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Suit Against SC Gov Over Federal Unemployment Aid Dismissed

FILE photo - lawsuit
Nick Youngson

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit by four jobless South Carolinians against Gov. Henry McMaster over his decision earlier this summer to exit the federal unemployment programs providing extra money to residents.

State Circuit Judge Lawton McIntosh wrote in an order last week that it was up to McMaster and state workforce officials to decide if leaving the coronavirus pandemic assistance programs that provide additional federal funds to the jobless is advantageous to South Carolina and its citizens.

"That determination is a policy decision that belongs to the executive and legislative branches, not the judiciary," McIntosh wrote.

The residents said in a complaint last month that they were still struggling to make ends meet and have been unable to find work despite extensive job searches. The unemployed workers asked a judge to order state officials to rejoin the the programs.

The suit alleged McMaster exceeded his authority when he ordered the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce to exit the programs June 30, about two months before the extra benefits were set to end. The workforce agency estimated jobless South Carolinians would lose out on about $585.3 million in additional federal benefits.

"These supplemental payments were intended to provide short-term assistance to individuals who lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, at the start of the pandemic," McMaster said in a statement. "Continuing these supplemental benefits would have converted that emergency aid into a dangerous federal entitlement, incentivizing workers to stay at home rather than applying for one of the over 86,000 open positions in the State of South Carolina."

Unemployment claims have declined in the state since spring 2020, and its unemployment rate stood at 4.5% as of June.