FAQs for Claimants

How Unemployment Insurance Works

  • You are unemployed.
  • Your hours have been reduced. You are currently working less than full time (30 hours a week) due to being out of work and are earning less than your weekly benefit amount. This is still considered being unemployed, but make sure, when you are filing your weekly claim, that you report all the work you performed and wages you earned for that claims week.
  • It was not your fault that you lost your job from your most recent employer.
  • You are able to work.
  • You are available to work and willing to take a suitable offer.
  • As of April 18, 2021, the work search requirement is in effect. You must complete two weekly job searches in the SC Works Online Services (SCWOS) portal each week to remain eligible for UI benefits. Find resources on how to complete the work search on the “Find a Job” webpage.
  • Every claim is different and there are many factors that play into what makes someone ineligible. To determine if you are eligible to receive UI benefits, you must file a claim with DEW.
  • Before any benefits can be paid, an unpaid waiting period equivalent to one full week of unemployment benefits must be served. This requirement was waived by DEW in March 2020 due to the pandemic, however, the expiration of the state of emergency in June 2021 results in the waiting week being reinstated. Effective claim week ending June 19, 2021, claimants will be required to serve the unpaid waiting period.
  • You’re unemployed. (If you currently work less than full time due to being out of work and earn less than your weekly benefit amount, you’re still considered unemployed. When filing your weekly claim, report all work you performed and wages earned that week. Continue to seek full-time work.)
  • It was not your fault you lost your job from your most recent employer. 
  • You’re able to work.
  • You’re available for work and willing to take any suitable offer.
  • You report to your local comprehensive SC Works center as required.
  • You must actively search for suitable work each week that you file a weekly certification for unemployment insurance benefits. Suitable work includes any trade, occupation, or business in which you are qualified based on your training or experience, and which pays at least 90% of your previous salary during your first eight paid weeks of unemployment and 75% of your previous salary after eight paid weeks of unemployment.
  • You must complete at least two (2)work searches through SC Works Online Services (jobs.scworks.org) each week that you file a certification.

*The base period is defined as wages earned doing one year of insured work. Base-period wages typically establish monetary eligibility for UI benefits. There are two method’s used when calculating the base period: the standard base period and the alternate base period, both described below. When your initial claim is reviewed, DEW will decide which base period system your situation falls under. You will not have to determine this yourself.

The UI benefits program is funded by taxes on employers, including state taxes (which vary by state) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax, which is 6 percent of the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages. However, employers who pay their state unemployment taxes on time receive an offset credit of up to 5.4 percent, meaning that the FUTA tax for an employee earning $7,000 or more may be as little as $42. The credit is reduced in states that are overdue in repaying unemployment insurance debt owed to the federal Treasury.

While state spending on UI is not subject to balanced budget rules and states can borrow from the Treasury if they exhaust their reserves, they have to repay the federal government within two to three years, or federal taxes on employers automatically increase until the debt is paid.

States have extensive flexibility in determining benefits. Federal requirements are minimal, while ensuring that all states provide basic protections for eligible workers. States are free to choose the level of employer tax, the benefit level and duration of benefits, and the eligibility criteria, such as the extent and duration of prior employment. There is considerable variation in how states run this program. For instance, while the standard maximum time for which eligible people can collect benefits is 26 weeks, when the COVID-19 crisis began in late February, states like Florida and North Carolina limited state-paid benefits to just 12 weeks.

Most state UI systems replace about half of prior weekly earnings, up to some maximum. Average weekly UI payments are $387 nationwide, ranging from an average of $215 per week in Mississippi to $550 per week in Massachusetts. Since payments are capped, UI replaces a smaller share of previous earnings for higher-income workers than lower-income workers; while program formulas vary significantly, states that have higher maximums tend to have higher replacement rates. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Hawaii’s UI average replacement rate of 55 percent was the highest, while D.C.’s average replacement rate of 21 percent was the lowest.

I am receiving wages from an employer, and I also have a side business where I am an independent contractor. I lost all of my independent contractor work, but I am still receiving some wages from my employer. Am I eligible for benefits?

The fact that you lost either your side business or a part time job does not make you “unemployed” if you are still working full time or are earning more than your weekly benefit amount (WBA). If you are not employed full time but are still receiving some wages from your employer, you may be eligible to receive benefits if the wages earned from your employer are less than your weekly benefit amount (WBA). Since you have no work as an independent contractor, then you have no earnings outside of your wages with your employer to reduce the benefits that you may be eligible for.

You must report the amount of all income before taxes or any other deductions are taken out. This is called your gross income. For each of the two weeks you are certifying, you must report the gross income that you earned, even if you will not actually receive the money until later.

Will my last employer be contacted?

Yes. When you open your claim you will be required to report your last employer, dates of employment and the reason you are no longer working or reduced to less than full-time hours. Your employer will be sent a “Notice of Filing” to confirm the information you have provided. This information is needed to determine your eligibility according to state law and regulations. Each case is unique and determined individually after all the information is obtained; once a determination has been made you and your employer will be notified by mail.

You will be sent a monetary determination in the mail stating the amount of benefits you are eligible for and the wages which the determination was based on. If there are any errors you are responsible to report this to a claim center immediately.

If your wages are from the federal government or U.S. Military, your monetary determination may state you are ineligible at this time because your wages have not been reported. Once wage proof has been received, you will receive a second monetary determination based on the newly reported wages.

You will also receive an UI Claimant Handbook in the mail.
You are responsible to read and understand all material in the handbook. If you have any questions call the claim center.

All new claims are subject to a ‘waiting week’. The ‘waiting week’ is the first week in which you were eligible to receive benefits. You will not receive payment for this week, however you must claim for this week to receive your ‘waiting week’ credit. Your ‘waiting week’ will not be deducted from your benefit amount.

You will be required to file bi-weekly claims and be able and available for full time work. You will be required to register for work within seven days, unless deferred. You will also be required to report weekly work search contacts for each week you claim, unless deferred.



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