Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Legislative Democrats fired verbal shots at Governor Nikki Haley, saying she is attacking rural South Carolinians.

"The members of the house and senate democratic caucus stand here today to express our continued disappointment in what appears to be the governor's war on the unemployed in rural South Carolina," said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, of Richland County.

Democrats from both houses of the General Assembly held a news conference Tuesday morning speaking out against ending unemployment insurance services at 17 offices.

"This is an attack on rural South Carolina, it's an attack on those people trying to apply for unemployment benefits, and it's an attack on those people who need benefits the most," said Rutherford.

Here are some mileage estimate from Google Maps on how far those impacted by the changes will have to travel.

Bamberg to Orangeburg: 30 miles
Saint Matthews to Orangeburg: 26 miles
Bishopville to Sumter: 30 miles
Manning to Sumter: 22 miles
Saluda to Newberry: 26 miles
Winnsboro to Columbia: 28 miles.

"I think it's unfair and I think it's an attack on the working people and making a terrible situation even worse. They're the people that can least afford the $50 to put gas in the car and drive. They're the least ones that can afford it and there was never any cooperation with DEW to us on how to go about this," said Fairfield County Sen. Creighton Coleman

Legislative Democrats say it frustrates them that lawmakers were not consulted about how to handle the situation, and some say it shows how the governor has too much control.

"It's clear the governor is running for re-elections because what this is gonna do, is drive the number of people who file claims down, to artificially make it look like more people are employed because fewer people are filing," said Orangeburg Sen. Brad Hutto.

Haley says adjustments had to be made based on changes from the federal government.

"Let's remember it's a good thing when you downsize government, but you also have to look at the fact, you had a $102,000 in claims in 2011, you have $62,000 in 2013. You can't reduce the number of claims, reduce the number of claimants and not think you're gonna reduce the size of government. This was the feds who reduced revenue to us. It is the good part of business for us to turn around and say we have to respond to that and be efficient," she said.

Haley's office also responded to the claims that she is waging a war or attacking rural South Carolina saying the war she is fighting is against unemployment.

"That's why our economy is roaring back and unemployment in our state has gone done to its lowest level in four years. Gov. Haley measures success by how many South Carolinians have jobs, not by how many unemployment offices we have," said a statement from her spokesman Rob Godfrey.
He says state focus on rural communities has resulted in 5,700 new jobs recruited to rural areas, making up nearly 25% of the jobs announced.

DEW echoed similar sentiments. Spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell says the re-assignments were based on statistics and data, and they decided to move those services from lower volume areas to one with high volume.

Fairwell says the agency doesn't target rural areas and that re-employment services like job searches and interview preparations will still be available in those affected locations.

Read or Share this story: