Confusion and frustration builds as South Carolinians attempt to apply for unemployment benefits

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)–As businesses close, more people are being laid off and turning to the state for help. But the unemployment system is overwhelmed and leaving people with questions.

Normally, you have two options–apply for unemployment in person or online. But, amid the coronavirus crisis, the website is the only option. The problem? It wasn’t designed for the nearly 100,000 people who have used the system in the last two weeks.

“We were averaging close to 2,000 claims a week and we’ve got huge numbers of volume in regards to unemployment,” Jamie Suber, Chief Administration Officer for the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, said.

Now, the SCDEW has 65,000 new claims in the past week alone.

“So we’re trying to grow our staff and our workforce to adjust to those needs and satisfy the needs of the state,” Suber said.

Tammy Phillips is just one of those people who followed the directions to apply for unemployment online.

“I literally don’t even want to turn my heat on as cold as it was in the house today because I don’t know how i’m going to pay my bills because I don’t know when or if i’m going to see any money,” Phillips said.

It took her three days to speak with someone who could clear up her issues, but they couldn’t answer all her questions.

“So when I asked her when I would receive a payment would I get one this week since I was out the week before and they were supposed to waive that week she was very doubtful that that would happen for me,” Phillips said.

Many of the problems are being linked to the system that checks social security numbers.

“There’s literally only one entity that’s responsible for confirming people’s social security numbers,” local labor attorney John Reckenbeil said.

Reckenbeil said if you can’t get through to the unemployment office, remain calm.

“Your bills and utilities are not going to be shut off you’re not going to have your power shut off you’re not going to have your water shut off,” Reckenbeil said.

But the fear of the unknown can be the biggest issue.

“It’s kind of scary just sitting around the house wondering what’s going to happen or how I’m going to take care of things,” Phillips said.

In order to address these issues, the Department of Employment and Workforce is shutting down the system every night from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. in an attempt to upgrade the portal to handle the volume.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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