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May 8, 2020

Understanding Unemployment Benefits as Businesses Reopen

As businesses across the Grand Strand slowly being to reopen, there remains concern from business leaders about unemployment benefits and how they will affect workforce readiness in the coming weeks. Specifically, many laid-off employees are earning state unemployment benefits plus supplemental benefits from the federal government through July. We turned to the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) eligibility guidelines to help answer your questions.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 166-136), enacted in March, provides a supplemental $600/week in unemployment benefits from the federal government through July. This $600/week is on top of the unemployment benefit offered by the state of South Carolina.

The average state benefit in South Carolina is $236/week. So, the average laid-off employee is now making $836/week ($236 state + $600 federal). The $600/week federal supplement is a fixed rate, while the state weekly benefit is a sliding scale based on pay, with a maximum benefit of $326/week. This means if a laid-off employee is only entitled to $1/week in a state weekly benefit, they will still receive the full $600/week federal benefit on top of their $1/week state benefit for a total of $601/week.

It is important for both employers and employees to know that the $600/week federal benefit is tied directly to the state benefit. This means if a laid-off employee stops receiving the state benefit, they will also stop receiving the federal benefit. Put another way, the employee either gets both (state + federal) or nothing, at least through July 2020 when the federal supplemental benefit expires.

DEW eligibility guidelines state that a laid-off worker is only able to collect the unemployment benefit if they are “available for work and willing to take any suitable offer.” When an employer is reopening and looking to rehire laid-off staff, that will trigger the requirement of a “suitable offer.” These employers must certify with DEW that they have offered laid-off employees their jobs back. When a laid-off employee has received a “suitable offer,” they no longer meet the situational requirements as outlined by DEW. Thus, the laid-off employee will lose their weekly state unemployment benefit. Because the federal weekly benefit is directly tied to the state weekly benefit, the same employee that was offered their job back would also lose their federal weekly benefit, whether they accept the job offer or not.

Visit DEW for more information on eligibility requirements.

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