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Columbia, SC – The S.C. House of Representatives yesterday adopted a bipartisan budget amendment by Rep. Ted Vick (D- Chesterfield) and Rep. Nelson Hardwick (R-Surfside Beach) to restore seventeen rural employment centers dismantled by the state Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) last month.

“We need to help the unemployed in our state get back to work,” said Rep. Vick, who co-chairs the House Rural Caucus with Rep. Hardwick. “Instead of closing the offices, this agency should have been looking for ways to increase their effectiveness, particularly in rural counties, which have the highest unemployment rates in the state.”

The amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget not only reopens the rural centers but also could triple their funding levels. Specifically it directs the agency to spend up to $1.5 million on staff and programs to help the jobless file unemployment benefit claims and get back to work. The funds will enable more jobless residents to learn how to draft resumes, get professional training and to learn how their skills match up with the needs of employers.

Rep. Vick knows firsthand the merits of funding a quality program that puts people back to work. As the Director of Family Programs for the S.C. National Guard, Lt. Col. Vick initiated a successful program that reduced the unemployment rate for state National Guard veterans from 15 percent to 3.2 percent in two years.

The program, which could be a model for the state, resulted in the hiring of nearly 1,000 veterans, generating more than $10.7 million in state and federal tax revenue, and $7.6 million in savings in unemployment benefits.

On Monday, another budget amendment sponsored by Rep. Vick and Rep. Hardwick was approved by the House that authorized the transfer of $1.5 million from the administrative section of DEW’s budget to the unemployment insurance section. That amendment transferred funds but did not specify how the money was to be used.

The shift in money would not place a burden on the agency, Rep. Vick said, because the administrative section of DEW’s budget included a significant budget increase for the Fiscal 2013-14 Year, which begins July 1.

The decision by DEW last month to eliminate staff handling unemployment benefit claims at the rural centers helped prompt the resignation of former DEW Director Abraham Turner.

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