COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) announced the claim week ending May 16th saw the 5th straight week of decline in new initial unemployment claims.
However, the number of initial claims is still well beyond the typical week. Also, WLTX has received several messages from residents who still have not received their benefits or are having other issues filing.
A Richland County woman, who did not want to be identified for this story, told WLTX she filed for unemployment in early April and is still waiting for benefits.
“The issue delaying payment was removed on May 13th and they told me it would take 24-48 hours to receive payment. Still, to this day, I have not received payment yet,” the woman said on a phone call.
She says she was supposed to start a new job near the end of March, but it never happened due to the pandemic.
So, she applied for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in early April, since she had already exhausted her regular unemployment benefits.
PUA does cover benefits for people who were unable to begin employment opportunities due to the pandemic, according to documents posted on SCDEW’s website.
The Richland County woman said the now more than two months without benefits has been a struggle.
“I've had car situations, car issues, I've had to contact the people I bought my car from to return it back, because without me knowing when I'm going to receive anything from unemployment, it's hard,” she said.
She also moved to Charlotte to receive help from her family. After multiple calls and emails over the last month and a half, she still has not received PUA or state benefits.
In South Carolina Senate Re-Open South Carolina Select Committee testimony on Thursday, SCDEW’s Executive Director, Dan Ellzey, said they've been overwhelmed.
“This is a staggering, high number of people filing claims every day. Three to four times higher than what we were seeing in 2008 and 2009. So, the problem that we face today is not -- to be honest, we are far better off than we were three weeks ago, four weeks ago. But, we've still got our work cut out for us, both in terms of processing claims, helping people get the benefits they are entitled to at this point, and maintaining the trust fund which is, of course, going to be challenged,” Ellzey told the Committee on Thursday morning.
New claims have been decreasing for weeks, however the Department has repeatedly said it’s still a record number of people working through the system.
Some of those people are still waiting and don't know what to do if another month comes and goes.
“God, graceful God, I have no -- I don't know,” the woman said if she does not receive benefits by the end of May.
The SCDEW call center will continue taking calls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.