COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Supreme Court has given the OK to Gov. Henry McMaster’s decision to withdraw the state from the federal COVID-19 unemployment programs.
The court issued a unanimous decision affirming a circuit court order dismissing a case that requested an injunction to prevent the state from leaving the programs and to reenroll the state in the programs until they ended.
“Our goal has always been to usher in a rapid economic recovery that will lift all South Carolinians and benefit generations to come, and we’ve done that,” McMaster said in a statement. “Rather than working to incentivize South Carolinians to accept one of the thousands of available jobs in our state, these federal benefits presented a clear danger to the health of our state’s businesses by keeping people home. Now, we will continue our tireless work to match qualified South Carolinians with available jobs around our state.”
“We are very happy with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Department of Employment and Workforce Executive Director Dan Ellzey. “The federal programs were voluntary and states had the option to participate. As South Carolina employers ramped up their hiring in the spring of this year and employment opportunities continued to outnumber individuals looking for work, it became evident that it was time for the state to focus more on reemployment. Thousands of South Carolinians have found employment since the termination of the federal programs, but there are still tens of thousands of open positions and opportunities currently available. We strongly encourage anyone who needs help finding their next job to visit an SC Works center and take advantage of the customized services for jobseekers.”
The programs were created in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act of 2020 – the act approved by Congress and signed into law by former President Donald Trump last March – and its extension bill created and funded six programs.
Those programs are Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, 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 and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation.
South Carolina signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal Department of Labor to participate in distributing the money. But in May, McMaster ordered the Department of Employment and Workforce to withdraw from the program.
The suit was subsequently filed to get the state back into the programs.
In specific, four plaintiffs argued that a section of South Carolina law requires the state to participate in the programs because they are advantages available under the federal Social Security Act.
The court rejected that argument, saying that the only connection the programs have to the Social Security Act are that the money from the programs passes through the bank accounts of the Social Security Administration and that the connection isn’t sufficient to qualify as benefits under the act.