Consultant: ESC faces problems

A Boston-based consulting firm says agencies serving jobless workers in South Carolina need to be unified, and that is never more evident than at the so-called OneStop workforce centers located around the state operated by the Employment Security Commission.
Jon Stephen with The Lucas Group says agencies need computer bases which tie information together from each agency, to better serve workers and save the state money. 
Berkeley County Representative Joe Daning was among the state lawmakers present at Governor Sanford’s Unemployment Roundtable held this past week where that issue was mentioned.
Officials say the OneStops are helpful since there are desks for various agencies under the same roof. But Daning says unemployed workers are filling out numerous applications to receive help from different agencies, which don’t communicate with each other much.
“What strikes me is the amount of duplication between agencies because of a lack of communication,” said Daning, “because they end up doing the same thing.”
Greenville County Representative Bill Wylie says when a worker goes to a OneStop to collect a check, and then have to fill out up to four applications when one should be sufficient.
Sanford has been pushing to overhaul the Employment Security Commission since last year.
Misconduct Among Jobless Workers
The state of South Carolina has spent more than $380 million in unemployment benefits just since 2006 on workers who have been fired for misconduct. That according to The Lucus Group, whose report indicates that 25 percent of the state’s workers receiving unemployment checks are fired for misconduct, not layed off. 
Representative Wylie is one of those concerned about the issue. He says disqualified jobless workers will receive checks for an average of more than nine weeks before they’re disqualified, because they have the right to appeal what an employer said.
Wylie asserts that there is a simple way to save the state a lot of money:  “I think if someone has been released for cause, I don’t think they should get a check until their case has been adjudicated and they’ve appealed if they’re going to do so.  If they’re innocent, give them back pay.  If we saved six weeks of that nine weeks of pay, we could bring our average payout way down.”
Drug use disqualifications are another major issue facing the Employment Security Commission. An ESC official told the group that those who are fired because they fail a drug test administered by a certified laboratory are disqualified from benefits.  Stephen, the consultant, said that at some South Carolina industries, a considerable segment of the workforce have failed random drug tests.
The state’s unemployment rate of 11.5 percent is among the nation’s highest.