The Charleston Chronicle

Unemployment Benefits Terminated - Conservatives Heartless, Washington Says

  • Rev. McKinley Washington

Some 13,000 South Carolinians who had been receiving federal Unemployment Emergency Compensation had benefits terminated Dec. 31. The impact will be drastic, said former Employment Security Commission Chairman Rev. McKinley Washington.

About 29,000 South Carolinians exhausted their federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits from December 2012. They already had exhausted their 20-week state unemployment compensation.

As more of the state’s residents continue to face joblessness, Washington predicts the terminated benefits combined with cuts in federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) will have a devastating impact on those who need the assistance.

Congress failed to extend funding for the program so in November recipients saw their benefits decrease. The average family of three in South Carolina lost about $30 per month in benefits. For many, that meant a week’s worth of meals.

“People have got to eat, pay mortgages and other things. At the same time they have no job, no unemployment benefits and no food stamps. They’re not getting any assistance,” Washington said.

S.C. DEW Director of Information Services’ Adrienne Fairwell encourages claimants to use all the free resources available through that agency to help them find jobs. Among those services are resume writing, interviewing skills, job coaching and skills assessment. According to recent economic reports South Carolina’s job market is strengthening. Currently the state’s unemployment rate is about seven percent.

But that’s no consolation for workers who have experienced long term unemployment, Washington said. Many, even with advanced academic degrees, have been unable to find jobs.

Workers, particularly in the upstate region where manufacturing is the greatest industry and employees may be less formally educated, are finding it difficult, he said. Often several generations of family members work at the same manufacturing plant. They get jobs right out of high school making retraining for more technical positions challenging, Washington said.

He blames conservative factions in the federal government.

“Some of those conservatives say they are interested in helping people, but they won’t extend the benefits program. That’s just heartless. A lot of people in the state have experienced long term unemployment. They are people who have worked and paid into the system. This isn’t a give-away. They have paid into the system! It’s heartless not to extend the program until the economy picks up,” he said.”

Fairwell said Congress again will take up the issue of extending benefits this week. She suggests recipients continue to file their claims. Should the program started in 2008 be extended, they will receive retroactive benefits, she said.
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