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McMaster sued after turning down federal unemployment aid

July 29, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Four jobless South Carolinians have sued Gov. Henry McMaster over his decision to exit the federal unemployment programs providing extra money to jobless residents earlier this summer.

The residents said in a lawsuit filed in state court Wednesday that they are still struggling to make ends meet and have been unable to find work despite extensive job searches. The unemployed workers are asking a judge to order state officials to rejoin the coronavirus pandemic assistance programs that provide additional federal funds to the jobless.

The suit alleges 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.

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“It’s not as simple as getting back to work in a post-pandemic world for many adults in South Carolina right now,” said Sue Berkowitz of SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which is representing the plaintiffs. “Low-income South Carolinians are in need of this support right now as they work on recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic.”

McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes declined to comment on the lawsuit itself.

“But the governor’s position has been clear – it’s past time for South Carolinians to get back to work,” Symmes said. “We simply can’t continue to incentivize able-bodied South Carolinians to stay home rather than accept one of the tens of thousands of available jobs in the state.”

The governor cited “unprecedented” workforce shortages across the state when he announced South Carolina would opt out of the programs June 30.

Unemployment claims are continuing to drop in the state, and its unemployment rate stands at 4.5% as of last month.