Lawmakers return to the Statehouse (Tuesday) for a special one-day session to consider a law change that will qualify jobless workers for an extended 20 weeks of federal unemployment benefits. Approximately 7,000 South Carolinians lost their benefits ten days ago when state benefits ended. Officials say 30,000 workers will eventually be helped by the extended federal benefits. Lt. Governor Andre Bauer says more than 100,000 residents have exhausted their benefits in recent months.
Even Governor Mark Sanford, who previously hesitated to sign a federal loan for an earlier extension of state benefits, says this federal extension shouldn’t be passed up.
“What is abundantly clear is that it’s worth doing, based on unemployment benefits that would otherwise be left on the table in Washington, DC,” said Sanford. “And if they don’t do it, there are 30,000 people over time who won’t receive benefits.”
Workers now can get up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits between state and federal programs. If approved by lawmakers the extension would bring the potential total length of benefits to 79 weeks.
Sanford says the big difference between the previous extended benefits and those being considered Tuesday is that the federal extended benefit program does not involve a loan: “There’s no such thing as free money out of Washington, DC. I’ve long made stance on that. But this is money that would not be repaid to the feds but would go straight to help families across South Carolina. I think there is a far better benefit in doing it and I understand why they’re doing it.”
Alan Larson is Deputy Director of Unemployment Insurance for the Employment Security Commission. He says not all unemployed workers will be eligible for extended benefits. “We’ll have to do fact-finding on each claim–did they find another job and so forth,” said Larson. “It’s not going to be like a blank check, but for the people who are still eligible, they’ll receive needed funds.”
Larson says eligible workers will be contacted.