COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's unemployment insurance agency will be sending refund checks to businesses or giving them credits for past overpayments, the agency said Thursday.
Agency Director Abraham Turner said "this is a very good news story for businesses in this state."
"Businesses will be able to invest a little bit more of their money because of the refund that's coming their way," said Turner, who just started the job a week ago. They will be "able to feel more confident about the future going forward."
That confidence could help hiring crucial to dealing with South Carolina's persistently high jobless rate. The 10.9 percent unemployment rate in July tied with Michigan for the nation's third worst, behind Nevada and California.
The August unemployment report is expected Friday.
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce said that companies that paid $22 million in higher premiums in the second quarter of this year can get refunds or credits on future payments beginning Oct. 1. They'll have to request the refund checks if they want them and the agency is setting up a system to do that over the Internet.
Otherwise, they can apply the past overpayments to future unemployment insurance bills. That's how $65 million in overpayments for the first quarter of the year will be handled.
The typical business will see about a 22 percent reduction in higher rates. The agency is adjusting future bills too to reflect the taxpayer bailout.
Meanwhile, Turner, a retired major general, said he's working on Gov. Nikki Haley's call for tying unemployment benefits to passing drug tests.
The agency has no data showing how many people it refers to jobs fail drug tests tied.
Turner said he took his last drug test in April in the service and has no qualms about the concept of making sure workers are able to work. "Drug testing is a good thing in organizations because drugs are a part of society right now," Turner said. "We want to do it in such a way that we're not taking away civic rights or individual rights."