ellzey outlined some of the existing federal unemployment programs and what will change come June 30.

The programs include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (EPUC)
  • Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
  • Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations
  • Temporary Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week

Click here to read Ellzey’s full memo to the governor here.

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