Both lost jobs. She got paid. He waits. Where they live may be the reason why.

Four years before the pandemic caused unemployment compensation claims to spike, South Carolina took advantage of a federal grant to modernize its claims processing systems. That upgrade saved thousands of hours of time once claims rose sharply, which meant that people making legitimate claims got paid relatively quickly. That stands in contrast with the Virginia Employment Commission's huge backlog, which must be run through a decades-old system. The state was finally upgrading its systems when the pandemic put that work on hold, leaving some laid-off people in financial limbo for several months.

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