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State programs can help employers give chances to people who might not previously have been considered for jobs.  

With the unemployment rate dropping throughout the United States getting a job is easier than ever, but finding good employees is harder, according to officials with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

South Carolina had 70,000 job openings early in December, with 4,200 of them in Horry County.

Two employees of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce are traversing the state spreading the word to businesses and nonprofit agencies about two programs that they say can help by incentivizing employers to take chances with people who have traditionally been seen as risky hires.

Mark Hendrick, the agency’s director of governmental affairs, and Amy Hill, work opportunity tax credit and federal bonding manager, say taking a risk on people who have documented barriers to employment turns out not to be so risky after all, and there are good benefits to giving these folks a chance.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) offers employers federal tax credits from 40 percent against first-year qualifying wages paid when new hires have been employed for 400 hours or more, or 26 percent for not-for-profit groups that hire qualifying veterans.

A second program that offers federal bonding for the hard-to-employ “helps eliminate a significant barrier to employment for individuals who may possess very employable job skills,” according to the agency’s material.

Hendrick and Hill say the two programs aren’t new, but they think they’re underused and the bonding program now has a new grant offering more opportunity to help people get to work or back to work.

“With the myriad of targeted groups, employers should be screening every single applicant that they hire to see if they can get these tax credits,” Hill said. “It keeps money in the employers’ pockets so they can strengthen their businesses and reinvest in their businesses.”

The duo says they’re trying to make sure that every business in South Carolina is aware of the programs and that they’re taking advantage of them.

There is no federal reporting with the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program and qualifying groups are certified through the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

WTOC target groups include unemployed veterans; disabled veterans; Supplemental Security Income recipients; 18 to 39-year-old Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s recipients; recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; Vocational Rehabilitation consumers; designated community residents; qualified felons; and long-term unemployment recipients.

The average tax credit is $2,400 per employee, but under some circumstances can go as high as $9,600 over two years.

“We’re just trying to make sure that every business in South Carolina is aware of it and they’re taking advantage of it,” Hendrick said.

As for the federal bonding program, it’s been very successful in all 50 states with a less than a 1 percent claim rate.

The people who once had trouble finding jobs are successful in the workforce once they’re given an opportunity, Hill and Hendrick contend.

With a recently awarded U.S. Department of Labor four-year fidelity bondingdemonstration grant, South Carolina employers are able to take a chance on a large group of people, including those who have served jail time after being found guilty of misdemeanors or felonies and who been having trouble finding work.

The bonds help employers mitigate risks from $5,000 to $25,000.

“Federal bonding is a great risk mitigation tool and we’re now able to offer it more then we were able to in the past because of the funding,” Hill said.

Hill said both of the programs work as leveraging for people who have barriers.

“It was the very first time that the Department of Labor offered any type of funding for the federal bonding programs. I’m hoping that they’ll offer it in the future as well and we’ll continue to be able to help in the future,” Hill said.

People who have barriers for employment can learn more about the program at the S.C. Works Center at 200-A Victory Lane, Conway.

Businesses can contact Hill at wotc@dew.sc.gov.

“When businesses take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program, they can reinvest those funds in their business, which also keeps those funds in the South Carolina economy,” Hill said.

There is no limit on the number of tax credits that can be taken.

Hendrick said the S.C. Work Center can help businesses find good employees by aiding in screening, holding job fairs and posting their job openings online.

He encourages Horry businesses to set up appointments to talk about the services. There is no cost for a consultation.

“It can be used as a right hand to their human resources office, part of their recruiting and training,” Hill said.

Call (843) 234-9675, go to the office at 200-A Victory Lane, Conway, or go to https://dew.sc.gov or https://scworks.org.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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