As anyone who’s opened a newspaper in the last few months will know, the effect of COVID on the nation’s economy has been just as devastating as the effect on its health. As CNN reports, the current unemployment rate now sits at almost 20%, a record number that’s only set to get worse before it gets better. In South Carolina, the situation is no different from anywhere else. Since the crisis began to unravel in March, almost half a million have filed for unemployment. While the numbers are slowly starting to taper off as businesses begin to reopen, the total unemployment rate still makes for grim reading. If you’re one of the thousands of South Carolina residents who’ve lost their jobs, unemployment insurance benefits (UI) could help keep you afloat until you find new employment. Here’s what you need to know about how to file for unemployment in South Carolina.
Who’s Eligible To Claim?
To qualify for state benefits, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements. Typically, it’s expected that you:
- Lost your job through no fault of your own (if you quit your job voluntarily, you’ll need to show you had good cause to do so)
- Earned at least $4,445 during your “base period” (in other words, the first four of the last five calendar quarters before you filed your claim). You’ll also need to have earned at least $1,092 during the highest-earning quarter of your base period
- Have been previously employed in South Carolina. If you live in South Carolina but worked in another state, you should claim in the state in which you worked
- Are able to work and are actively looking for new employment
Further to the COVID crisis, certain changes have been made to the eligibility criteria. If you’ve been furloughed, placed in quarantine after exposure, are the primary caregiver to someone who’s been quarantined, or can’t work because of school closures, you’ll no longer have to fulfill the work search requirement. In a further change to the normal rules, contractors and self-employed individuals (who wouldn’t normally be able to collect UI), can now apply for support through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
How to File A Claim
Before starting your application, gather all the information you’ll be required to confirm. This includes your social security number, your alien registration number if you’re not a US citizen, and the details of all employers you’ve worked for over the last 18 months.
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary details, you’ll need to create an account at the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce’s (DEW) MyBenefits portal.
Once you’ve logged on, select “Register Now!” and then input any requested information, to include name, address, SSN, and employment history. You’ll also be asked to enter the bank account information you’d like your benefits to be paid into.
After you’ve filed your initial claim, the DEW will begin working on your application to determine your eligibility. They may reach out to you to request further information as part of the review, in which case, try to respond as promptly as possible to avoid any delays in processing. If you fail to reply, the department may rely only on the information provided as part of the initial application, which may negatively impact your eligibility.
In order to collect payments, you’ll need to make weekly claims. The weekly claim process is much quicker and smoother than the initial application, but it’s vital you don’t forget – if you do, you won’t be eligible to collect payment for the missed week. Claims need to be made every week after you’ve made your initial application, so don’t wait until you’ve received a decision on your eligibility to start.
How Much Will I Get?
As Fool.com notes, the maximum amount of benefits that can be collected weekly is $326. The minimum is $42. However, your actual entitlement will depend on your earnings over the base period. Expect to receive around 50% of your average weekly income. In addition to what the state pays, you’ll also receive a supplementary weekly payment of $600. The payment, which is one of the provisions of the CARES Act, is payable for 4 months in total, with an end date of July.
How Long Can I Claim?
Typically, South Carolina will allow you to claim a maximum of 20 weeks of benefits in any 52-week period. However, as another provision of the CARES Act, this has been extended to 33 weeks. If you’ve used up the state entitlement, you’ll therefore be able to claim an additional 13 weeks of benefits until the end of July.
How Can I Appeal If My Claim Is Denied?
Once the DEW has completed their review of your application (this can be in as little as 24 hours if it’s a straightforward application, or up to 3 weeks if you have any complex employment history or multiple income sources), they’ll send you a determination letter stating their decision. The determination will include details of your eligibility, your WBA (weekly benefits amount), and number of eligible weeks. If you disagree with the decision, or feel an error was made in any of the determinations, you have the option to appeal.
To appeal, you’ll need to complete a Notice of Appeal form (forms can be downloaded here) and return this to the DEW within 10 days of the date stated on your determination letter. The appeal will need to include your name and SSN, and a brief explanation of your reason(s) for filing the appeal. You will then be contacted by the DEW with a hearing date for your case to be reviewed. If you have any evidence to support your appeal, make sure this is provided well before the hearing date. Once the hearing has taken place, you’ll receive a decision within 10 days. Any appeals made after this point will first need to be logged with the appellate panel (details of how to do this will be included in your hearing review letter), and lastly with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court.