COLUMBIA -- The 140,000 people getting unemployment checks stand to receive $25 more a week and have extended benefits in the recession -- if Gov. Mark Sanford can sort out details of handling the state's share of a $787 billion stimulus package.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Wednesday the governor hasn't made up his mind on that or dozens of other issues in legislation President Obama signed Tuesday that will send as much as $8 billion to the state in programs, projects and tax breaks.
"It would have been nice if the White House and Congress would have read this before dumping it in our laps," Sawyer said.
Sanford -- outspoken as a stimulus bill opponent -- is now wrestling with the role he'll play in accepting the money and administering it or rejecting some or all of it. And he's not sure whether he has to request money or simply sign off on promises of how it will be spent.
"Those are the kinds of questions we're trying to answer right now," Sawyer said.
South Carolina had the nation's third-highest jobless rate at 9.5 percent in December and sent checks of $19 million last week to cover regular benefits and $10 million for extended benefits for people out of work for more than 26 weeks.
Allen Larson, who runs the Employment Security Commission's unemployment insurance payment programs, said Sanford must sign off on requesting the money.
Larson said the agency wouldn't be ready to implement the stimulus bill's changes in benefits for a couple of weeks.
For the state's unemployed, it might be tough to watch Sanford's decision-making.
In December, Sanford was in the midst of a monthslong fight with the commission over its need for a federal loan to keep writing unemployment checks and the governor's demand that it provide detailed data on people who collected three years of jobless claims.
Sanford refused to sign off on the loan request until a few hours before the state ran out of money. Within weeks, the fight opened a new chapter as the jobless fund nearly ran out of money for a third time. Sanford agreed to sign off on limited borrowing for January only -- but told the agency's three commissioners they'd be fired if he didn't get the data he wanted.
The commissioners delivered the data, but Sanford has made no decision on whether they provided enough of what he wanted to keep their jobs.
Meanwhile, legislators have introduced bills to put the commission under Sanford's control as a new Cabinet-level Workforce Department.
On Wednesday, a House Judiciary subcommittee took public testimony on the bill.
It brought fans and foes of how the commission operates. An Orangeburg temporary staffing company operator complained about having to fight to keep a worker from getting benefits whose hours had dropped to part time. But others praised the commission's efforts in helping them find workers and deal with layoffs.
There was rehash, too, of last week's claim by the state Commerce Secretary that drugs are playing a role in the state's unemployment problems. Commission member Becky Richardson told the committee that data for the last three years show drugs were a factor in about 1,000 of more than 400,000 claims handled last year, or less than 0.3 percent.
The subcommittee took no action on the bill and plans to discuss amendments later.