DEW Shows Support for Guard and Reserve

SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) Executive Director Cheryl M. Stanton today pledged the agency’s support to employees who serve in the military.

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(Left to right) Midlands ESGR Chairman Bob Kuenzli, Adjutant General Robert Livingston, Joe Smoak of SC ESGR, Cheryl Stanton of DEW, SC ESGR State Chairman Eli Wishart, and Col. Ronald Taylor of the S.C. National Guard

Stanton signed a statement of support for the Guard and Reserve. Adjutant General Robert Livingston, Col. Ronald Taylor of the S.C. National Guard, and Eli Wishart and Bob Kuenzli of the S.C. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) attended a signing ceremony at DEW.

DEW, ESGR and the S.C. National Guard have a long-standing partnership in helping military service members and veterans find meaningful civilian employment through Operation Palmetto Employment. In fact, the veterans’ unemployment rate in South Carolina is sixth lowest in the nation at 4.1 percent.

ESGR informs and educates service members and their civilian employers about  their rights and responsibilities under  the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. Learn more about S.C. ESGR here.

Operation Palmetto Employment has the resources to help businesses hire qualified military candidates and job seekers find employment.  Learn more here.

DEW’s MyBenefits Portal Now Accepting Online Payments

The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) is making it easier than ever for unemployment insurance (UI) claimants to pay back debt.

In addition to submitting by mail and automatic draft, claimants may now use the online payment portal via MyBenefits. You may pay with a debit card, credit card or an electronic check.

Click here for a step-by-step guide

An improper payment occurs when someone receives UI benefits that he or she is not eligible for.

If a person has been overpaid for UI benefits, whether fraudulent or non-fraudulent, he or she must repay the debt to DEW or risk the following penalties:

  • Withholding of wages if currently employed
  • Deducting the money owed from federal and/or state income tax refunds
  • Deducting debt from any other money owed by the state

Alternative collection methods can be avoided by either repaying the debt in full or establishing and maintaining a monthly payment plan.  After receiving a Notice of Overpayment of Benefits, you should  immediate action should be taken by calling DEW’s Overpayment Unit at 803.737.2490.

In recent years, DEW’s fraud prevention and detection efforts have dramatically decreased the number of improper payments being made. In 2012, the agency implemented a software system that compares wage data against unemployment data to detect potential conflicts. For example, it can detect if a person who is filing weekly claims is actually earning wages and working.

This process helps DEW better detect both fraud and non-fraud overpayments, identifies the potential fraud sooner, flags the claim and stops payments. With quicker identification, DEW is able to both recoup fraudulent improper payments sooner and prosecute more fraud cases.

DEW has also improved its detection capability by reducing the claims’ audit time frame by 50 percent.

The quicker detection processes have:

  • Reduced the number of potentially fraudulent weeks claimed by 30 percent,
  • Decreased the average amount paid per potentially fraudulent case by 30 percent, and
  • Significantly reduced the average number of fraud cases per quarter by 50 percent.

The new online payment portal is just another step towards efficiency and DEW’s goal of improved improper payment detection, prevention and recovery.

For more information about improper payments and fraud prevention, visit dew.sc.gov/overpayments.

State’s Businesses to Save on Federal Unemployment Taxes for Fourth Consecutive Year

For the fourth consecutive year, S.C. businesses will only pay the minimum 0.6 percent per employee for federal unemployment taxes (FUTA) because the Palmetto State once again met the requirements to obtain the maximum 5.4 percent credit for 2014 FUTA.

South Carolina is the only borrowing state to receive a waiver for the full 5.4 percent. Receiving this credit means S.C. businesses will save up to $140 per worker.

“This is just another example of the positive track our state’s unemployment trust fund is on as we approach solvency in the coming year,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW). “Thanks to diligent fiscal stewardship by our governor and General Assembly, we are able to tell the state’s business community that it will realize the maximum benefits of FUTA cost savings for the fourth year in a row.”

Federal law requires a reduction in the FUTA tax credit (i.e. that the FUTA rate for a state’s employers will increase) when a state has outstanding federal unemployment loans for two consecutive Januarys and has not made sufficient voluntary payments towards the loan and other solvency improvement measures. Such reduction in the FUTA tax credit would be higher when a state has outstanding federal unemployment loans for five consecutive Januarys—which is the case in South Carolina. However, borrowing states like South Carolina can formally ask the U.S. Department of Labor for the credit reduction to be avoided if they meet certain criteria that exhibit fiscal responsibility.

One of the requirements was that South Carolina make a voluntary payment toward the outstanding loan balance before Nov. 10. This year, the state made a $60 million payment in April and a $126 million payment in September. Most importantly, S.C. businesses have seen an 18 to 25 percent reduction in their unemployment taxes since 2011.

