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Nearly $5 billion in aid: State ending 6 programs that help the jobless

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COVID-19 jobless funds

The South Carolina government has distributed nearly $5 billion in federal money to its residents in unemployment compensation since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data provided by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce indicates that South Carolina has distributed more than $4.75 billion in six federal programs that the state will stop paying at the end of the month.

In a memorandum sent to Gov. Henry McMaster on May 6, Dan Ellzey, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, summarized the six federal unemployment programs that South Carolina opted out of.

Ellzey said the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act of 2020 – the act approved by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last March – and its extension bill created and funded six programs. South Carolina signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal Department of Labor to participate in distributing the money.

To qualify for the programs, a person seeking benefits fills out paperwork with the Department of Employment and Workforce. The programs are time-limited by McMaster's executive order, the amount of federal funds available and the time a person can be on unemployment benefits.

The loss of these programs will cost the state approximately $63 million each week in federal funding, or roughly between $600 million and $630 million every 10 weeks, Ellzey said.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation: The largest of the programs is the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. This is the program that provides an additional $300 weekly to people who are receiving unemployment assistance. The amount that people were receiving was $600 when the CARES Act was signed into law until July 31, 2020. It was reduced to $300 when the program was refunded in December.

Ellzey said in the memorandum that 108,483 people received the benefit during the week ending May 1 at a weekly cost of $37 million. The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce indicates that the state paid nearly $28.36 million in benefits during the week ending May 22.

Data available via the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce indicates the state has distributed nearly $3.54 billion in federal funds under this program from the beginning of the pandemic until May 22.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation: The next largest of the programs is the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program. This program provides extended unemployment benefits for people who have lost their jobs. The program provides funding for an additional 51 weeks – a year is 52 weeks – in addition to the 20 weeks of regular unemployment compensation.

The 51 weeks of compensation is cumulative of the original 13-week extension plus extensions moving the program up to Sept. 4.

Ellzey indicated that 56,318 people received benefits from the program during the week ending May 1 at a cost of $14.6 million.

This number decreased to nearly $11.88 million during the week ending May 22.

He added that some 9,300 claimants would be eligible to move to the state-based program as of May 1.

Data available via the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce indicates the state distributed more than $614 million in federal funds under this program from the beginning of the pandemic until May 22.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: The third-largest program is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. It provides benefits to self-employed, underemployed, independent contractors and individuals who could not work because of COVID-19. Basically this expands the traditional unemployment eligibility to include "gig workers."

Ellzey indicated that 37,284 people received benefits under the program for a weekly cost of $6.2 million as of May 1.

The funding decreased to nearly $4.1 million during the week ending May 22.

The department's data indicate that the state has distributed nearly $518.62 million since the beginning of the pandemic.

Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations: Potentially the next largest program is the emergency unemployment relief for governmental entities and nonprofits. It provides 75% funding of unemployment benefits paid to governmental and nonprofit workers by those entities.

The data provided by the department is not specific but listed as "millions of dollars."

Ellzey also notes that the claims made under this program have declined significantly.

Temporary Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week: Potentially the next largest program is the temporary funding of the first week of unemployment – claimants don't have to wait a week to get their benefits – during the pandemic.

The number of claims under the program is not provided, and neither is the number of claims made during the week ending May 22.

Ellezy said the program has distributed $88.7 million since the beginning of the pandemic. He added that the state paid out roughly $400,000 per week in first-week claims during the week ending May 1.

Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation: The smallest program is the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation program. It provides a $100 benefit to people who received regular unemployment compensation but also earned money from being self-employed.

Ellzey indicates that for the week ending May 1, 21 people received benefits for a weekly cost of $34,400. This funding decreased to $27,400 during the week ending May 22.

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