About 6,000 unemployed people in some of South Carolinas most rural areas will have to go farther to get help in person with their unemployment claims.
Decreased federal funds will cause the Department of Employment and Workforce to consolidate functions at 17 of its state offices beginning Feb. 19, the agency said Monday.
Those offices will remain open to provide other kinds of employment services currently offered, such as resume and job search help, a spokeswoman said.
Among the most rural areas losing the in-person help with unemployment claims are Allendale County, with a 15.6 percent unemployment rate, which will see those services moved to Barnwell, and McCormick, with a 12.7 percent rate, where the services will be moved to Greenwood.
The displaced unemployment claimants still can access unemployment services either online or by phone, the agency said. And benefit claimants who still require in-person assistance will be directed to one of the new regional offices, the agency said.
Seven employees will lose their jobs as a result of the consolidation of unemployment benefit services, spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell said Monday.
However, the agency has undergone a major overhaul by the General Assembly, aimed at streamlining unemployment benefit costs, changing the agencys image, and increasing its efficiency. Right now, the department is in the midst of a 136-person layoff announced in October.
(The Department of Employment and Workforce) is seizing upon this challenging time as an opportunity to improve the way we do business, Abraham J. Turner, DEW executive director, said in a statement released Monday.
As we increasingly promote our self-service unemployment insurance services available online and by phone, we will ultimately increase our agencys overall efficiency.
Last October, the agency issued layoff notices to 55 employees as part of its plan to reduce its overall workforce by 10 percent, or 136 workers, by June.
On Friday, the agency laid off 75 more employees, it said, in moving toward that target. The seven employees let go Friday who worked in in-person unemployment services were part of the 75, Fairwell said.
The agency is urging those receiving unemployment insurance benefit services to log onto the agency through the My Benefits portal at mybenefits.dew.sc.us.
There, claimants can file initial and weekly unemployment claims and perform other functions. By phone, claimants can file weekly claims through the agencys TelClaim system by calling 1-866-831-1724.
About 42,000 South Carolina residents currently receive unemployment insurance benefits, the agency said. But that number has been dwindling as the state recovers from the economic downturn and unemployment eases.
In January, 3,200 long-term unemployed South Carolinians lost federal unemployment benefits because the states unemployment rate had dropped below 9 percent to 8.3 percent in November.