South Carolinians receiving unemployment will now see an extra $600 per week

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 11:16 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolinians receiving unemployment benefits will now see an extra $600 a week. This is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act.

DEW says 64,000 South Carolina residents received this extra money on Sunday. The agency says it paid out $53 million in federal stimulus money on Sunday, which was authorized by the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. South Carolina is one of the first ten states in the country to roll out this part of the CARES Act.

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If you just filed, you will see the money when you receive your first payment from DEW, and if you are already receiving benefits, you should see the funds sometime this week. The maximum amount of unemployment benefits you can receive a week in South Carolina is $326, but with this extra $600, you could receive up to $926 per week.

“The additional funding, the additional wages, the additional benefits are for individuals to ensure they can put gas in their car, they can put food in the refrigerator and they can help be a balance or be a bridge to gain full employment or an opportunity when they go back to work,” DEW Director Jamie Suber said.

Some South Carolinians who are out of work, like Newberry resident Kyle Miller, say this extra money will help them get by during an extremely difficult time. “We have bills coming up that we’ve been putting off because we can’t afford it, but that would pretty much hold us out until we can pay all of our bills and have enough food," Miller explained.

Miler filed for unemployment three weeks ago, and he says he's been approved for $289 per week. With the federal stimulus money now available in South Carolina, he could receive $889 per week. However, he says he still hasn't received any payment, and his unemployment portal says pending resolution. “I tried to call the phone system several times, and it just drags you back to the same system I’ve already filled out," said Miller.

DEW says it’s increased its call center staff by 400% over the last two weeks, and the agency says it is no longer experiencing technical issues. However, they are still dealing with a large volume of claims and calls.

This extra $600 a week is the first of three federal temporary programs. Now, DEW is working to set up the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA). This will provide funds for self-employed and gig workers. “We are a couple weeks away, but when we can get that system up, we will get communications out to those individuals that may have been denied for regular UI and tell them what the necessary steps will be for them to go forward and move into that program," explained Suber.

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In the meantime, DEW is still encouraging these workers to fill out the regular unemployment claim, even if they’ll likely be denied. "9 times out of 10, they may be denied, but that gives a foundation for a claim for us to reach back out and provide them guidance on the necessary action of going forward," Suber said.

The third federal program DEW will implement is the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. This is designed to help those who have already exhausted the 20 weeks of unemployment the state provides. Under this program, individuals could receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits. However, DEW does not expect to have it up and running until May.

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