SC woman says technology gap became obstacle to finding new job

“I’m out here in a new world where there’s a lot of technology I don’t have access to,” Marianetta Smith said. “It’s a struggle in every area.”

ROCK HILL, S.C. — A 62-year-old Rock Hill woman said she was denied benefits, after losing much of her income because of the shutdown. To make matters worse, she said she struggled to compete in the virtual job market without the proper skills or resources.

Marianetta Smith said she wants to work and is actively looking for jobs, but she said it’s been tough without a computer in this virtual world.

“I’m out here in a new world where there’s a lot of technology I don’t have access to,” Smith said. “It’s a struggle in every area.”

Smith said she’s among those left behind in the pandemic. In fact, even the Zoom interview with WCNC Charlotte almost didn’t happen. 

After several hiccups with the technology throughout the day, Smith was finally able to get a friend to help her with the interview.

“I struggled to get on Zoom and I don’t feel good about that,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m an intelligent person. I feel like I have a lot to offer, but right now I just can’t move forward and I’m 62 years old.”

Smith said her job as a gig worker took a major hit in March when demand significantly dropped for her services like house cleaning, transportation, and child care.

“The schools closing had a great impact on my income,” said Smith. “At least 65 to 70% of my income has been lost.”

Smith said she applied for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program in June, only to learn South Carolina unemployment officials came to a different conclusion.  

In an August letter, the state denied her benefits claiming her unemployment was not due to the public health emergency.

“I certainly disagree with them. I mean, everybody knows the children are not in school,” Smith said.

Smith said family and friends have been bringing her food and helping to pay her bills.  However, she said one bill she’s not paying for is life insurance, which she hoped would cover her funeral costs.

“Right now, if something were to happen to me, you’d have to burn me I guess,” Smith said.

Smith said she wants to do job training to build up her skills.

“Virtual learning is good, but it’s not good for me because I haven’t done it before,” Smith said.

She’s hoping the Zoom interview and news story is a start, and then she’s hoping for a future job.

“I want to work,” she said.

Smith said she’s been looking for other job opportunities to make up for her lost income. In the meantime, there was a big development with her claim. 

After the Defenders team exchanged several emails with the South Carolina Employment and Workforce Department, the state reversed their decision and approved her benefits.

State officials encourage anyone who has issues accessing Wi-Fi or experiences difficulties with technology to use the resources available through the SC Works Centers partners across the state.   

There are three SC Works Centers available in the Catawba region, as well as seven other locations for those needing access to the internet, but who don’t need as much assistance besides that. For more information, click here.

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