Aiken office one of few S.C. Works sites to remain open

  • Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 11:13 p.m.

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s unemployment agency is laying off at least 100 employees in June as part of a statewide reorganization that directs anyone seeking jobless benefits to use its upgraded online system, the agency’s interim director announced Tuesday.

John Finan said the Department of Employment and Workforce will eliminate one-on-one help with unemployment claims June 10, and the number of local offices offering job training and other re-employment services will shrink.

Twelve offices are expected to remain open. Besides the Aiken office, others include office in Lancaster, Greenville, Beaufort, Aiken, Columbia, Florence, Sumter, North Charleston, Greenwood, Spartanburg, Conway and Anderson. These sites will offer all re-employment services, as well as computer access and help with online claims filing. Local officials are choosing various ways to continue services throughout their region, from mobile units to satellite offices, he said.

Finan said the department’s declining workload – processing 50,000 claims that were filed weekly compared to nearly 140,000 in early 2011 – required a statewide restructuring that brings South Carolina in line with how most states already handle claims, he said. “We were way out of touch with other states in the country. We’re coming up to modern times with technology,” Finan said. He insists that the continued downsizing creates an opportunity to shift the agency’s focus. “We’re trying to refocus from unemployment, which has been the mantra for the office, to re-employment,” Finan said.

“We need to work on innovative things the state can do and locals can do to really put people to work.”

Affected workers will receive notices this week. The vast majority of layoffs will come from local offices.

The agency is partnering with technical schools, libraries, churches and community groups to provide computer access in all counties.

Legislators have complained that many laid off workers may lack the computer skills to file online. The upgraded website now includes a tutorial, and people can call a toll-free number to guide them through the steps. Statewide, 98 percent of initial claims already are filed online, according to the agency.

The upcoming layoffs will reduce agency costs by $5 million to $6 million, Finan said.

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