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How Unemployment Insurance Works

UI Benefits: I want more information

Am I eligible for unemployment insurance benefits?

The following are general guidelines to being found eligible for UI benefits. These requirements are outlined in the South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 41.

  • You are unemployed.
  • Your hours have been reduced. You are currently working less than full time (30 hours a week) due to being out of work and are earning less than your weekly benefit amount. This is still considered being unemployed, but make sure, when you are filing your weekly claim, that you report all the work you performed and wages you earned for that claims week.
  • It was not your fault that you lost your job from your most recent employer.
  • You are able to work.
  • You are available to work and willing to take a suitable offer.
  • As of April 18, 2021, the work search requirement is in effect. You must complete two weekly job searches in the SC Works Online Services (SCWOS) portal each week to remain eligible for UI benefits. Find resources on how to complete the work search on the "Find a Job" webpage. 
  • Every claim is different and there are many factors that play into what makes someone ineligible. To determine if you are eligible to receive UI benefits, you must file a claim with DEW.
  • Before any benefits can be paid, an unpaid waiting period equivalent to one full week of unemployment benefits must be served. This requirement was waived by DEW in March 2020 due to the pandemic, however, the expiration of the state of emergency in June 2021 results in the waiting week being reinstated. Effective claim week ending June 19, 2021, claimants will be required to serve the unpaid waiting period.
Am I eligible?

Situational Requirements

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

  • 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.)
  • It was not your fault you lost your job from your most recent employer. 
  • You're able to work.
  • You’re available for work and willing to take any suitable offer.
  • You report to your local comprehensive SC Works center as required. 
  • 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. 
  • You must complete at least two (2) work searches through SC Works Online Services ( each week that you file a certification. 

Monetary Requirements

To be monetarily eligible for (state) UI benefits, you must:

  • Have at least $1,092 in covered employment (with an employer who paid UI taxes) during the base period’s* highest quarter.
  • Have earned at least $4,455 from covered employment during the base period*.
  • 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.

View information regarding weekly benefit amounts.


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

  • Leaving work voluntarily without good cause.
  • Being discharged for misconduct connected with employment.
  • Being discharged for cause, other than misconduct.
  • Refusing to accept a suitable job offer from an SC Works center or employer.
  • Voluntarily retiring.
  • Becoming unemployed as a party to a labor dispute.
Where does unemployment insurance come from?

The UI benefits program is funded by taxes on employers, including state taxes (which vary by state) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax, which is 6 percent of the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages. However, employers who pay their state unemployment taxes on time receive an offset credit of up to 5.4 percent, meaning that the FUTA tax for an employee earning $7,000 or more may be as little as $42. The credit is reduced in states that are overdue in repaying unemployment insurance debt owed to the federal Treasury.

While state spending on UI is not subject to balanced budget rules and states can borrow from the Treasury if they exhaust their reserves, they have to repay the federal government within two to three years, or federal taxes on employers automatically increase until the debt is paid.

States have extensive flexibility in determining benefits. Federal requirements are minimal, while ensuring that all states provide basic protections for eligible workers. States are free to choose the level of employer tax, the benefit level and duration of benefits, and the eligibility criteria, such as the extent and duration of prior employment. There is considerable variation in how states run this program. For instance, while the standard maximum time for which eligible people can collect benefits is 26 weeks, when the COVID-19 crisis began in late February, states like Florida and North Carolina limited state-paid benefits to just 12 weeks.

Most state UI systems replace about half of prior weekly earnings, up to some maximum. Average weekly UI payments are $387 nationwide, ranging from an average of $215 per week in Mississippi to $550 per week in Massachusetts. Since payments are capped, UI replaces a smaller share of previous earnings for higher-income workers than lower-income workers; while program formulas vary significantly, states that have higher maximums tend to have higher replacement rates. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Hawaii’s UI average replacement rate of 55 percent was the highest, while D.C.’s average replacement rate of 21 percent was the lowest.

How does UI work?

Created in 1935, the federal-state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits program temporarily replaces a portion of wages for workers who have been laid off, as long as they are looking and available for work. Although benefits vary by state, in most states the program provides up to 26 weeks of benefits to unemployed workers and, on average, replaces half of a workers’ previous wages. Because more workers lose their jobs during economic downturns, this program also provides needed economic stimulus that helps ease the severity of recessions.

Learn more about your weekly benefits as well as about paying taxes and other helpful resources.

What are my payment options?

The main method of payment for unemployment benefits in South Carolina is prepaid debit card. When you submit your initial claim, you will choose if you want to receive benefit payments via debit card. 

Debit Card Details

Prepaid debit cards can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. There are no fees when you use your card for purchase from a merchant. Many grocery and convenience stores also offer cash back, without a fee, when you make a purchase. In addition to getting cash back with a purchase, you can get cash from ATMs and from tellers at banks that accept Visa cards; however, fees may apply. No fee applies to obtaining a card, but fees may apply for certain transactions. Use your card carefully to avoid fees.

