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Benefit checks are on the way

Benefit checks are on the way


COLUMBIA -- It's official: the state Legislature fixed an oversight Wednesday that will send tens of millions of dollars to unemployed workers.

Gov. Mark Sanford will sign the bill today and residents could receive a check within a week.

The Legislature returned in special session this week to change wording in a law that will allow federal stimulus funds to provide an additional five months of unemployment benefits to out-of-work residents.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, explained the importance of the legislation to the Senate.

"This is the right thing to do for the people of South Carolina in order to enable them to take full advantage of any federal unemployment benefits that might be available, particularly during this time of economic difficulty," Martin said.

The House gave the bill final approval without discussion and sent it to the Senate floor, where it received no opposition.

The oversight was first uncovered by The Post and Courier earlier this month.

Residents qualify for the additional benefits under the $787 billion federal stimulus package because the state's unemployment rate is among the highest in the country. It currently stands at 11.6 percent.

Residents who qualify will receive a lump sum amount that's based on the number of missed weeks and the weekly amount they qualify for. For example, those who missed out on seven weeks of benefits would get, on average, $250 a week in a lump sum payment of $1,750.

Since the first of the year, about 113,000 residents have exhausted their benefits.

Sanford's communication director Ben Fox said the governor wants this legislation to be the first in a process of reforming the Employment Security Commission. Sanford for the last year has urged the Legislature to overhaul the agency, which he believes has fallen down on the job during this recession.

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