29,000 S.C. unemployed to stop receiving payments by year's end

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COLUMBIA — About 29,000 South Carolinians will stop receiving jobless benefits at year’s end as federally funded extensions expire, the state’s unemployment agency reported Tuesday.

Payments to anyone in that federal program will stop by Jan. 3.

That means a loss of $6.2 million weekly to unemployed South Caro­lin­ians, according to the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

In South Carolina, the average payment is $239 weekly. The maximum is $326.

Anyone filing for unemployment insurance after Dec. 29 will be eligible only for the maximum 20 weeks of state-governed benefits paid by employers.

When the year started, unemployed South Carolinians qualified for a maximum 78 weeks of payments – or 19½ months – thanks to two different federally paid extension programs. One of those, for states with chronically high unemployment, expired in April after the jobless rate dropped below 9 percent.

Congress voted in February to phase out the other program, which will shave off 42 weeks. Those emergency benefits were initially approved by Congress in 2008 and later expanded.

For most in the program’s waning weeks, those payments will end by Dec. 31, though some will receive benefits as late as Jan. 2, agency spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell said.

She could not immediately provide a breakdown on how many weeks the 26,200 otherwise would have remaining.

The counties with the most residents losing benefits are Rich­land (2,508), Greenville (2,285), Charleston (1,852), Horry (1,701) and Spartanburg (1,570). Payments are also ending for 1,755 former residents who left the state after becoming unemployed.

This week, 42,000 people are receiving unemployment payments, Fairwell said.

Last month, the unemployment agency laid off 55 people. It plans to cut an additional 81 jobs by June. Officials hope to make those cuts through attrition.

About 1,100 currently work for the agency, which operates off federal funds.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in October. It hadn’t been that low since November 2008. In the interim, it stayed above 10 percent for 32 months, peaking at 12 percent in November and December of 2009.

Last year, legislators cut the maximum number of state-governed benefits from 26 weeks to 20. At the time, that reduced the total number from 99 to 78 weeks when including the federally paid extensions.

NUMBERS BY COUNTY

The state’s unemployment agency says more than 29,000 people will stop getting unemployment checks by year’s end as federally funded extensions expire. A county-by-county look of those affected:

Abbeville 156

Aiken 698

Allendale 87

Anderson 891

Bamberg 60

Barnwell 337

Beaufort 452

Berkeley 665

Charleston 1,852

Cherokee 505

Chester 335

Chesterfield 139

Clarendon 138

Colleton 395

Darlington/Lee 469

Dillon 282

Dorchester 1,004

Fairfield 249

Florence 950

Georgetown 403

Greenville 2,285

Greenwood 625

Edgefield 69

Hampton 178

Horry 1,701

Jasper 79

Kershaw 512

Lancaster 504

Laurens 463

Lexington 1,073

Marion 440

Marlboro 303

McCormick 35

Newberry 198

Oconee 370

Orangeburg/
Calhoun 1,230

Pickens 573

Richland 2,508

Saluda 44

Spartanburg 1,570

Sumter 913

Union 358

Williamsburg 458

York 910

Former S.C. employees now out of state 1,755

Total 29,221

Source: South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce


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