Frustrations grow as unemployed South Carolinians wait for extra assistance

Frustrations grow as unemployed South Carolinians wait for extra assistance
Frustrations grow as unemployed South Carolinians wait for extra assistance (Source: Adam Mintzer)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Unemployed South Carolinians are still waiting for checks they were told about weeks ago.

According to the Department of Employment and Workforce, South Carolina has been approved for six weeks of the Lost Wages Assistance Program (LWA).

LWA is a federal program that gives qualified unemployed people $300 extra a week in addition to their weekly benefits. Meaning, some who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19 can receive up to $1800 in extra assistance.

Governor McMaster announced he was seeking this funding at the end of August and South Carolina was approved for this program on September 1st, according to DEW. At the time, DEW said it would take up to three weeks for this money to be distributed.

Recently, people who believe they qualify for this funding have been confused. Dozens of unemployed people across the state tell WIS they have been struggling to make ends meet since extra benefits from the CARES Act expired at the end of July.

In a statement released Friday, DEW said the delay was because the state is adding fraud security measures to prevent people from illegally obtaining federal assistance.

“We want to be very clear; there are individuals and groups who are intentionally seeking an illegal opportunity to profit from these LWA funds, directly stealing money from deserving, unemployed South Carolinians in need. Some states who have already implemented LWA programs are experiencing this type of fraud, on significant levels in some cases,” said executive director Dan Ellzey.

Unemployment recipients have been frustrated by this answer.

“I don’t know how much MORE fraud would be prevalent solely due to LWA…people are waiting for the money in order to survive,” said unemployment recipient James Payne

DEW said they are communicating with people using their online portal. A spokeswoman for the agency explained they have to send emails in waves so their messages don’t get flagged as spam.

Therefore, some people were sent a note Monday and others can expect to receive one on Tuesday.

Alex Fuller has received one of these emails which reads in part, “we anticipate initiating payments for lost wages assistance by the end of the week.”

Fuller is a single dad and self-employed photographer. He said he hasn’t been able to pay his utility bill consistently since the CARES Act funding ran out earlier this summer. And between caring for his son who is on a hybrid learning schedule and other obligations, he is finding it hard to get a new job.

“People don’t understand that those of us on unemployment haven’t been bringing in any other income. That’s a lifeline for us,” he said. “We are just people we are one paycheck away from tragedy, really,” Fuller added.

DEW said to be eligible for this funding, South Carolinians need to already be receiving at least $100 in state or federal assistance and to prove they lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19.

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