In South Carolina, a person needs to provide their Social Security number and work history for the past 18 months to apply for unemployment benefits. The work history should include their salary from each employer, along with the employers’ business names, addresses and phone numbers. The individual should file their initial claim online through the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce’s (DEW) MyBenefits Portal. Their last employer may also file for unemployment benefits on their behalf.
South Carolina Unemployment Insurance
South Carolina Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a program of DEW that makes payments to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. The individuals must be attempting to re-enter the workforce, be able to work and be willing to take any appropriate offer. A claimant must continue to seek employment while receiving benefits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency. One of the changes involves waiving the weekly work search requirement for UI claimants.
Filing Weekly Claims
An individual’s initial claim is the first claim filed by the person after they separate from their employer. A person should manage their weekly benefits by beginning to filing weekly certifications the Sunday after they submit their application for benefits. They will need to file a weekly certification every claim week.
Total Amount of Unemployment Insurance Benefits
The maximum weekly benefit amount in South Carolina is $326 a week. A federal program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), initiated by the CARES Act, has been extended through March 14, 2021. PEUC provides a $300 additional weekly supplement. If a laid-off worker begins earning income and goes over their maximum weekly benefit amount, they may not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Self-Employed Eligibility for PUA
Self-employed people and independent contractors are eligible for unemployment benefits through a different program than Unemployment Insurance. They can receive funds through the federal government’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. PUA has been extended to March 14, 2021. Self-employed people and independent contractors are eligible to receive up to the same maximum weekly benefit ($326), plus the $300 federal supplemental benefit.
Certain self-employed people and independent contractors also may be eligible for an additional $100 per week through the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program.
Information Needed for PUA
A self-employed person or an independent contractor is required to provide DEW with their wages or income for the most recently completed tax year. They may see their weekly benefit amount reduced if they fail to provide documents with proof of their income. Acceptable proof of self-employment includes federal income tax Form 1040.
Disqualification From PUA Benefits
An individual can become disqualified from receiving PUA benefits if they quit their job without good cause or they refuse without good cause to accept suitable employment. They can be disqualified if they are not able and available to work, unless the reason they cannot work is related to one of 10 criteria regarding COVID-19. These criteria include being diagnosed with COVID-19; providing care for a member of their household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; their place of employment being closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or being scheduled for a job, but being unable to reach the new job as a direct result of COVID-19.
What Are Extended Benefits?
Extended Benefits (EB) provides a worker with up to 16 additional weeks of unemployment benefits. EB is available after a worker has exhausted their regular UI benefits, which last 20 weeks, and their PEUC benefits. Some workers may not qualify for EB even if they qualified for regular UI and PEUC. For example, a person who was discharged for misconduct would have to return to work and earn a specific amount before becoming eligible for EB.
Workers Must Reapply
The new fiscal quarter started July 5, 2020, triggering a requirement for individuals to reapply for UI benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act states that anyone potentially eligible for unemployment benefits must apply to the state to re-determine whether they are eligible for regular UI. This requirement may not apply to self-employed people and independent contractors. DEW will notify a claimant who needs to reapply by alerting them through the MyBenefits Portal.
A worker who has been laid off or had their hours significantly reduced can still be “job attached” to an employer. Job attached means that the employer will call the person back to work or increase their hours in the future. During the pandemic, a number of workers have been in a situation where they remain job attached to a former employer. This is because coronavirus-related orders forced temporary worksite closures.
It may be advantageous for an employer to file a worker’s claim in this situation because then the worker will not need to certify weekly. Under usual circumstances, an employer can only file for a worker for six weeks, but this restriction has been lifted during the pandemic. An employer can file for their workers for as long as they need to do so.
Contact a Call Center
A South Carolinian who has made a mistake when certifying for weekly benefits or who needs assistance with understanding South Carolina’s UI system should contact the appropriate call center. There is a high volume of calls, so individuals should be prepared to wait.
The main number is 803- 737-2400, after which claimants should select option #1, job seekers option #2, and employers option #3. A person who is seeking a job and has questions about their unemployment claim should select option 1. A person who is a claimant but has questions primarily about how to find a job should select option 2.
Advice for Former Military Personnel
South Carolina has eight significant military facilities, including Fort Jackson, a general training camp near Columbia, and Joint Base Charleston, a center near Charleston for repairing, storing and exporting military supplies. The state is home to many former military personnel, who will need one or more documents to file for unemployment benefits: most recent DD214 Member 4; orders to report; orders of release; and a military earnings and leave statement or W-2 forms from their most recent military service.
