While the General Assembly spars over what reforms are needed at the state’s agency to serve the unemployed, business leaders are calling for more drastic measures.
“We believe that in the best interest of the state and the best interest of the business community and our employees, that it’s time for the Employment Security Commission to step down,” says Otis Rawl, president and CEO of South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. “There’s just so many anomalies happening over there that are adversely affecting public opinion as well as just their general ability to oversee and run the fund.”
The House and Senate are now simultaneously working on bills to reform the ESC. The agency has been under criticism for both relying on federal funds to extend unemployment and then running out of those funds before applying for more.
The agency’s leadership defends its work under while “straining under the weight of the heavy load of a 12.6 percent unemployment rate.”
ESC spokesman Clark Newsome says, “It has put us behind in just about every area because we are dealing with six different federal programs that we have not had to deal with before. Just the simple load that you are trying to take care of in a recession that this state and nation have never seen before.”
A House ESC Subcommittee has an amendment to its ESC reform bill, H.3442. That legislation includes: making the ESC a cabinet agency called the Department of Workforce. It would immediately relieving commissioners of their administrative duties and remove commissioners from the appeals process by the end of the year. The legislation also would restrict payouts to employees fired for gross misconduct, reduce benefits paid to employees already receiving severance packages and eliminate employer-filed claims for those companies with negative unemployment account balances.
Last week the Senate batted around a proposal to require random drug tests for people who are on unemployment.