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South Carolina measure ties unemployment benefits to unemployment rate

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(The Center Square) — The South Carolina House passed a measure Wednesday to tie how long someone can receive unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate.

Under H.4710, South Carolinians could collect benefits for 12 weeks when the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.5% or lower. The number of weeks would increase if the unemployment rate rises, reaching a maximum of 20 weeks if the state’s unemployment rate tops 9%.

Proponents say the measure could lower unemployment insurance rates.

“With 161,000 jobs available across various sectors in South Carolina, and a workforce participation rate of 57%, H.4710 arrives at a crucial time to bridge the gap between job availability and workforce engagement,” state Rep. Micah Caskey, R-Lexington, said in an announcement. “This initiative is a strategic move to encourage more South Carolinians to join the workforce and take advantage of the abundant employment opportunities our state offers.”

National Federation of Independent Business State Director Ben Homeyer called the measure “commonsense legislation,” noting that South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 3%.

“It just makes sense to limit unemployment benefits at a time when so many businesses are struggling to find workers,” Homeyer said in a statement. “H. 4710 would result in lower unemployment insurance rates for Main Street businesses. That would leave owners with additional funds they could use to grow their businesses or hire additional workers.”

If passed and signed into law, the measure would apply to unemployment insurance claims starting on or after Oct. 1.

According to an estimate from the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the measure could require roughly $30,000 for the Department of Employment and Workforce to upgrade software and provide the public with materials outlining the change. However, the estimate concluded the state could also realize some savings in other areas.

“Further, this bill may result in an undetermined decrease in Other Funds revenue for the [Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund] beginning in tax year 2025, as the tax rates which fund the UITF are set based upon the expected benefit payouts,” according to the estimate.