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The S.C. House of Representatives adopted a bipartisan budget amendment on Wednesday, March 13, to restore 17 rural employment centers dismantled by the state Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) last month.
One of those offices is in neighboring Chester County. Since Feb. 19, those in Chester County who need face-to-face help with unemployment benefits have been coming to the Lancaster office at 705 N. White St.
That amendment, which became part of the House budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year, was jointly proposed by Reps. Ted Vick (D-53) and Nelson Hardwick (R-106).
It directs DEW to spend up to $1.5 million for staff programs to help the jobless file unemployment benefits and get back to work.
State offices where face-to-face unemployment services were cut include Vick’s home county of Chesterfield. Vick also represents a portion of Lancaster County.
“We need to help the unemployed in our state get back to work,” said Vick, who co-chairs the House Rural Caucus with Hardwick.
“Instead of closing the offices, this agency should have been looking for ways to increase their effectiveness, particularly in rural counties, which have the highest unemployment rates in the state,” he said.
The amendment to the state’s fiscal year 2013-14 budget not only reopens the rural centers but could also triple their funding levels. Vick said in a press release the funds will enable more jobless residents to learn how to draft resumes, get professional training and learn how their skills match up with employers’ needs.
Under the amendment, the $1.5 million to reopen the offices will be transferred from the administrative section of the DEW budget. However, another amendment on the transferred funds does not specify how the money will be used.
A motion to kill the budget proposal failed by a 42-66 vote.
Lancaster’s Deborah Long (R-45) voted yes to kill the measure and Jay Lucas (R-65) voted no. Mandy Powers Norrell (R-44) was one of four legislators with an excused absence from the vote.
The decision by DEW last month to eliminate staff handling unemployment benefit claims at the rural centers helped prompt the resignation of former DEW Director Abraham Turner.