Gov. McMaster directs SCDEW to return to pre-pandemic unemployment program to address workforce shortages

South Carolina News

FILE (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster has directed the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce to terminate the state’s participation in all federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs to address ongoing workforce shortages by the end of next month.

In a letter to the agency’s executive director, Dan Ellzey, Gov. McMaster said, “South Carolina’s businesses have borne the brunt of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those businesses that have survived – both large and small, and including those in the hospitality, tourism, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors – now face an unprecedented labor shortage.”

Gov. McMaster went on to say the labor shortage is being created in large part by the “supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits.”

“In many instances, these payments are greater than the worker’s previous paychecks. What was intended to be short-term financial assistance for the vulnerable and displaced during the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal entitlement, incentivizing and paying workers to stay at home rather than encouraging them to return to the workplace,” he said.

In a memo to Gov. McMaster, Ellzey outlined existing federal unemployment programs and what will change when the governor’s directive goes into effect on June 30.

Those programs include the following:

• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (EPUC)

• Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)

• Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations

• Temporary Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week

“At the current time, there are 81,684 open positions in the state of South Carolina. The hotel and foodservice industries have employee shortages that threaten their sustainability. However, no area of the economy has been spared from the pain of a labor shortage,” said S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce Director Dan Ellzey.

Ellzey went on to say, “While the federal funds supported our unemployed workers during the peak of COVID-19, we fully agree that reemployment is the best recovery plan for South Carolinians and the economic health of the state. Last week’s initial claims numbers were the lowest since the pandemic began, and employers around the state are eager to hire and anxious to get South Carolina back to business.”

For a summary of DEW reemployment programs, click here.

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