South Carolina Unemployment Guide

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Coronavirus Update! -- What South Carolina Residents Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits

As the coronavirus sweeps across the country, the unemployment rate is on the rise in every state. If you have lost your job in South Carolina, apply for unemployment benefits at the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. Learn about how unemployment claims relating to COVID-19 will be handled in South Carolina.

More than three million claims for unemployment benefits were filed in the third week of March, 2020, and experts predict claims could rise even higher due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments have taken to contain it, from orders shutting down nonessential businesses to shelter-in-place restrictions, school closures, and more.

If You Are Still Employed: You may be eligible for emergency paid sick leave or paid family leave under a new federal law, the Families First Coronavirus Act. Some states also provide paid time off that may be available to you. See Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in South Carolina to learn more about these programs. 

How Unemployment Programs Are Adapting to COVID-19

Federal and state governments are rapidly making changes to their unemployment programs, to ensure that more people who are out of work receive benefits more quickly.

Federal CARES Act Expands Benefits to Workers in South Carolina

Congress has passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act, which greatly expands the nation's unemployment compensation program. Employees eligible for unemployment in South Carolina will receive an additional $600 per week of federally-funded benefits, on top of what South Carolina already pays. These additional benefits will be available through July 31, 2020. And, unemployed individuals who exhaust their state-funded benefits will receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits, available through December 31, 2020.

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How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina?

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, some states are imposing restrictions on people gathering in public locations. This may affect your ability to access physical offices of the the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce in person. Check South Carolina's unemployment insurance agency website for more information. And, read on to find out how you can file for unemployment insurance benefits in South Carolina online or by phone.

If You Are Still Employed: You may be eligible for emergency paid sick leave or paid family leave under a new federal law, the Families First Coronavirus Act. Some states also provide paid time off that may be available to you. See Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in South Carolina to learn more about these programs. And, if you are out of work or your hours have been reduced due to COVID-19, you may be entitled to enhanced unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

South Carolina's unemployment insurance agency website gives you the information you need to apply for unemployment insurance in South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce’s website tells you:

  • What information you’ll need on hand to apply for unemployment insurance benefits
  • How to apply online for unemployment insurance benefits
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Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina?

You qualify for unemployment benefits in South Carolina if you meet two basic requirements:

  • you must have earned at least a minimum amount in the time before you lost your job, and
  • you must be out of work through no fault of your own.

If you meet these two qualifications when you apply, you will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. (To keep receiving benefits after you are found eligible, you will also have to meet your state’s job search requirements; to learn more, see What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina?)

Coronavirus Update: In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the "CARES" Act, which we cover here), which greatly expands eligibility for unemployment. A number of states are also easing their eligibility rules to ensure that more people who are out of work due to COVID-19 qualify for unemployment benefits.

At our last check, South Carolina made clarifications about unemployment benefit entitlement to address the increasing numbers of claims relating to the coronavirus pandemic. South Carolina has clarified that you are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits if:

  • you are out of work because your employer shuts down because of COVID-19, you are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance benefits,
  • your employer lays you off due to loss of production resulting from COVID-19, you are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance benefits, or
  • your employer reduces your hours because of COVID-19, you are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
 

Eligibility Requirement 1: Minimum Earnings

In every state, unemployment benefits are available only to those who are temporarily out of work. If you apply after being out of the workforce for years, for example, you won’t qualify for benefits. You must have been employed relatively recently, and earned at least a minimum amount, to be eligible.

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How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, you can earn up to $326 per week in unemployment benefits under state law. Under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the "CARES Act"), Congress has authorized an additional $600 in benefits per week, on top of your state benefit amount. These additional benefits, called federal pandemic unemployment compensation, expire on July 31, 2020.

Every state has its own rules for calculating unemployment benefits. Typically, the amount you receive each week is based on your earnings when you were employed. After all, unemployment benefits are intended to replace some of the income you lost along with your job, and tide you over until you find new work.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

Your weekly unemployment benefit amount depends on your earnings during the base period.

In South Carolina, your weekly benefit amount will be one half of your average weekly wage during the highest paid quarter of the base period. 

