Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced an amendment that would alter federal COVID-19-related unemployment benefits from $600 per week to $500 per week for August and September.
State unemployment benefits will remain at $326 a week, according to a news release. After Oct. 1, the combined benefits will cover up to 100% of an unemployed person’s pre-pandemic wages.
According to the release, Graham wanted to amend a benefit program that allowed 70% to 80% of unemployed individuals to bring in more cash from unemployment benefits than the jobs they held before feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m sympathetic to those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and want to help make them whole,” Graham said in the release. “However, we cannot continue the $600 per week federal benefit which is now paying unemployed South Carolinians over $48,000 a year. In many cases someone on unemployment has received a pay raise and is making more on unemployment than they did at their job. It’s also unfair to the teachers, police officers, firemen, health care workers, and others who continue to get up and go to work to have someone on unemployment making more by staying home.”
The amendment would also ensure that states are reimbursed for 75% of their unemployment costs for nonprofits, government agency and tribal employees, the release said. It also will distribute $2 billion to upgrading state unemployment systems and an additional $1.15 billion to help them process claims.
Under the Graham amendment, unemployed individuals in South Carolina would continue to receive up to $326 per week from the state. The current $600 per week federal unemployment benefit would be lowered to $500 per week for the months of August and September. Pay-go concerns will be addressed through an emergency declaration included in the amendment.
The letter follows Graham’s receipt of a letter from the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, S.C. Retail Association and National Federation of Independent Business about employment concerns arising from the $600 federal supplement, the release said.
“The additional $600 per week unemployment payment has caused many South Carolina businesses to face ‘recall resistance’ from employees because the extra-large benefit exceeds many individuals’ prior weekly earnings,” the letter said.
The letter highlighted incidences of “ghosting,” where job applicants interview with an employer but refuse to show up to work while still receiving additional unemployment benefits.
“This provision is inadvertently impeding businesses’ ability to fully re-open and get our state’s economy back on track,” said the letter.