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January 10, 2013

SC unemployed set to lose federal aid

About 3,200 long-term unemployed South Carolinians are set to lose all federal unemployment benefits this week, because the state’s economy has gotten better, state officials said Wednesday.

About 3,200 long-term unemployed South Carolinians are set to lose all federal unemployment benefits this week, because the state’s economy has gotten better, state officials said Wednesday.

South Carolina is one of several states that loses access Jan. 12 to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program – the last tier of federal unemployment benefits available only to the longest-term unemployed among those receiving benefits from Uncle Sam.

That last tier of federal unemployment compensation stops when a state’s unemployment rate drops below 9 percent, according to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. South Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent in November, the latest month for which numbers are available.

The 3,200 unemployed residents affected by the vanishing tier of benefits likely have been receiving unemployment checks for at least 40 weeks or more, the department said. While the unemployed can get up to $326 a week in benefits, the average check is $235 in South Carolina.

Approximately 29,000 people in the state received federal unemployment benefits as of the last week in December. All those federal benefits were set to expire on Jan. 1, but were extended a year instead when Congress reached a deal on the fiscal cliff negotiations.

About 4,000 South Carolinians were receiving the so-called “Tier 4” federal unemployment benefits as of the last week in December. An estimated 800 of them will still be eligible for the Tier 4 extended benefits because their current “Tier 3” benefits end before the Jan. 12 cutoff, the department said, as negotiated in the fiscal cliff agreement.

Conversely, claimants who do exhaust “Tier 3” until after Jan. 12 will not be eligible for any additional benefits, the department said in a statement Wednesday.

Claimants who have exhausted all state and federal benefits should check with their local SC Works center to determine the availability of additional eligibility, the department said.

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