End of extended unemployment benefits will affect thousands

The South Carolina Employment Security Commission has announced that the state’s Extended Benefits program will end Saturday.  E-S-C Deputy Executive Director Jimmy Jones says the end to Extended Benefits is the result of the federal formula which allowed the state to qualify for the program in the first place.  Jones explains the actual formula that initiates the state’s participation in the program while pointing out that there is a marked difference between the total unemployment rate and the insured unemployment rate. 
“The total unemployment rate considers everybody who claims to be looking for a job who doesn’t already have one. The insured unemployment rate is calculated by only using those people who actually file a claim for unemployment benefits. While the state’s total unemployment rate is calculated to be 11 percent, our insured unemployment rate is less than five percent.”  
Jones says when the state’s insured unemployment rate drops below five percent the Extended Benefits program ends for at least 13 weeks. Jones says the program can recycle back on after the 13-week period is over if the insured unemployment rate reaches over five percent. 
Jones says the program triggered on earlier this year just before spring. “The program  triggered on in March when the insured unemployment rate reached above five percent. You have to be on the program for at least 13 weeks after you trigger on. At the end of 13 weeks you evaluate the I.U.R. each week to see if you can trigger off the program. We did not trigger off until earlier this month.”
Jones says during the week ending Saturday October 3, 6900 persons received checks under the Extended Benefits program.
Jones says only a certain number of persons reach the point where they qualify for benefits under the program. “They have to be an exhaustee of the other programs we have available. There is a 26-week regular state program, then there’s a 20-week federal program, another 13 week-federal program.  Then if they exhausted all of those programs and they qualified they would move into the state extended benefits program.” 
 Jones says he understands that there are people out there struggling right now during this recession. Jones says for those who have been receiving checks under the program still have avenues in which to seek help.
“We would just ell them to use the services of our workforce centers to try to find a job. Certainly if they don’t have benefits remaining doesn’t mean they don’t have access to our employment and training division in finding work or training. The only other thing we could suggest is that they go to D-S-S to see if there are other programs they may qualify for that offers assistance.”  
The Commission points out that Congress is currently working on another extended benefits program which will hopefully be in place soon.
Jones says the number of persons applying for unemployment benefits has leveled off from the high numbers registered at the beginning of the year.  “For instance,  the week of January 10, we 8637 people come in and apply,” he said.  “The next week we had 7562.  More recently it’s been in the 5000 range. The ending September 26 we had 5152. October 3, it was 5026.”    
Jones says the number of those applying for unemployment benefits usually increases significantly at the beginning of any given year, just after the holiday season.