South Carolina also has repaid approximately $700 million of the $977 million borrowed from the federal government.

The outstanding balance on the loan is $270 million, and the state is scheduled to repay the loan in full by the end of 2015.

DEW Leads Way in Nation to Help Prevent Fraud Through Real-time Jail, Unemployment Data Cross Match

As the first workforce agency in the nation to implement a real-time comparison of jail records to unemployment data, the SC Department of Employment and Workforce has realized thousands in cost savings by preventing improper claims from being paid.

The agency recently joined forces with Appriss, a data technology solutions company that works to prevent fraud, fight crime and promote public safety. The company developed one of the nation’s first automated victim information and notification systems using jail and booking records.

The partnership enables DEW to cross-match via a web-based system Appriss’ real-time record of individuals being held in local, county and state jails throughout the country with information in the agency’s unemployment benefits system. State law says a claimant must be able, available and actively seeking work to be eligible for benefits. In the project’s first two months, the agency has stopped almost 70 claims with a cost savings of $15,000, and flagged another 196 claims resulting in a savings of $45,000.

“We are extremely proud that South Carolina is once again leading the way in fraud detection and prevention, this time by comparing unemployment claimants’ information with local and state jail system records across the country,” said DEW Executive Director Cheryl M. Stanton. “This partnership provides yet another aggressive tool in our already robust program to stop unemployment fraud.”

DEW currently cross-matches unemployment data with S.C. Department of Corrections records, but the Appriss partnership expands the detection scope because it provides up-to-the-minute incarceration records from 38 states including S.C. county jails.

For more information on reporting and preventing unemployment fraud, visit dew.sc.gov/fraud.

Success Spotlight: From GED to New Career Thanks to TAA

Russell Burrell worked for 19 years at Liberty Denim. Despite not having a high school diploma, he worked hard, moving up at the plant where he eventually became a supervisor.

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All that changed in December 2011, when the company closed its doors for good.

Russell received Unemployment Insurance and searched for new jobs with little luck. When S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) representatives held a session for former Liberty Denim employees, Russell learned he could get help obtaining a GED.

TAA is a federally funded program administered through the DEW. It provides job search assistance as well as preparation, occupational and on-the-job training for workers laid off through no fault of their own due to increased imports, a shift of production or a service that moved to another country.

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Russell was nervous about going back to school since it had been many years since he was last in the classroom. But he knew he had to support his wife and children. He also wanted to serve as an example for his oldest daughter, who also did not have a high school diploma or GED.

In May 2012, Russell started the intensive GED program for the Liberty Denim employees through TAA. His daughter followed suit and also enrolled. In June of that year, Russell and his daughter completed GEDs.  His daughter then enrolled in the nursing program at a local technical school.  Not one to let his daughter out do him, Russell began the Automotive Service Technology program at Greenville Technical College in August 2012.

The next couple years weren’t easy. The father of four had to strike a balance between family and school. He put in long hours studying and often stayed after class to work with instructors. Russell studied hard, spent time with his children and stayed up late nights to finish homework. His dedication paid off in June 2014 when he received his associate degree with a 3.2 grade point average.

Russell started his new job as an auto mechanic on July 21.  Russell said that it had been a rough road at times, but it was well worth it.

Russell credits his success to the support he received from his family, TAA Workforce Specialist Janet Taylor and instructors along the way.  Russell’s advice for anyone that qualifies for TAA is to take advantage of it.

 

DEW Team Members Get National Nods

South Carolina received praise on a national stage this month. Two SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) employees were honored during the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) Annual Salute to Leadership Awards.

Eric McAbee, local veterans’ employment representative in Spartanburg, received the James F. Walls Employee Award for outstanding dedication to customers and colleagues and extraordinary service to the local community.

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Eric McAbee, veterans’ employment representative in Spartanburg

McAbee, who has worked at DEW since 2006, served in the Navy and now helps his fellow veterans in the Upstate connect with employment resources and opportunities. He received the award for his notable work with William “Wild Bill” Honeycutt, a veteran he assisted the last couple years.

Thanks to McAbee’s perseverance, Honeycutt found employment and overcame homelessness and alcohol dependency. The veterans’ representative did not stop there because he kept in touch with Honeycutt after his official role as a case manager ended.

When McAbee found out Honeycutt was terminally ill, the employment representative was determined to reunite Honeycutt with his estranged family. He was able to connect the veteran with his sister, two brothers and daughter before Honeycutt passed away.

“Mr. McAbee’s compassionate and selfless dedication to Mr. Honeycutt far exceeds the statutory requirements of service delivery…,” according to the awards nomination. “His commitment to serving veterans empowers those he serves, and positions partners to effectively provide assistance to those in need.”