Do I have to pay taxes on unemployment benefits?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), when filing your income taxes you must include all unemployment benefits received in your total income from the year.

DEW does not automatically withhold federal and state taxes from your weekly payment. When filing your initial claim, you must choose to have federal and state taxes withheld from your weekly payment; otherwise DEW will not withhold them. Federal withholdings are 10 percent of your total benefit and state withholdings are 7 percent.

You may change your withholding option at any time on the MyBenefits portal.

Individuals will be furnished with a statement of unemployment earnings at the end of each year for tax purposes (1099G).

For more information please visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

Need to make estimated tax payments? See IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax (PDF) or see Form 1040-ES (PDF).

What do I do if I receive an Overpayment notice?

An overpayment occurs when you receive unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for which you are not eligible. The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) classifies overpayments of UI benefits in two categories: non-fraudulent overpayments and fraudulent overpayments.

Learn about appealing an overpayment, repaying an overpayment and more.

What is unemployment insurance fraud?

UI fraud takes many forms. It can be identity theft, not reporting wages earned while collecting unemployment insurance, refusing a viable offer of work in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits, and more. Claimants are not the only ones who can intentionally commit fraud. UI fraud can also be committed by employers. Businesses who pay individuals cash to avoid paying UI tax or who pay individuals for working while knowing they are continuing to file for unemployment benefits are just a couple examples. If you think you could be committing fraud unknowingly, you should read more here about the ways fraud can be committed to ensure that you do not become the subject of a fraud investigation.

If you know of someone committing UI fraud, you can anonymously report them. Stealing benefits from the UI Trust Fund and from South Carolinians in need is a crime and can lead to legal action with fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment up to 10 years. To report fraud or identity theft fraud, please go to our fraud page. Don’t worry, tips are completely anonymous should you chose not to identify yourself.

Learn about unemployment insurance fraud, including about how to report fraud.

How to File an Out-Of-State Claim

If you live outside of South Carolina and were separated from work with a South Carolina employer, you must file an out-of-state claim, commonly referred to as an Interstate claim, for unemployment benefits.

The Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) only accepts new, additional and reopened Interstate claims online via the MyBenefits portal. You can access MyBenefits 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

File online using the following instructions:

Go to the MyBenefits portal. Create your account or sign into your existing account. After establishing your MyBenefits account, click on Apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits. Select Interstate Claim for the workforce center nearest you and proceed with your claim.

After you file an Interstate claim, you will receive a packet in the mail that contains various forms and important information. You will also receive the name and contact information for your claim representative. You are assigned a claim representative based on the last four digits of your Social Security number.

If further information is needed regarding your reason for separation from your employer, your claim representative will mail you a separate notice listing the date and time for a telephone interview within seven calendar days of filing your claim. The Interstate Unit communicates with Interstate claimants by phone, mail, email and fax.

It takes four to six weeks to process a Quit, Discharged or Still Working Claim. Lack of Work claims take two to three weeks to resolve.

If you need technical assistance filing your online Interstate claim, the Online Filing Assistance Line is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. This line can be reached by dialing 1-800-529-8339 | Relay 711.

How to File an Appeal

You may file an appeal by completing a Notice of Appeal to the Appeal Tribunal Form (APP-100) - (DOC) or writing an appeal letter detailing your disagreement with the determination. Your appeal form or letter must include your name and Social Security number.

By law you must file your appeal within 10 calendar days of the mailing date listed on the determination. If the 10th day falls on a weekend or recognized holiday, the appeal period extends to the next business day.

All appeal documents (APP-100, APP-107 and APP-111) must contain the handwritten signature of the party completing the document before they will be accepted. After completing the appropriate document please print, sign and return it to DEW’s Appeals Division via fax or regular mail at the address or number provided on the form and below.

S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce
Appeal Tribunal
P.O. Box 995
Columbia, SC 29202

Fax: 803-737-0287

Read more about the appeals process by clicking here.

Can I earn wages while receiving unemployment benefits?

Working part-time or odd jobs while receiving unemployment is acceptable and even encouraged. However, you must report the amount you earn each week when filing your weekly claim.

If you physically worked during the week, you must report your gross earnings, which is the amount you earn before taxes or any other deductions; even if you have not been paid yet.

You may earn up to 25 percent of your weekly benefit amount without receiving a deduction in payment.

Failure to report your earnings is considered fraud. If you are found guilty of Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud, you will be disqualified from receiving benefits for up to 52 weeks. Additionally, providing false information is a crime and subjects you to legal action with fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment up to 10 years.

You also will have to pay back any overpayments received as a result of incorrectly reporting wages. This might mean DEW intercepting your state and federal income taxes or the withholding of future wages to settle the debt.