The ins and outs of applying for unemployment insurance

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By CINDY CROSBY

cindyc4@yahoo.com

One of the major concerns facing locals and people across the nation is the economic impact on the workforce due to efforts to #flattenthecurve and slow the spread of COVID-19. Mandated closures and stay-at-home orders have forced businesses, both small and large, to close their doors — leaving many workers without jobs.

In a South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce News Release dated March 26, Colleton County residents had filled 155 unemployment insurance claims for initial data week ending March 21. Neighboring Beaufort County had 1,090 claims, Dorchester County had 949 and Hampton County had 53 claims. It is expected filings will increase significantly in the upcoming data release.

Information from the March 26 release stated initial claims within the state in the week ending March 21 was 31,054, an increase of approximately 1,600% from the previous week’s count of 1,996. This means there were 31,054 individuals who both live and work in the state of South Carolina who filed an initial claim during that week.

The unemployment insurance claims process is 100 percent online and there is currently no “in-person” process. Several local Colleton County residents reported different experiences with the filing process over the last week.

According to Mary Bowen, a family nurse practitioner who was recently laid-off from PRN work at a local clinic, the process of applying for unemployment insurance was simple, but an overloaded operating system slowed the application process to approximately two-and-a-half hours. “The process is simple, but the computer kept logging me off after each question,” said Bowen. “It would take two to three reboots to get it back. What was likely a 15-minute process ended up taking over two hours. Also, when I attempted to call the local and state help lines, I received no answer and there was no way to leave a message.”

As of Monday, Bowen had finished her application and was waiting on the next step in the process.

Another local resident, Donna McCaw, received her approval Monday March 30 after completing her application on March 25. “With the help of my daughter, Angell, I did the application all online,” said McCaw. “The process itself was simple and took between 20-30 minutes. Just make sure you have the necessary information ready like your previous earnings and file as though you have lost your job and are seeking employment — even though you have the promise of a job to return to when this is over.”

Dr. Lucy Rivers, an elementary school librarian currently living in Greenville, stated her husband applied after being laid off due to COVID-19. “We went online Friday to start the process,” said Rivers. “It took at least 30-minutes to set up an account and complete the online interview and application. It wasn’t horrible, but the directions were sometimes unclear and there is redundancy. I commented at the time I don’t know how people who don’t read well or aren’t fluent in English would be able to get through the application without help.”

Rivers stated the documentation needed included paycheck stubs, checking account direct deposit information and driver’s license number. “They should put a checklist of required documents and information needed before you start the application, so you don’t have to stop and go search for those things,” said Rivers. “The online interface is not especially friendly, and it is difficult to navigate backward if you need to change an answer. A friend of my husband also started the process but didn’t realize there are two parts — the online account and the application. The site doesn’t really make it clear that there are two parts.”

The March 26 News Release urges filers to visit dew.sc.gov and the YouTube page SC DEW for frequently asked questions about the process. According to the release, the website is updated frequently with the latest information and questions should be directed to 1-866-831-1724.

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