Read more about how McAbee helped connect Spartanburg veterans with employment at a manufacturing plant in this article.

David Kyre, director of application development and technical director in the Division of Information Technology, received the Merrill Baumgardner Award for demonstrating excellence in information technology. Kyre was praised for his instrumental role in directing the Southeastern Consortium for Unemployment Benefits Integration (SCUBI) project.

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David Kyre, director of application development

The SCUBI consortium, which also includes North Carolina and Georgia, relies on Kyre’s wealth of knowledge and experience in enterprise product development, project management, software development life cycles and business process re-engineering to successfully navigate the complexities of the multi-state effort. Scheduled to go live in 2016, SCUBI will modernize the UI benefits system for all three states.

At the state level, Kyre’s leadership resulted in South Carolina releasing the nation’s first mobile application for unemployment weekly certification and fraud prevention and detection.

“Due to his hard work and leadership on the SCUBI Consortium and other impressive state IT ventures, NASWA would like to congratulate Mr. David Kyre…” the awards nomination said.

DEW Makes Second Early Unemployment Trust Fund Loan Repayment This Year

This payment amount more than doubles the payment sent in April

COLUMBIA—The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) today announced it made a second early voluntary payment of $126 million to the federal government for the agency’s unemployment trust fund loan, saving the state $660,000 in interest.

The early payment will also allow the state to apply for a fourth consecutive Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) credit reduction.  If approved, the FUTA credit reduction will avoid higher federal unemployment taxes for South Carolina businesses.

“Today’s announcement that DEW is making its second early loan payment this year – saving our citizens a combined $2 million in interest – is tremendous news for South Carolina’s businesses and taxpayers,” said Governor Nikki Haley. “This is the kind of commitment to responsible government that the people of our state expect and exactly what is possible when a state experiences the level of economic success we have over the last four years. It’s a great day in South Carolina.”

“The ability to make an early loan payment of this size is directly tied to the Palmetto State’s improved economy,” said DEW Executive Director Cheryl M. Stanton. “With more people working and less people receiving unemployment benefits, we have been able to use unanticipated, additional funds to pay down the debt the state incurred during the Great Recession.”

When the 2014 unemployment tax rate was set, the federal government estimated 1,968,209 South Carolinians were employed. As of July 2014, 2,043,602 people are employed in the state, leading to additional tax collections.

Moreover, South Carolina paid more than $57.2 million less in unemployment benefits between October 2013 and August 2014 compared to the same time frame during the previous year.

Following this month’s early payment of $126 million combined with April’s early $60 million payment, the outstanding balance on the loan is $270 million. To date, South Carolina has repaid more than $706 million of the $977 million borrowed from the federal government, and is still scheduled to repay the loan in full by the end of 2015.

Spartanburg Veterans to Be Featured on Fox Sports

Segment to Highlight How They Got Hired

Tune in to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Saturday on Fox Sports, and you’ll meet three Spartanburg veterans who found jobs thanks to help from the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) veterans’ team.

The Careers for Veterans 200 presented by the Cooper Standard Foundation and Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation will feature four veterans currently working for the Michigan-headquartered automotive manufacturing company. Three—Jeffery Nicholson, Joshua Klootwyk and Stafford Smith—are from the Spartanburg facility. And they were all referred to Cooper Standard by DEW representatives.

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(Front row from left) Veterans Joshua Klootwyk, Stafford Smith and Jeffery Nicholson were referred to their current jobs at Cooper Standard in Spartanburg by DEW representatives (back row) John Lee and Eric McAbee. The trio will be featured on Fox Sports this weekend as part of The Careers for Veterans 200, a NASCAR Truck race that will showcase the importance of hiring military veterans.

In fact, Cooper Standard and DEW have forged a strong partnership during the past seven years.

“These guys are really good about getting vets, finding guys about to be discharged and forward thinking,” Cooper Standard Human Resources Manager Warren Snead said of DEW Spartanburg veterans’ staff Eric McAbee and John Lee.

Take Jeffery Nicholson, who retired last year after 20 years in the Coast Guard. This New Hampshire native wanted to retire in South Carolina and be close to family. He connected with McAbee, who assisted with a job search and referred him to Cooper Standard.

“He was so enthusiastic about helping me find a good job, one equivalent to what I did in service,” Nicholson said of McAbee. “It was a little tough at first, but he was always throwing something my way.”

Today, Nicholson is the second shift supervisor at Cooper Standard, where he oversees more than 55 people. He started as a production associate in September 2013 and three months later moved up to a team coordinator before getting the most recent promotion.

