South Carolina mulls decision to accept unemployment aid

Updated: Aug. 22, 2020 at 9:35 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina leaders are looking for additional guidance before applying for President Donald Trump’s boost to unemployment benefits.

On Aug. 8, the president signed an executive order to use $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to restore part of the congressional unemployment boost of $600 a week that expired at the end of July.

States that opt into the program will see a $300 or $400 boost to weekly unemployment benefits. Each state has to apply for the aid that is administered via a Lost Wages Grant and approved by FEMA before any money is distributed.

According to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, the state is asking for clarification on a few points before applying. So far, 15 states have been approved.

The states that have been approved as of Aug. 21 are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

Margie Renick believes the state should apply for the money before it is gone. She says her daughter was unemployed because of the coronavirus and after a lengthy process was able to get one pay check for about $150.

“Without us she would have been done,” Renick said. “She would have lost everything.”

She says the state’s unemployment benefits, which cap below $400 a week, are not enough for people to live on.

“It’s not just one person living in a household at a time,” Renick said. “What about those kids that dad is paying for? That mom is paying for? Better yet, you’re living with your parents who are elderly and sick. Where can you pay for food and medicine with that kind of money?”

However, not everyone agrees.

Malinda Moore believes additional money in unemployment benefits could just end up dragging out the recovery process.

“When it was at $600 every week, on top of the regular unemployment that the state gives you, I saw that it was causing people to not want to go to work,” Moore said.

Several Lowcountry business leaders, especially in the food and hospitality industry, have suggested they have had problems finding enough employees to keep their businesses fully staffed while benefits where being boosted by $600.

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