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Palmetto Project helping people navigate unemployment insurance process

Updated: Aug. 12, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A statewide nonprofit in South Carolina is helping people file for unemployment insurance.

The Palmetto Project began assisting with unemployment claims during the pandemic because of the need in the community.

Summerville resident Margie Renick's daughter has been trying to get her unemployment benefits for nearly five months.

"It just makes no sense to me, I don't understand why they can't help people that actually need the help," Renick said.

She says daughter was out of work for eight weeks and received one check for $159.

"We filled out the paperwork which is a total mess, nothing is self explained we hit one wrong box and it was like everything denial," Renick said. "Then when you call them...you're on hold for three and half hours."

Palmetto Project Director of Programs Shelli Quenga says they have a legal counsel if they need to intervene.

"The unemployment office simply saying sorry we're really overwhelmed we're doing the best we can, that's really not good enough right now," Quenga said. "When people have been waiting since March and coupled with the fact that the eviction moratorium is now ending."

Meanwhile, others whose claims were approved are wondering when extra funds will kick in again after the $600 a week federal boost expired last month.

"So now we're talking about families who are trying to live now on $53 a week or $100 a week, which is far from what their normal salary is," Quenga said.

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce says they are waiting on federal guidance on how to implement President Donald Trump’s executive order that proposes that claimants can receive an additional $400 a week.

However, with that proposal that state would have to pay $100 of that amount for every recipient.

"We don't know what the consequences are of that, if the state can't pay its $100, will the Feds still be able to pay $300, we don't know," Quenga said. "So folks should not anticipate that money is going to come to them anytime soon."

As for Margie's daughter, she's returned to work and is hoping for back pay.

"All they keep saying to me is, it will be handled, it will be handled," Margie said.

Officials with SCDEW say everything is running as intended system wise. They say they extended call center hours on Monday and Tuesday because it’s the highest call volume days. The lowest call day is Saturday, so they urge people to call then to avoid a longer wait time.

SCDEW says they’ve tried to communicate to people that if they have more complex claims questions or need to speak to a specific department, like appeals, people can expect to be transferred to the person or department with expertise in that area. Officials say some of those departments have smaller staff levels.

The Palmetto Project encourages people to apply for SNAP benefits more commonly known as food stamps if they need help financially. The nonprofit can assist you with that along with unemployment insurance and affordable health care enrollment.

You can visit the Palmetto Project website for information on their services and efforts.

You can reach the nonprofit at 843-577-4122.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.