FILE - South Carolina Supreme Court

The South Carolina Supreme Court building in Columbia, S.C.

(The Center Square) – The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday to dismiss a challenge to Gov. Henry McMaster’s move to leave the federal supplemental pandemic unemployment program early.

McMaster announced May 6 the state would exit the program at the end of June, ending South Carolina residents' ability to be part of the supplemental program, which paid an additional $300 a week to those on unemployment.

“Our goal has always been to usher in a rapid economic recovery that will lift all South Carolinians and benefit generations to come, and we’ve done that,” McMaster said in a statement. “Rather than working to incentivize South Carolinians to accept one of the thousands of available jobs in our state, these federal benefits presented a clear danger to the health of our state’s businesses by keeping people home. Now, we will continue our tireless work to match qualified South Carolinians with available jobs around our state.”

Four named plaintiffs filed the lawsuit, claiming the supplemental unemployment payments were part of the Social Security Administration’s payments to citizens, which are protected. The court ruled, however, “the only connection the Programs have to the SSA is that the funds to be distributed to recipients pass through bank accounts of the Social Security Administration.”

Therefore, the lawsuit was dismissed just as it was in circuit court. The state cited a decrease of the unemployment rate in the state from 4.6% to 4.2% since the announcement as proof of its effectiveness, stating that 25,000 more South Carolina residents are now employed.

“The federal programs were voluntary and states had the option to participate,” South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce Executive Director Dan Ellzey said in a statement. “As South Carolina employers ramped up their hiring in the spring of this year and employment opportunities continued to outnumber individuals looking for work, it became evident that it was time for the state to focus more on reemployment.

“Thousands of South Carolinians have found employment since the termination of the federal programs, but there are still tens of thousands of open positions and opportunities currently available.”

Staff Reporter

Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.