Jobless Services Leaving Fairfield

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County residents seeking assistance with unemployment benefits will face a bit of a road trip starting Feb. 19, as the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) announced this week that they will be ending services in 17 offices across the state, including the office in Winnsboro.

The Winnsboro location, at 414 A. S. Congress St., will wrap up its DEW services Feb. 15, forcing Fairfield County residents requiring face-to-face assistance to travel to the DEW’s Columbia office at 700 Taylor St. The phone number for the Taylor Street location is 803-737-5627. The Taylor Street office can be reached by email at [email protected]

Statewide, the DEW is reducing its employment services offices from 56 to 39. The agency said this week that clients can still get services online (www.dew.sc.gov) or by calling their toll-free number (1-866-831-1724). Although the DEW will end their services at the Winnsboro office Feb. 15, Molly Brantley, a spokesperson for the agency, said that SC Works career centers will remain open at all locations, meaning people looking for employment or assistance with finding employment will still be able to find help at the S. Congress Street office.

Kevin Hill, Regional Operations Manager for SC Works, confirmed that his agency will continue to staff the Winnsboro office and provide employment assistance for those seeking work in Fairfield County.

“Most of the people working in that office are employed by SC Works,” Hill said. “DEW has only a small staff there.”

Businesses looking for employees will also still be able to use the services offered at the Winnsboro office, Hill said.

The DEW cited a loss of federal funds, funds directly related to jobless claims, as the cause of the office closures. Last October, the agency laid off 55 employees statewide and has since cut an additional 75 positions.

“As more and more people go back to work, we see fewer unemployment claims,” Brantley said. “With the decrease in traffic at these locations, we’ve lost a tier of the EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) funds. The DEW centers we are closing have seen the least amount of traffic in recent months.

“The business services will remain at these locations,” Brantley said. “You can still go there to find a job.”

But if you need face-to-face help in filing your unemployment claim, that will have to be done in Columbia. Brantley said the DEW is encouraging clients to use the agency’s online or toll-free phone services to file those claims.

State Sen. Creighton Coleman (D-17) said he was baffled by the decision of Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration to close rural offices, instead of consolidating offices in counties that have more than one DEW location.

“I think it’s the administration’s continuous assault on rural South Carolina,” Coleman said. “We’re going through tough economic times and this is going to make it tougher on the unemployed in the smaller, more rural counties. I’m all for saving money, but this isn’t the way to do it.”

Coleman said that in spite of the 130 layoffs made by DEW since October, the agency is requesting a 60 percent increase in administrative costs and salaries in the upcoming budget, something he said was not likely to curry much favor in the Senate.