By Stan Welch
Earlier this month, major changes were made to South Carolina’s unemployment system resulting in the closure of some offices. Most of the changes took place to the part of the system charged with administering the unemployment insurance claims.
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workplace (SCDEW) became one of the nation’s last such agencies to go to a mostly automated system, said DEW spokesperson Adrian Fairwell, in a telephone interview with The Journal.
Fairwell explained that the face to face aspect of the unemployment insurance division was essentially removed from the process, adding that the majority of those employees now work from automated call centers; an arrangement she said is proving to be more efficient and timely in terms of the responses to clients’ questions. Claims are filed by phone or online; questions are answered by those in the call centers.
“There were several reasons for the changes. One was a significant cut in our federal funding, which was really a two edged sword. More and more of our fellow South Carolinians are being trained for, and finding, new sustainable jobs. So more of them are back at work. But the formula for setting our level of federal funding is based on our unemployment rate. As that rate decreases, so does our funding.”
Fairwell conceded that of the nearly 1000 DEW employees statewide, about ten per cent of them were impacted, or lost their jobs. But she reiterated that the new automated system is much faster in terms of getting needed information to clients. As for the job search and training services, they continue to provide face to face counseling and assistance.
“These changes have allowed us to take our training and employment services to a new level. The intensity of the training offers a much better chance that those who complete it will, in fact, secure employment,” said Fairwell.
Even before the statewide changes, the Anderson DEW office was relocated to the Bailes building, due to asbestos concerns at the old location. Fairwell said that decision, as well as any concerning local facilities, are made at the local level. “DEW has no authority to determine if an office will be consolidated with another or closed.”
The move was made possible by the relocation of several county offices from the Bailes building to the Courthouse Annex as well as the Ronnie Townsend Building on Clemson Boulevard.