As nearly 100,000 South Carolinians file for unemployment, system still having issues

As nearly 100,000 South Carolinians file for unemployment, system still having issues

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - New numbers released from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) show close to 100,000 people in our state have filed for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 outbreak.

During the week ending in March 28, close to 65,000 South Carolinians filed for unemployment benefits. That’s more than double the amount the department saw the previous week, which was more than 31,000 claims.

Officials say so many people are filing claims, the national system has been overwhelmed.

DEW doesn’t have enough people to field all of the calls coming in, director Jamie Suber said.

“Everything’s on the table in regards to helping us serve this great state," Suber said. “As you can imagine, that’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re working as quickly as possible to get resources in place so we can continue to serve.”

Several people have reached out to WIS saying they can’t file a claim online and that the claim phone number is no longer working.

Newberry residents Kyle and Leanna Miller say the online system is not user-friendly.

Kyle was furloughed last Friday and says it took three hours to fill out the online application, and some of the questions were confusing.

He says there were questions asking if he was able or available to work. He didn’t know how to answer since he is still employed, but on unpaid leave (furloughed).

Kyle says he couldn’t get in touch with anyone to answer his question, and he’s worried he may not have completed the application correctly.

“I called them multiple times throughout the day to try to get a hold of someone," he said. “What it does is when you called it just hung up. It didn’t say anything. There was no recording, it just hung up on you."

DEW says it’s aware of connection issues, and staff are working with their phone vendor to add more phone lines, which will eliminate busy signals. They also say heavy traffic to the online portals have caused slowdowns to pages loading, but Thursday, DEW has doubled the number of servers to help eliminate that issue.

Wednesday, the Millers’ said they finally got notice that their application was pending, but they still don’t know when they will receive their first check, which they say will be worth $289 a week.

The state’s maximum is $326 a week.

“If this lasts longer than a month, which I tend to believe it’s going to, we’re done,” Kyle said. “I mean we don’t have enough (to pay our) mortgage. We don’t have enough to feed our kids.”

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Right now, DEW says it’s still waiting on guidance from the Department of Labor to figure out when money from the CARES Act will help supplement the state’s weekly benefits for unemployed individuals.

Some people are also concerned the application asks if they have completed the weekly job search requirement. However, that requirement has been waived and DEW says people will not be penalized for selecting either answer.

DEW is making changes and upgrades to its online system every night from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. People will not be able to access the system during that time.

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