New struggles emerge with unemployment benefits in South Carolina

VIDEO: New struggles emerge with unemployment benefits in South Carolina

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce recently started paying out benefits from the Lost Wages Assistance Program. Many people are still waiting for their checks.

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.

Over the weekend, several people reported technical problems with the DEW website.

Dori Abbott says she normally certifies her wages each week using the website, but was unable to this weekend because of technical problems. She says she spent several hours and 22 phone calls this morning getting it all sorted out.

“I spent all day yesterday and we couldn’t get in and then usually you can call and certify over the phone but now that they have changed everything you can’t do that,” Abbott said. “People are just left out there and they don’t know what to do.”

She says she was instructed to download a new internet browser – Google Chrome – and clear her history among other things.

“People are in a panic because they can’t even get their weekly money if they need gas, medication, food or whatever,” Abbott said. “So that’s why I wanted to get the word out.”

Another common complaint is people saying they get an “access denied” message when they attempt to log into the claimant portal.

In order to get the LWA program running DEW had to tweak its systems. They also say they made security updates recently to better protect against fraud.

“The security questions were put into place to deter fraud behavior,” said Heather Biance with DEW. “If a claimant answers their personal security questions incorrectly – of course, that would be flagged for fraud. Approximately 80% of claimants are clearing their security questions.”

It is unknown if those updates created any glitches in systems or if it is simply a coincidence, but Biance says their system shows only 1.5% of people are getting an “access denied” message. She also says using a desktop or changing the settings on your phone could help. Here is what she recommends:

Some potential solutions could include:

  • Cross site tracking setting on iPhone (found instructions online)
  • Go to settings
  • Go to Safari
  • Uncheck Prevent Cross-Site Tracking
  • Cross site tracking setting on android (found instructions online)
  • Open Chrome
  • Tap “more” option at the right of the address bar. Then select “settings” option
  • Under “advanced” click “privacy” option
  • Tap “Do not track” option to turn it on

If the settings changes do not help, Biance says you can visit the SC Works center or Connection Point here.

She says the majority of people are getting through the systems without a problem.

“We have had more than 90,000 claimants successfully complete the ID Verification and LWA certification process since last Wednesday,” Biance said. “This has allowed us to process payments of more than $118 million as of yesterday to claimants.”

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