Standing room only at Gov. Sanford's unemployment roundtable

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford says lawmakers should look at problems at the Employment Security Commission when they return for a special session October 27th to fix a problem that’s keeping unemployed South Carolinians from receiving more federal assistance from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Sanford opened his unemployment roundtable meeting Tuesday which involved state officials as well as business leaders and lawmakers from around the state.

Gov Sanford chatting after Unemployment Roundtable

Following the meeting, the Governor emphasized that the problem of the state’s unemployment figures is a complex issue. 

“There are many numbers that go into the numbers we look at,” said Sanford.  “Some are controlled, some aren’t.  We need to look at immigration, from the standpoint of helping people to find work.  If we address the wrong problem, we’ve got a whole new set of problems.” 
Sanford has pushed for changes at the Employment Security Commission for some years. That prompted legislation this past session that was stopped in the House. And about the need for a General Assembly vote next week to allow for the extra federal checks to jobless workers, Sanford says he’s not pointing a finger at the Commission this late, but if someone had drawn sufficient attention to the issue during the legislative session, it would not be necessary for lawmakers to return to Columbia Tuesday.  Sanford says if some House members knew about the problem, that knowledge was certainly not widespread. 
A News Channel 7 reporter told the Governor that Representative Kenny Bingham of Lexington County claimed to have indeed included the necessary measure in his bill to restructure the Employment Security Commission, but it didn’t make it out of the House.
John Steven with The Lucas Group, a consulting firm based from Boston, pointed out during the roundtable that South Carolina is not alone in its need for using federal funds to back checks for the unemployed. He said 22 other states are now borrowing from the federal government, and that figure is expected to increase to 41 by the end of 2010. But Steven said in South Carolina, the Unemployment Trust Fund dropped even at times when the state’s unemployment rate was stable.
Steven says so-called rapid response programs can certainly reduce the drain on unemployment insurance.
“If a major employer plans a major lay off, a rapid response team would come in and either prevent that from happening,” said Steven, “or if it happens, train those employees so that they know what to expect ahead of time what to expect.”