JAG-SC Shines Spotlight on Community Service

Young people serving their communities took the spotlight recently at the Jobs for America’s Graduates-SC (JAG-SC) annual Career Development Conference.

The annual event, held April 30 at Brookland Baptist Banquet and Conference Center in West Columbia, featured more than 600 students from 25 high schools.

Students from Swansea High received a Jefferson Award for community service.

Students from Swansea High received a Jefferson Award for community service.

U.S. Marshal Kelvin Washington, who delivered a motivational speech to the group, encouraged the young people to place service over self.

“Take care of the folks that are not in a position to take care of themselves,” Washington said. “Changes in your community begin with changes in you.”

JAG-SC students’ dedication to improving their communities was evident in projects presented at the conference. This academic year, JAG-SC schools partnered with the Jefferson Awards Students in Action program. Founded by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1972, the Jefferson Awards Foundation is dedicated to activating and celebrating public service.

So far this school year, JAG-SC schools logged more than 25,000 volunteer hours, according to Jefferson Awards Regional Director Heather Love. During the conference, the top three schools delivered oral presentations outlining their service projects. Swansea High, which runs a food bank for the community, received top honors.

Also at the conference, Manning High was crowned the state champion after collecting the most points from all of the day’s competitive events, which covered topics such as interviewing skills, public speaking, decision making and essay writing.

Luis Romero of Swansea High won the Governor’s Award, given annually to recognize the JAG-SC student who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and commitment to his or her goals.

Coordinated by the SC Department of Employment and Workforce, JAG-SC is a high school dropout prevention program focused on academic success and career readiness skills. Currently in its 10th year, it has served more than 8,000 students.

With the help of a dedicated career specialist at each participating school, JAG-SC students work on skills identified by businesses as essential to successful employment. The S.C. program has been consistently recognized at the national level for its success in equipping young people for life beyond high school.


Seven Additional S.C. Counties Certified as Work Ready

COLUMBIA—Seven counties were recognized today for achieving certification through the South Carolina Work Ready Communities (SCWRC) initiative. The counties are:  Barnwell, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Lee, Lexington, and Marion.

Gov. Nikki Haley announced that more than half of South Carolina’s counties are now certified as work ready, continuing to outpace the nation in an initiative that showcases the skilled workforce that businesses require in a competitive economy.

“We are well on our way to becoming the nation’s first certified work ready state, and that is a huge reason to celebrate in every part of South Carolina,” Gov. Haley said. “This is a perfect example of Team South Carolina coming together to prove how committed we are to training a highly skilled workforce that is capable of meeting every need a company in our state may have.”

The seven newly certified counties have met all needed workforce and education goals, demonstrating to businesses a strong local workforce and commitment to economic growth. The Palmetto State now has 29 counties with this designation, which is more than any other state in the nation.

“Seven more counties gaining certification illustrates just how committed South Carolina is to developing a world-class workforce,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce. “We have seen record employment highs in our state over the past year, and with more than half of South Carolina’s counties now certified as work ready communities, this will further pave the way to filling those open jobs with qualified workers.”

To become a South Carolina Work Ready Community, a county has to reach or exceed goals in earning National Career Readiness Certificates (achieved through WorkKeys® testing), meet or exceed the three-year graduation rate average or improvement percentage, and engage business support.

The latest work ready counties join the ranks of 22 others that have been certified since the initiative began in 2013. Find a map of certified counties here.

For additional information, visit www.scworkready.org.

Palmetto State Sees Record-Breaking Year for Number of People Working

According to the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW), newly-released figures show that 2014 was a record-breaking year for South Carolina. The numbers show that more South Carolinians were in the labor force working and looking for work by the end of the year than ever before in the state’s history.

In 2014, South Carolina’s employment remained above the two-million mark increasing every month throughout the year. The number of South Carolinians employed in December 2014 was 2,069,190, growing by more than 35,000 since January.

“Amazingly, a comparison of data from January of 2013 to December of 2014, the state has seen an increase in the employment level by approximately 75,000 people, reflecting continued progress over the nearly two-year period,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, DEW Executive Director. “Furthermore, the labor force increased by 46,800 during the year to slightly more than 2.2 million people.”

The employment situation for January will be released March 17, and February’s figures will be released March 27.

*About benchmarking: The Bureau of Labor Statistics re-estimates labor force data annually to take advantage of the latest available information related to unemployment claims, nonfarm employment, population changes, and other data used in generating the estimates.


Partnership Forged to Boost S.C. Workforce Services

Gov. Nikki Haley, along with a dozen state leaders, formalized a partnership Thursday that will boost South Carolina’s public workforce system, SC Works.

The ultimate goal is to unify numerous workforce programs into a single, integrated customer-focused network in each local community.


The following agencies and organizations signed the partnership agreement:

  • Office of the Governor (Office of Economic Opportunity)
  • Department of Employment and Workforce
  • Department of Corrections
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services
  • Department of Social Services
  • Indian Development Council
  • Job Corps
  • Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging
  • SC Technical College System
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Department

The formal partnership agreement is the culmination of discussions that began more than a year ago among agencies impacting workforce development. The initiative was spearheaded by the State Workforce Investment Board.

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.


(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.


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.


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.

Eric's pic (271x300)

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.


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.