SC gov signs unemployment agency overhaul law

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/WCSC) - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has signed an overhaul of the troubled Employment Security Commission into law.

"As we've made clear for more than a year and a half now, the ESC's ineptitude and disturbing lack of accountability have had real world consequences - from $171 million in inexplicable payments to people who were fired for good reason and a failure to even investigate fraud since 2008, to an estimated Unemployment Trust Fund shortfall of nearly two billion dollars," Gov. Sanford said.

"I am pleased that by this legislation we will place the Department of Employment and Workforce in the governor's Cabinet," Senator Greg Ryberg said. "That said, our work remains unfinished as South Carolina needs billions of dollars to repay our federal loan and replenish our Unemployment Trust Fund.

Sanford's public bill signing Tuesday for legislation that transforms that agency into a Cabinet-level Workforce Department gives him the authority to appoint a temporary director who will run the agency through early next year when Sanford leaves office. His successor will then approve the director.

"For too long now, the ESC has failed in its primary mission of linking job-seekers with open positions. With the Governor's signature of this bill, we now have an agency that can and will perform that mission," Representative Kenny Bingham said.

Sanford says he expects to name the agency's leader within two weeks.

The agency has faced criticism for more than a year. Auditors found the commission didn't do enough to head off the need to borrow $838 million to keep unemployment benefits paid. Auditors also said the agency lacked accounting skills and didn't pay income taxes on benefits last year.

The new law gives the governor authority to appoint or remove the Director of the new Department of Employment and Workforce; compels the agency to undergo periodic audits; mandates that the Agency provide regular information on employment trends and the Unemployment Trust Fund's balance; and prohibits the agency from giving unemployment benefits in instances of gross misconduct.

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