South Carolina has borrowed $886.7 million to keep paying jobless benefits as the state's unemployment soared to among the nation's worst during the past two years. The state's 11 percent in September was the nation's sixth worst and well above the national 9.6 percent unemployment rate.
"We are anticipating being able to pay that back by 2015," said Erica Von Nessen, special assistant to the agency's director. The state expects to repay $150 million in 2011, she said.
So far, 32 states have borrowed more than $41 billion to cover unemployment benefits.
Legislators approved a record tax increase on employers this year to repay the loans as they overhauled the agency administering benefits. The old agency became the state's Department of Employment and Workforce and is part of the governor's Cabinet.
With the tax rate overhaul, at least 30,000 — or 35 percent — of the state's employers will see their per-worker tax assessments drop by more than $75 yearly, Von Nessen said.
Those employers have the best records of not laying off or firing workers and fall into best-class ranking for businesses, she said. They'll still have to shoulder a share of repaying the federal loan and a contingency assessment that comes to just more than $10 a year.
The news isn't so good for companies with the worst records. They'll pay more than $1,100 for each worker when the new rates go into effect next year.
Employers will get details of the changes when bills go out at the end of January, the agency's Internet site said.
There are changes in store for workers who lose jobs, too, that take effect Jan. 1.
The state broadened who qualifies for benefits by allowing people who seek part time work to get unemployment checks. Meanwhile, people will also be eligible if they have to quit jobs for compelling reasons including for their or an immediate family member's illnesses or disability or a spouse taking work in another state.