July 25, 2014

SC jobless can still file for unemployment benefit extensions

More than 84,000 South Carolinians will still be able to file for extended unemployment benefits, even though federal funding for it will cease at the end of the month.

The state Department of Employment and Workforce says it will allow those who are out of work to continue filing for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), in case Congress eventually passes a new extension. The DEW’s director of benefits, Johnny Nash, says that’s happened before.

Assuming that they may provide another extension or another deadline, we are telling our claimants to go ahead and come in and file so that we will have everything prepared if (Congress) files an extension.

The EUC is for those who have exhausted their regular unemployment insurance after 26 weeks. It consists of four tiers that add additional benefits for set amounts of time, eventually providing up to 79 overall.

The first tier of the EUC program paid for up to an additional 20 weeks of benefits to workers in South Carolina. Up to an additional 14 weeks was allowed in Tier 2, while up to 13 weeks were allowed in Tier 3 and 6 weeks in Tier 4 for claimants in states—like South Carolina—with high levels of unemployment.

The program is set to expire on November 30. For those who used up their regular jobless benefits before last Saturday’s deadline, that means they must apply for Tier 1 before November 27. Those seeking to move on to the next tier must also file by that date.

Nash said those receiving the benefits will be able to finish out their term, but cannot move on.

Whatever the balance is in your tier, you can complete that. However, once that tier is exhausted… you cannot advance. If you were in Tier 1, you could not advance to Tier 2.

He encouraged people to continue filing, however, in case Congress approves a new extension.

The Extended Benefits (EB) program will expire a week later, on December 6. It allows states that met certain criteria, such as South Carolina, to continue with another 20 weeks of benefits for those who had used up their EUC eligibility. However, Nash said South Carolina no longer fits the criteria, and will stop paying the benefits.

It’s kind of like a light switch. We triggered on, we started paying extended benefits… Well, our unemployment rate actually dropped to a point where we triggered off. So the light switch was turned off and there are no more EB benefits which will be paid.

Extended benefits will expire next month because the state’s insured unemployment rate (which essentially measures the percentage of those filing continued claims over the total number of employees covered by state employment law) dropped below five percent.

Nash says those who have used up their EUC benefits will no longer be able to apply for extended benefits after the deadline, unless that rate goes up again.

Those receiving normal unemployment benefits will not be affected.