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How Long Will My Unemployment Benefits Last in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, you can receive unemployment benefits for a maximum of 20 weeks

Once your South Carolina benefit entitlement runs out, you will be entitled to an additional 13 weeks of benefits under the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program; see below. 

Each state sets its own rules for how long unemployment benefits last. Until quite recently, virtually all states offered a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. In the last five or six years, however, some states have changed their rules on duration of benefits (in most cases, to offer benefits for a shorter period of time).

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What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina?

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, federal and state governments are rapidly making changes to their unemployment programs, to ensure that more people who are out of work receive benefits more quickly. These changes may affect waiting periods, job search requirements, and availability of benefits to those who are still working part time. These changes include the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act, which greatly expands the nation's unemployment compensation program, including continuation of benefits. Keep in mind that you are entitled to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits under the federal CARES Act after your state benefits are exhausted if you are unemployed due to COVID-19.

Because this situation is changing daily, check the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce for the latest developments.

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Can I Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina?

If the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce denies you unemployment insurance benefits, you can appeal. After you file your initial claim for unemployment benefits, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce will send you a written determination of your eligibility for benefits and, if it finds you eligible, how much you will receive in benefits. But, if the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce finds that you are not eligible for benefits or grants you benefits in a lower amount than you believe you are entitled to, you can appeal that decision. And, if the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce finds you eligible to receive benefits, your ex-employer can appeal that decision.

If you want to appeal the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce decision, check the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce website and handbook for:

  • Any forms and instructions for filing your appeal
  • The deadline for filing your appeal
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Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina?

Having your own lawyer to represent you in the unemployment insurance benefits process in South Carolina will level the playing field for you—because your ex-employer will be represented. Your ex-employer is almost certainly going to have a lawyer or two offering guidance through the South Carolina unemployment process. This legal advice can give your ex-employer an edge over you in the process, especially if they intend to challenge your claim for benefits. Your own lawyer can:

  • Help you figure out if you are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in South Carolina
  • Tell you if your employer’s stated reason for terminating you is valid and will bar benefits
  • Guide you through South Carolina’s unemployment insurance benefits claim process
  • Advise you on how to keep receiving unemployment insurance benefits, and
  • Assist you if you need to appeal a denial of unemployment insurance benefits by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce

Check the website of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce before you see a lawyer to get information about applying for unemployment benefits and your rights and obligations under the unemployment laws of South Carolina. The website and the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce claimant handbook, Applicant Reference Guide For Individuals Filing for Unemployment Insurance Benefits, have answers to your questions about the filing process. To find a lawyer in South Carolina, check the South Carolina Bar Association lawyer referral services and the lawyer directory of Nolo.com.

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Five Ways an Unemployment Lawyer Can Help You in South Carolina

If you have a straightforward unemployment claim, you will likely be able to file for unemployment benefits on your own, without any help from a lawyer. Your claim is relatively simple if you can easily meet the South Carolina earnings requirements to qualify for benefits, and you and your employer agree that you lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, because you were laid off or had to quit when your military spouse was transferred to another state).

But if your case is more complicated, it might make sense to consult with or hire an unemployment lawyer to represent you. An unemployment lawyer can help you if you are facing any of the situations described below.

1. Your Employer Claims You Were Fired for Misconduct

In South Carolina, you may be disqualified from receiving benefits if you were fired for misconduct relating to your job. If you were fired for cause short of misconduct, a shorter disqualification period will apply. 

 If your employer fights your claim for unemployment on the grounds that you were fired for misconduct, you should consider talking to a lawyer.

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Paying an Unemployment Lawyer in South Carolina

If you are out of work and you may be – or already have been – denied unemployment benefits in South Carolina, you may be wondering whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help with your unemployment case. It all depends on your financial situation and how (and how much) the attorney charges. In some situations, an unemployment attorney may be willing to offer you a contingency fee arrangement. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award. 

Below, we explain some typical attorney fee arrangements in unemployment cases. 

Initial Consultation

Your first step in choosing an attorney – and deciding whether it makes sense to fight your employer in an unemployment claim, appeal, or lawsuit – is an initial consultation. The initial consultation provides you and the attorney an opportunity to decide whether and how you will work together. 

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