By Ann Angermeier, CEO, Upstate Workforce Board

    To say there has been a plethora of calls coming into the SC Works and Workforce Board offices in this region would be the understatement of the year. Of course, nobody could have anticipated such a drain on our economy and the labor force separation that this pandemic has caused. The unemployment insurance and social security systems were not designed for such volume. The unemployment system connects with the social security system to verify social security numbers.

    Individuals have become quite frustrated with their attempts to apply for unemployment, and employers have also experienced problems in group filings for their separated employees. There have been 266,000 claims processed as of Monday, April 13, 2020. There are three types of unemployment tied to the funds from the CARES Act:

    • The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is being processed now. These funds may be retroactive to April 4, 2020. $600 per week will be added to the individual’s current unemployment benefits that they are receiving.
    • As of April 13, 2020, the unemployment system was still not turned on for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims. These are funds for those who are self-employed, 1099 workers, independent contractors, gig economy employees, church employees and claimants who have exhausted their regular UI benefits. PUA-eligible individuals should still apply, but they may receive messages that they are ineligible until the system is turned on. Individuals should still move forward with applying now. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is retroactive to February 8, 2020 for those affected back to that point in time.
    • The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) allows an additional 13 weeks of benefits. This system is not yet activated.

    Individuals and employers should be persistent and patient. Online applications should be the means used to apply; however, if individuals must apply through the phone system (1-866-831-1724), it may take many attempts. Some have called up to 35 times and not gotten through. Individuals should only call this number between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. It is very important that you leave your contact information as you will be placed in a queue. Also, be prepared to receive a call in the evening as there are a lot of individuals in the queue.

    All of this is not the fault of any one agency or individual. Systems were just not built for a crisis such as this on such a large scale. I do applaud Mr. Daniel Ellzey, the Executive Director of the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW). He decided to move forward with paying pandemic unemployment before receiving the federal pandemic funds. Mr. Ellzey realized that people are hurting and need the financial support. Just in the last few days, the SCDEW paid out $53,000,000 in federal stimulus dollars.

    Click here for frequently asked questions regarding unemployment insurance during COVID-19.