He said Cooper Standard welcomed him with open arms and provides a great working environment for veterans. The company in February formalized its commitment to hiring veterans at the urging of the National Association of Manufacturers and actor Gary Sinise, of “Forrest Gump” fame who started a foundation to help military service members, veterans and first responders. Cooper Standard partnered with NASCAR driver Keselowski, and in May the two announced they would sponsor the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

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The Careers for Veterans 200 further supports Cooper Standard’s mission to recruit and hire top talent at a national level.  According to company officials, since formalizing the veterans initiative earlier this year Cooper Standard has increased its veterans workforce by 16 percent.

In the Spartanburg facility, that success is due in part to the relationship between DEW veterans’ representatives and Snead.

“Most of the time we can get an interview right out of their office,” Snead said of McAbee and Lee. “I have even popped into their office… Eric and John and the folks in the DEW office in Spartanburg have done a remarkable job helping us field our expansion.”

He added with a laugh, “I should give them Cooper Standard business cards.”

So when it was time for Fox Sports to visit Spartanburg’s Cooper Standard plant and film veterans on the job so they could be spotlighted during the race broadcast, Snead invited McAbee and Lee to join in.

“It was just awesome,’’ McAbee said of the experience getting to watch on set.

As for Nicholson, who explained he spent his military career keeping things close to the vest, he enjoyed getting a chance to be a spokesman. He and his wife are looking forward to seeing what he looks like on television.

Check out the race and learn more about Cooper Standard’s commitment to hiring veterans beginning at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports.

Learn more about DEW’s employment services for veterans and find a veterans representative near you here.

Read more about Cooper Standard’s Careers for Veterans here.

South Carolina awarded $1M Workforce Development Grant

131029_resources_header_research_WorkforceDevelopmentJobseekers in six rural S.C. counties will have the opportunity to boost their credentials thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Education.
South Carolina recently received $1,079,016 through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) incentive grant program.

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) will administer the grant and use the funds to improve the state’s workforce and promote collaboration among workforce and education partners, primarily the SC Department of Education and the SC Technical College System.

“This opportunity would not be possible if it wasn’t for South Carolina’s dedication to workforce and economic development,” said DEW Executive Director Cheryl M. Stanton. “These funds will allow individuals to earn credentials they might not otherwise obtain, such as a GED or a National Career Readiness Certificate, improving the workforce in areas that need it most.”

Under the program name Learn 2 Earn, DEW and its partners will focus on Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Clarendon, Hampton and Orangeburg counties. It will meet the basic skills needs of adults and create a pipeline of skilled workers for the healthcare, advanced manufacturing, transportation, and distribution and logistics industries. Service areas were selected based on statistical data (unemployment, poverty, education levels, etc.), anticipated job opportunities and potential impact.

The Palmetto State was one of eight states eligible to receive the funds based on the state exceeding WIA and Adult Education performance measures in program year 2012.

“We’re pleased that South Carolina received this important workforce development grant,” said State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais. “We greatly appreciate the partnership we share with DEW and the SC Technical College System. Our state is ripe with opportunity, and by investing in career training now, we can ensure a bright economic future for South Carolina families.”

Funds will also be used to improve soft skills needed for the workplace. Learn 2 Earn will develop and implement a uniformed, statewide and classroom/online-based soft skills curriculum for high school students and adults statewide.

Grant funding will run through June 2016.

Jobs for America’s Graduates-SC National Awards for 2013-2014

Jobs for America’s Graduates-SC (JAG-SC) took home multiple national awards from the organization’s annual training conference held in July in Orlando, Fla.

The state program was awarded the prestigious “Five of Five” Award, meaning it met or exceeded all national standards. Nine individual high schools also received the award. The schools and their accompanying career specialists are:

  • Chester High, Brittany Heath
  • Clinton High, Catherine Smith
  • Lake Marion High in Santee, Sonya Allen
  • McCormick High, Torsha Franklin
  • Rock Hill High, Gail Blake
  • South Florence High, Nikki Jett
  • Swansea High, Tammy Jones
  • West Florence High, Linda Williams
  • Woodmont High in Piedmont, Roderick Taylor

Outstanding Specialist Nominees from South Carolina:

  • Gail Blake of Rock Hill High
  • Tammy Jones of Swansea High

High Performer Awards:

  • Clay Cohen of Chesnee High for a non-grad recovery rate of 75 percent
  • Linda Williams of West Florence High for a partnership with Bank of America
  • Sonya Allen of Lake Marion High for a further education rate of 85 percent

JAG Special Recognition Awards:

  • Linda Williams of West Florence High for an outstanding article on the JAG website
  • JAG-SC; first place for  the lowest unable to contact rate, second place for the multi-year education rate, fourth place for scholarship success, and fifth place for full-time jobs
  • State JAG-SC Coordinator Elaine Midkiff, Pay it Forward Award for serving as a liaison and providing technical assistance to other JAG affiliates and a 21-year service award.