Due to budget shortfalls, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs laid off 40 percent of its staff this past week. Twenty-four employees were let go after the department was not allowed to forgive its $748,000 deficit from the fiscal year which just ended.
Critics said Consumer Affairs could have avoided the sudden major elimination of staff if it had managed its budget better.
But Agency Administrator Brandolyn Pinkston says they did all they could. And she says the layoffs happening at the beginning of a new fiscal year, as opposed to the middle or end of the last fiscal year, makes it easier on everyone. “The longer into the fiscal year you wait to reduce or eliminate the deficit, the larger the number of personnel reductions have to be made. As unfortunate as it is that this had to occur, we did it at the beginning of the fiscal year so that it wouldn’t be so widespread.”
Consumer Affairs receives consumer complaints about businesses operating in South Carolina and licenses certain professions.
But Pinkston emphasizes that her department is especially important during these harsh financial times. “In these economic times, the department has been a one-stop shop for consumers who have been victimized through mortgage fraud, through the housing crisis, through loan and credit card issues.”
Pinkston says the Consumer Affairs Outreach Program has been fulfilling its mission of consumer education by visiting locations around South Carolina, including Charleston, Florence, Summerville, Spartanburg, Laurens and Greenwood. She says instead of being in outreach locations everyday or every week, they’re reducing those local visitations to once monthly.
And other state workers are dealing with the recession. The Budget and Control Board laid off 27 employees recently. The Budget and Control Board still has more than 1000 employees.