S.C.'s jobless will get sorely needed checks

Legislature's action frees up tens of millions of dollars for unemployed

It's official - the state Legislature fixed an oversight Wednesday that will send tens of millions of dollars to unemployed workers.

The bill is on Gov. Mark Sanford's desk for his signature at an 11 a.m. ceremony today; the jobless could get checks within a week.

The Legislature returned in special session this week to change wording in a law that will allow federal stimulus money to provide an additional five months of unemployment benefits to out-of-work residents.

"This is the right thing to do for the people of South Carolina in order to enable them to take full advantage of any federal unemployment benefits that might be available, particularly during this time of economic difficulty," state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, told the Senate.

The House gave the bill final approval without discussion and sent it to the Senate floor, where it received no opposition.

Residents qualify for the additional benefits under the $787 billion federal stimulus package because the state's unemployment rate is among the nation's highest at 11.6 percent.

Residents who qualify will receive lump sum amounts that are based on the number of weeks they missed benefits and the weekly amount for which they qualify.

For example, those who missed out on seven weeks of benefits would get, on average, $250 a week in a lump sum payment of $1,750.

Since the first of the year, about 113,000 residents have exhausted their benefits.