Eight Lose Jobs, Hundreds Impacted Say Lawmakers

DEW to shut down In-Person Unemployment Services


By Monique Williams

WINNSBORO, S.C. (WOLO) -- Come February 15, nearly a dozen people employed with the State Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) will be out of a job. Those eight folks are responsible for handling unemployment insurance claims for 17 offices, all of which are in rural areas. State lawmakers are up in arms about it because they say the job losses equal more bad news for their rural, low-income constituents.

One by one members of the House and Senate Democratic Caucus lashed out at news that the state agency in charge of handling unemployment insurance claims for 17 offices statewide, offices that employed eight people, will eliminate the eight positions. All of the offices are in rural areas.

"Those counties are mostly populated by African Americans, rural districts where they do not have access to public transportation to get them to neighboring counties," said House Minority Leader, Rep. Todd Rutherford.

DEW officials say the downsize is a result of its agency promoting its self-service unemployment insurance resources. That means people will have to travel to neighborhood offices or apply by phone and online.

"Everyone's not computer literate," says Larvette Hill. She's been looking for a job for two years. She says this move disenfranchises hundreds.

"What if you don't have online experience and need someone to help walk you through it? What do you do?"

However, Governor Nikki Haley says due to less federal funding and fewer unemployment claims, the downsize is necessary.

"You had $122,000 in claims in 2011; you have $62,000 in 2013," said Haley. "You can't reduce the number of claims, reduce the number of claimants and not think you won't reduce the size of government."

DEW officials say they will work to transition those eight employees to other positions within the agency as soon as possible.

All offices where DEW Unemployment Insurance services will be terminated are: Abbeville, Chester, Hampton, Kingstree, Union, Allendale, Bamberg/St. Matthews, Bishopville, Chesterfield, Dillon, Edgefield, Manning, McCormick, Ridgeland/Jasper, Saluda and Winnsboro.

DEW encourages all UI claimants to take advantage of its free online services through the My benefits web portal at mybenefits.dew.sc.gov. Claimants can also file weekly claims through DEW's TelClaim system at 1-866-831-1724.

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