Unemployment benefits for 30,400 South Carolinians are set to expire on Dec. 31 unless congress extends them by this Thursday.
In a last-stab response, many throughout the community will join that same day for public demonstration, requesting congress to act now.
Beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8, community members will join for a vigil at the local Employment Security Office (176 Lockwood Blvd. in Charleston). All are invited to attend and participate.
“Extended unemployment benefits are still necessary because we are obviously still in the middle of a jobs crisis,” says Erin McKee, chair of the Charleston Central Labor Council. “Congress has never before let federal extended benefits expire when labor market conditions were this bad.”
Bills for benefit extensions through 2012 were introduced last month in both the U.S. House and Senate, but have yet to receive legislative votes.
The current congressional session is targeted to close for the year on the same day of the vigil, meaning Thursday will be the last opportunity for benefits to be extended.
“We urge Congressman (Tim) Scott to support immediate reauthorization and full funding of the federal extended unemployment benefits program through 2012, with no strings attached,” McKee declares.
Rep. Scott’s 1st Congressional District currently includes parts of Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester and Georgetown counties and all of Horry County. Their last-reported unemployment rates are 7.9, 9.8, 8.5, 10.2 and 10.4 percent, respectively.
The losses won’t affect just the unemployed, though, says the AFL-CIO, a promoter of over 50 similar events across the country scheduled for Thursday. “Unemployment benefits are pumped back into the economy immediately, flowing to local grocery stores, gas stations, landlords and utilities,” the labor group says in its “Fact Sheet.”
For so many to lose their benefits, “the loss to communities (in South Carolina) could total $7,003,552 a week,” according to the AFL-CIO.
A recent study conducted on behalf of the U.S. Dept. of Labor found the U.S. economy to grow $2 for every dollar distributed in unemployment benefits.
The effects of benefit discontinuance would be demographically disproportionate, too. While 10.5 percent of all South Carolinians are unemployed, the rate is higher for Hispanics (10.9) and African Americans (18.2). The 20-to-24 year old age group shows a 20.6 percent rate of unemployment, the AFL-CIO also points out.
Rep. Scott could definitely use reminding of the impact that a failure to renew benefits could have on the country, and might need to be updated on the general topic, too. In a recent interview, Scott said “We are used to, we've enjoyed for a long time, less than 7 percent unemployment.”
However, the number of unemployed nationwide has been above 7 percent since December 2008, and is currently 9.1 percent. Unemployment in South Carolina has been above 7.1 percent since August 2008, and is currently 10.5 percent.
Earlier this year, Scott supported legislation to rescind funding from the American Jobs Act, which is responsible for maintaining so much employment in the country and the state.
The average weekly benefit received by the over-30,000 unemployed in South Carolina is $230.38, which is approximately 22 percent less than the national average.