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​​​​​​​DEW Expands Rural Initiative

Thu, 02/16/2023

DEW Expands Rural Initiative

The Workforce Agency announces an expansion of its Connection Point Grant program.

Columbia, S.C. – In 2019, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) formalized its Rural Initiative. At that time, the purpose of the Rural Initiative was to improve public awareness and accessibility of the agency’s reemployment programs in areas where disadvantaged populations reside. The rural counties listed to the right are ranked as having the highest rates of unemployment in the state and are considered priority counties for our agency to work closely with.  

 “Our work in these counties have shown us how workers in rural areas face greater barriers to reemployment than their urban counterparts, which was a call to action for our agency,” stated S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce Executive Director Dan Ellzey. “Our agency has developed programs that offer personalized services for reemployment as we work with local businesses that are hiring. Our mission is to reduce the number of claimants in these rural counties, increase job retention in the areas, and help the local job markets prosper for years to come.”

Our most recent Rural Initiative involves an expansion to our Connection Point Grant. Today, the agency has 172 Connection Points across the state, which serve as secondary meeting places for jobseekers requiring help from SC Works. The agency is now offering grants to nonprofits that include up to $25,000 to establish a computer lab at their location to assist job applicants in seeking work or unemployment benefits.

A Connection Point is a computer lab located in a library, faith-based organization, or nonprofit that connects the public to our agency’s website, MyBenefits claimant portal, and SC Works Online Services. Each Connection Point has computers, educational materials, and a worker at the location trained to offer technical services to anyone needing to file for unemployment or conduct a work search. The purpose of these Connection Points is to provide direct access to DEW and SC Works services to individuals who are not located near one of our 44 SC Works Centers, which is often the case for our most rural counties.

The application cycle for the Connection Point Expansion Grant remains open and we are pleased to announce that grants have already been awarded to four nonprofit organizations in the first funding cycle. The four grant recipients are A Father's Place located in Conway; A Second Chance Resource Center Network United, Inc. located in North Charleston; Midlands Fatherhood Coalition located in Columbia; and United Way of Horry County, Inc. located in Myrtle Beach.

Visit dew.sc.gov/connectionpoints or scworks.org/connection-points to learn how to apply for the grant, view presentation slides from a past Information Session, and a Questions & Answers fact sheet. Please email any grant questions to workforcegrants@dew.sc.gov.

The Connection Point program is only one of many programs in the DEW Rural Initiative. Some of the other programs include the following:

  • Anchor Employer: Our agency’s Scotsman Pilot resulted in this new program that is a statewide Rural Initiative aimed at finding and training job applicants for large employers that regularly hire employees.
  • Direct Connect: This program was initiated as a hands-on approach to identify employees who worked in 2019, were laid off during the pandemic, and never returned to work. This Rural Initiative includes contacting these people directly to inquire as to whether there is anything that we can do to help them get back into the workforce and if not, why not. 
  • Rural Research: We contracted with the University of South Carolina, Darla Moore School of Business, to conduct an analysis of workers in rural areas to determine if they face greater barriers for reemployment.
  • Virtual SC Works Center: This program will launch in the spring of 2023. It will allow jobseekers or people needing training to contact and work with an SC Works Center virtually if they are not able to travel to a physical SC Works Center or Connection Point.

Members of the press can contact communications@dew.sc.gov with any interview requests or inquiries.