Benefits Eligibility Requirements

To determine if you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits, you must file an initial claim with DEW. Filing a claim is the only way for eligibility to be determined. The department will review your claim and determine if you meet the requirements to receive benefits.

Note: Employers finance the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program through tax contributions; it is not welfare, and funds are not withheld from your pay for these benefits.

The below requirements are outlined in the South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 41.

Situational Requirements

These requirements are a general guideline, and the outcome of your claim depends on your specific situation.

  1. 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.)
  2. It was not your fault you lost your job from your most recent employer. 
  3. You're able to work.
  4. You’re available for work and willing to take any suitable offer.
  5. You report to your local comprehensive SC Works center as required. (Temporarily suspended due to COVID-19)
  6. 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. (Requirement suspended through State of Emergency.)
  1. You must complete at least two (2) work searches through SC Works Online Services ( each week that you file a certification.  (Requirement suspended through State of Emergency. You must be registered with SCWOS, but are currently not required to complete work searches.)

Monetary Requirements

To be monetarily eligible for UI benefits, you must:

  1. Have at least $1,092 in covered employment (with an employer who paid UI taxes) during the base period’s* highest quarter.
  2. Have earned at least $4,455 from covered employment during the base period*.
  3. Have total base period* wages that are equal to, or exceed, 1.5 times the high quarter wages’ total.

*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.

Click here for information regarding weekly benefit amounts.


Even when sufficient wages qualify you for benefits, other reasons can disqualify you including:

  1. Leaving work voluntarily without good cause.
  2. Being discharged for misconduct connected with employment.
  3. Being discharged for cause, other than misconduct.
  4. Refusing to accept a suitable job offer from an SC Works center or employer.
  5. Voluntarily retiring.
  6. Becoming unemployed as a party to a labor dispute.


Standard Base Period

The standard base period comprises the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters preceding a claim’s starting date. Your claim’s effective date determines your base period — not the date you become unemployed. For example, if your claim goes into effect during January, February, or March 2016, your base period is the first three quarters of 2015 plus the last quarter of 2014; even if your claim takes effect March 31, the last day of the quarter.

Alternate Base Period

If you don’t qualify for UI benefits using the standard base period, you may qualify using the alternate base period.

The alternate base period includes the four most recently completed calendar quarters, including lag quarter wages — the most recently completed quarter preceding a new claim’s effective date.

To use the alternate base period, no wages from federal, military or out-of-state employment can be missing.


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