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Gov. McMaster orders end of federal pandemic unemployment programs by late June

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:12 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WIS) - Governor Henry McMaster has ordered the termination of South Carolina’s participation in all federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs.

This will go into effect on June 30.

McMaster directed the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce to take the action in a letter sent to DEW Executive Director Dan Ellzey.

“South Carolina’s businesses have borne the brunt of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those businesses that have survived, both large and small, and including those in the hospitality, tourism, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors – now face an unprecedented labor shortage,” McMaster wrote. “This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits. In many instances, these payments are greater than the worker’s previous paychecks. What was intended to be a short-term financial assistance for the vulnerable and displaced during the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal entitlement, incentivizing and paying workers to stay at home rather than encouraging them to return to the workplace.”

White House Economic Advisor Jared Bernstein has said a number of factors are playing into the labor shortage, including many parents still having to facilitate their children’s remote learning from home.

“It’s still the fact that our schools are far from completely open,” said Bernstein. “The virus is still upon the land. There’s still hot spots out there, and we’ve yet to set up the kind of child care sector.”

In a memo to the Governor, DEW Executive Director Ellzey outlined existing federal unemployment programs and what will change when the governor’s directive goes into effect.

Those programs include the following:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (EPUC)
  • Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
  • Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations
  • Temporary Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week

“At the current time, there are 81,684 open positions in the state of South Carolina. The hotel and foodservice industries have employee shortages that threaten their sustainability. However, no area of the economy has been spared from the pain of a labor shortage,” Department of Employment and Workforce Director Dan Ellzey said. “While the federal funds supported our unemployed workers during the peak of COVID-19, we fully agree that reemployment is the best recovery plan for South Carolinians and the economic health of the state. Last week’s initial claims numbers were the lowest since the pandemic began, and employers around the state are eager to hire and anxious to get South Carolina back to business.”

State officials in Montana have also ended participation in federal pandemic unemployment benefits, citing a “severe worker shortage”.

Copyright 2021 WISTV. WBTV contributed to this story. All rights reserved.