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Group of SC residents suing McMaster for ending fed pandemic unemployment assistance
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of unnamed plaintiffs is suing the governor of South Carolina and the head of the state's Department of Employment in Workforce, claiming they forfeited more than half a billion dollars in benefits that would have otherwise gone to hard-hit residents.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the Court of Common Pleas in the Fifth Judicial Circuit and accuses Governor Henry McMaster and DEW Director G. Daniel Ellzey of working against the best interests of South Carolinians.
"South Carolina law requires the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (“DEW”) to act as necessary to secure all benefits available under the Social Security Act, like the enhanced unemployment benefits at issue in this case, for the benefit of the State of South Carolina and her citizens," the lawsuit said. "Defendants’ actions are plainly contrary to this statutory obligation."
Governor McMaster's decision to drop the benefits came months ahead of the September expiration date with the hope of helping the state's many businesses fill vacant positions.
But the plaintiffs in Wednesday's lawsuit, identified only by their initials due to the sensitive information involved and fear of retaliation, said the decision to end Pandemic Unemployment Benefits by June 30 actually caused irreparable harm.
"As a result of Defendants’ premature termination of these benefits, Plaintiffs have each suffered and will continue to suffer, hardships related to the loss or reduction of their Unemployment Insurance benefits," the lawsuit said.
The suit goes on to claim that, while recovery is underway, "it is incomplete" with "thousands of South Carolina families" still struggling to recover financially.
"South Carolinians received over $39,000,000 less in Pandemic Unemployment Benefits between July 4, 2021, and July 10, 2021, than they did the week before Defendants’ decision to opt-out of those benefits took effect," the lawsuit continued. "This weekly loss will most likely increase as Defendants’ decision takes full effect."
Through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are asking a court to require Director Ellzey to enter into a new agreement with the Department of Labor to administer pandemic unemployment benefits and require him to provide all South Carolinians who were receiving them with a notice of reinstatement.
They also want him to pay "prospective and retroactive" Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation to all South Carolinians who qualify - or would have qualified for them had DEW not withdrawn.
Finally, they ask that neither McMaster nor Ellzey - nor those acting on their behalf - be allowed to pull South Carolina out of pandemic unemployment benefits or preventing residents from receiving theirs.
The suit lists attorneys John Kassel, Adam Protheroeand Susan B. Berkowitz as representing the plaintiffs. It also lists South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center which describes itself as a forceful and respected advocate for low-income South Carolinians on issues such as health care, immigration, reentry issues, housing, education, hunger, public benefits, domestic violence, and consumer issues.
Thousands at risk of losing unemployment insurance benefits in South Carolina: What you need to know
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Thousands of claimants in South Carolina are at risk of losing their unemployment insurance benefits.
Leaders with the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) say thousands of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance recipients have not satisfied a federal documentation requirement that was outlined in the Continued Assistance Act.
The deadline for most PUA claimants is coming up on May 5.
DEW leaders say legislation clearly defines that anyone receiving PUA benefits had to show proof that they were either employed, self-employed, or had planned employment (meaning someone who was supposed to start a job but was not able to because of the pandemic).
“The agency does not want to turn off someone’s unemployment benefits, but if we do not receive that document by the May 5th deadline, we are actually federally required to stop payment on that individual’s claim, and, in addition, we would have to collect any money that they’ve received since the beginning of this year,” said Heather Biance, DEW Spokesperson.
For some, that could be more than $10,000 they would have to pay back to DEW as an overpayment.
Claimants were given 90 days to provide an employment document if they filed for unemployment before January 31st of this year. “That means for almost all of our PUA claimants, May 5th will be the 90-day deadline. So, claimants really need to get us these documents as soon as possible,” Biance said.
The Department of Employment Workforce said they have been communicating weekly over the last three months by various means to make sure claimants understand what they need and when.
To learn more about the requirement and what you need to submit to the SC Dept. of Employment and Workforce by clicking here.
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Federal unemployment programs end Saturday: Here's what you need to know in South Carolina.
Federal unemployment benefits end on Saturday and only the standard state unemployment benefits will remain.
South Carolina is among 25 states who are ending federal unemployment benefits because they say it has contributed to a labor shortage. Gov. Henry McMaster directed the state Department of Employment and Workforce to in May to opt out of the federal unemployment programs in a bid to get South Carolinians back to work.
Here's what you need to know about these programs:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
What It Is: Benefits to the self-employed, the underemployed, independent contractors and individuals who have been unable to work as a direct result of COVID-19. This includes individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or instructed to quarantine.
How It Is Changing: Beginning June 27, 2021, PUA will no longer be available in South Carolina. Any claims for benefits filed for weeks of unemployment ending prior to June 27, 2021 will include PUA benefits if an individual is eligible.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
What It Is: Extension of unemployment benefits for claimants beyond the traditional 20 weeks by an additional 53 weeks. PEUC allowed claimants to extend their time on unemployment where they normally would have expired.
How It Is Changing: Beginning June 27, 2021, PEUC will no longer be available in South Carolina, and claimants who have exhausted their regular UI benefits will no longer be eligible for payments. Any claims for benefits filed for weeks of unemployment ending prior to June 27, 2021 will include PEUC benefits if an individual is eligible.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
What It Is: $300 weekly add-on benefit for all types of unemployment assistance.
How It Is Changing: Beginning June 27, 2021, FPUC will no longer be available in South Carolina. Any claims for benefits filed for weeks of unemployment ending prior to June 27, 2021 will include FPUC benefits if an individual is eligible.
Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
What It Is: $100 weekly add-on benefit for those who are eligible for regular UI benefits, but also earned self-employment income.
How It Is Changing: Beginning June 27, 2021, MEUC will no longer be available in South Carolina. Any claims for benefits for weeks of unemployment filed prior to June 27, 2021 will include MEUC benefits if an individual is eligible.
Beginning June 27, unemployment benefits in South Carolina will return to pre-pandemic policies. Individuals are eligible for state Unemployment Insurance (UI) if they:
- Are unemployed through no fault of their own.
- Have served their one-week waiting period after filing an initial claim.
- Are monetarily eligible, or have enough wages from past employers to qualify.
- Are able to work.
- Are available for work.
- Actively seek work through SC Works Online Services (SCWOS) each week
- Don't refused suitable work, if offered.
- You can find information about applying for benefits here.
State unemployment benefits allow claimants to receive up to 20 weeks of UI benefits. Eligible claimants receive a weekly benefit amount ranging from $46 to$326, based on their previous earnings.
Sc pua unemployment
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