A person who is filing the first claim since their release and who does not live in South Carolina must contact the workforce agency in their home state for assistance with filing their claim.
Time to Process a Claim
South Carolina has a high volume of unemployment claims, which has resulted in payments arriving up to 21 days after filing. An individual can track the status of their claim using the claims status tab in the MyBenefits Portal. If an individual fails to file or files late, that will affect the timing of their payment. A claimant should file their initial claim and certify their eligibility as soon as they are allowed to do so.
Part-Time Work During the Pandemic
An individual can earn money and still file for unemployment benefits. The person must claim their wages during the claim week. A person can earn up to 25 percent of their weekly unemployment benefit without receiving a deduction in payment. If an individual is offered a job from which they were laid off and they refuse to return, they will not be eligible for UI payments.
Returning to Work
An individual who returns to full-time employment or earns more than their weekly benefit award amount may no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits. If they are uncertain as to whether their position will last, they should continue to file for unemployment benefits and state the hours they worked and the wages they earned. If they lose their position, they may again be eligible for unemployment benefits.
The type of unemployment benefits for which they will be eligible will be determined by multiple factors, including the nature of their recent position (full-time employment or independent contractor) and the extent to which they previously exhausted unemployment benefits.
Safety and the Coronavirus
When a worker realizes that their job site is unsafe, they may have good cause to quit or refuse to return to work. The person would then remain eligible for unemployment benefits. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has released guidelines for businesses relating to the spread of the coronavirus. For example, if an employer is allowing workers who are less than 6 feet apart to remain unmasked, an employee would have good cause to quit.
What Is the Recall Taskforce?
DEW created the Recall Taskforce to help employers understand concerns as worksites and businesses reopen. The Recall Taskforce is providing employers with information about federal funding programs available to employees. It is also encouraging businesses that are reopening to report employees who refuse offers of work without good cause.
A worker who notices coronavirus-related safety violations or has other concerns regarding their workplace should document the issues. This will help the worker to share the concerns with DEW if the employer reports the worker for failing to return to work.
Childcare and Unemployment Benefits
An individual may claim unemployment benefits if they cannot work because they need to care for their child because the child’s school or daycare facility is closed due to the pandemic. Many school districts have reopened and are now offering in-person instruction. The South Carolina Department of Education is keeping track of school district re-openings. This means the state is aware whether a parent or guardian of a child has refused in-person school as an option.
An individual who claims unemployment when the child’s schools are open may later face a concern regarding eligibility and potentially, overpayment of benefits.
Overpayment of Benefits
A claimant who receives unemployment benefits for which they were not eligible will be required to repay the benefits. An individual in this situation will receive a Notice of Overpayment of Benefits by mail. They have a right to an appeal or to file a waiver of no-fault overpayment. When an individual receives payments for which they were ineligible, but the individual is not at fault for receiving the payments, the individual is still required to repay the money.
File an Appeal Regarding Denial
A claimant who has been denied unemployment benefits may file an appeal within the MyBenefits Portal or by mailing or faxing a Notice of Appeal to the Appeal Tribunal Board. The person must file their appeal within 10 calendar days of the mailing date listed on the determination, the document that states the person has been denied benefits. If the 10th day falls on a weekend or a recognized holiday, the appeal period extends to the next business day.
Job Search Assistance
DEW is continuing to provide candidates resources to find a job during the pandemic through SCWorks, the state agency that assists job seekers and employers. Certain offices of SC Works are now open to job seekers by appointment. A job seeker should review SCWorks' information on statewide centers to see what services it provides online and in person.
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Applying for Benefits
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Weekly Benefit Amount
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: COVID Federal Programs
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Appeals
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Jobseeker programs
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Unemployment Insurance benefit claims
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Filing Hints and Tips
- South Carolina Department of Education: School District Reopening Plans
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: SC Works
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: SC Works, Statewide Centers
- United States Military Entrance Processing Command: Fort Jackson, SC Military Entrance Processing Station
- Joint Base Charleston homepage
- South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control: COVID-19 Re-Opening Guidance for Businesses
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Contact Us
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Extended Benefits
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Offers of Work
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce: Manage Your Weekly Benefits
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.