Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- State Lawmakers want to know why the state's unemployment agency is giving out raises even as it lays off workers.
Senators brought up the salary increases during the session Thursday morning after questioning an agency representative during the Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee.
"It's a mess and where it's suffering is rural counties and that's not right," said Fairfield County Senator Creighton Coleman.
Last week Democrats held a news conference speaking out against the Department of Employment and Workforce ending unemployment insurance services in rural areas with high unemployment.
They are even more upset now to hear other employees are getting raises, even as 75 people have lost their jobs as part of the agency's restructuring plan, and that others are having a more difficult time getting help.
It is a change that's going to force some people who need unemployment insurance to travel 20 to 70 miles for some services.
Senators provided News19 with copies of information from the State Office of Human Resources, a division of the Budget and Control Board.
From August 1, 2012 to February 5, 2013 DEW provided more than $437,000 in raises to 69 employees. It's money that lawmakers feel could have been spent retaining services and jobs.
"I think it's reprehensible about what they've done and to be quite frank, DEW has not cooperated with inquiries. We're having to get this information from other agencies, which to me shows that they're not being forthright with us in giving us the information," said Coleman.
"When we're told they had to reduce these services and then we're told they're going on two beach trips, and then we're told there's $437,000 in raises, that just doesn't compute, and we're just frustrated why we're not getting any answers," said Anderson County Senator Kevin Bryant.
"The majority of pay increases DEW has given are additional job duties and responsibilities as the workforce reduces and agency restructures and internal promotions," read a statement from DEW Spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell.
The agency says salaries are in line with other state agencies, still lawmakers want more answers.
"I think the real question is how does it make the people of South Carolina feel for us to be cutting services to people who need them the most particularly in rural South Carolina at the same time raising people's salaries and going on trips and conferences to luxury resorts, " said Senator Nikki Setzler of Lexington County.
DEW says employees did take several trips recently including some to Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head.
Fairwell says they were Veterans Conferences that were funded by federal dollars they receive annually of about $100,000 from the US Department of Labor.