SC’s Unemployment Rate Among the Disabled is One of the Highest in the Country — Here’s What’s Being Done to Change That

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Marleny Hucks
Marleny Hucks
Marlene (or Marleny as she is known in Spanish) is a mentor, teacher, cross-cultural trainer, storyteller, writer, and for those who have been under her leadership or simply sat across the table from her, she is a mirror of destiny. Her love of word and image were formed early on by one of her heroes, Dr. Seuss. If you asked those who know her well, they would describe her a compassionate, funny, wise, curious, honest, real, strong, sensitive and totally human which comes out as she teaches and writes. She sees all of life, even the most mundane, through faith and believes that who we become as we live this side of the veil is what matters not the journey itself or our circumstances. Marleny Hucks has spent her life crossing bridges. She comes from a diverse background of ministry roles and contexts as well as has transitioned in and out of the business world. Having lived outside the country as well as traveled extensively she has a fascination with culture causes her to live her life within a global mosaic no matter where her feet are planted. Marlene currently lives in South Carolina with her husband David, who owns a news company but who she says is a “crime fighter”, bringing light into darkness in their systems of their city. Marleny currently works as a content management specialist covering Myrtle Beach News for MyrtleBeachSC News.

1,160,293 adults in South Carolina have a disability. This is equal to 29%, or about 1 in 3 adults in the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With one of the highest unemployment rates for people with disabilities in the country, there’s no question that change needs to be made. In South Carolina and the City of Myrtle Beach, disability advocacy, resources, and new legislation all play an integral role in providing an inclusive environment. 

The state of unemployment 

1,102 individuals with disabilities in South Carolina are in work settings where they earn less than $1 per hour, according to With that in mind, South Carolina’s unemployment rate for people with disabilities is one of the highest in the country — in 2021, the employment gap between those with disabilities compared to those without was 39.5%. It’s worth noting that the City of Myrtle Beach does not discriminate on the basis of disability in its hiring or employment practices, and complies with the regulations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

A Live 5 News article dives into the potential reasons behind why the state is among the highest unemployment for those with disabilities. “I think that people just hear that someone has a disability and kind of shut down or not give them a chance,” said Michelle Brazeau, assistant manager at Bitty and Beau’s coffee shop. “By working here it has opened my eyes completely and it shows that they do have these abilities.” The coffee shop, located in Charleston, is noted to be part of a growing movement aimed at including people with disabilities in the workplace.

Exploring various resources

For those who experience a disability and who wish to work, there are resources out there that can help. SOS Care, for instance, is a nonprofit organization based in Murrells Inlet that works to empower those with autism and intellectual disabilities to thrive on their own. The WBTW News 13 article notes that SOS Care provides a variety of services, including a social skills club, mental health counseling, and even employment services, which aim to help those with disabilities into the perfect job. “We really help individuals with the pre-employment process, filling out applications, interviews, and then even on the job,” explained Adam Law, employment coordinator at SOS Care. “Then our hope is that we can actually fade out and we don’t have to be there anymore.” 

For those who wish to work while receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), a Disability Secrets article points out that you can work up to a certain amount while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), though it’s noted that the rules for working while on SSDI and SSI are different. “SSDI is an insurance program — when you work and pay taxes, you’re paying “premiums” in exchange for coverage. SSI is a needs-based program available to people with limited income and resources.” As such, the post emphasizes the importance of knowing which type of benefit you’re receiving if you’re thinking of returning to work.

Applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a process that can take more than two years. For many applicants, this process usually concludes after a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ), which has the final say regarding whether an application is denied or approved. Working with a disability lawyer can increase your chances of winning benefits, as lawyers are familiar with the process and know the best way to present your case to the SSA and to a judge. In fact, disability applicants who work with a lawyer are also three times more likely to win benefits compared to those who don’t, further highlighting the value in reaching out to an attorney.

New legislation sparks positive change

Regarding the population of those who live with a physical or mental disability, State Treasurer, Curtis Loftis, highlights that “Many of them are able and willing to work, yet our state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation for these individuals,” going on to note that “Advocates are determined to change these statistics so that individuals with disabilities can find work and earn a fair wage.” Loftis explained in late 2022 the passing of legislation that phases out (over the next two years) the subminimum wages paid to workers with disabilities. “The new legislation also creates a task force to prevent existing workers from losing their jobs.” Additionally, the legislation provides for counseling services and ‘resources that assist companies in giving these workers an opportunity to enhance their wages.’

For those who experience a disability within the state of South Carolina, the statistics surrounding unemployment can be discouraging. However, there are resources out there as well as new legislation that aims to improve the lives of many regarding employment among the disabled.

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