By Patrick Phillips | June 25, 2020 at 8:49 AM EDT - Updated June 25 at 8:49 AM
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Education and Workforce says it has paid out more than $2.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since mid-March.
New numbers released Thursday show that in the week ending Saturday, a total of 17,098 filed initial unemployment claims, a decrease of 2,268 compared with the previous week. But despite the decrease, the total number of South Carolina workers who have filed their first claim for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic took hold has increased to 618,729.
“We are seeing more businesses re-opening cautiously and safely, navigating the challenge of customer and employee safety while making sound business decisions. We anticipate this trend of more businesses recalling employees will continue, even if it’s at a slower rate than hoped for,” SCDEW Executive Director Dan Ellzey said.
The initial claims do not include people who have filed multiple weekly claims over the past few months.
Greenville and Richland Counties tied for first place in the number of new claims filed last week at 1,642. Charleston County was in third place at 1,242. Horry and Spartanburg Counties rounded out the top five.
SCDEW spokesperson Heather Biance says the $2.5 billion figure represents payments of state unemployment benefit insurance, CARES Act programs, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
The FPUC program, which pays an additional $600 per week to unemployment insurance claimants, is set to expire on July 25, Ellzey said.
“This means unless Congress passes additional legislation that extends this program or funds something similar, those currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits, will only receive their weekly benefit amount after July 25, which is a maximum of $326 per week,” Ellzey said.
Biance says the agency’s call center hours run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. She says their busiest call volume days are Mondays and Tuesdays.
SCDEW encourages people who can wait to call between Wednesday and Saturday.
The call center’s number is 1-866-831-1724. The Call Center will be closed July 3 and July 4 in observance of Independence Day.
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