S.D. governor’s office stands by unemployment statement, declines to answer questions

Capitol News Bureau
Donald Trump, Kristi Noem

FILE – In this Sept. 7, 2018 file photo President Donald Trump appears with Gov. Kristi Noem in Sioux Falls, S.D. South Dakota officials said Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, they plan to erect a security fence budgeted around the official governor’s residence to protect Noem. Noem’s office did not give specifics on any threats. The South Dakota Republican has championed a hands-off approach to managing the coronavirus crisis and also raised her national political profile in the past year, including tying herself more closely to Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem is standing by her original statement turning down President Trump’s plan to provide unemployed workers an additional $400, but won’t be answering related questions from KELOLAND News about it, a senior aide said Wednesday night.

“The governor issued a public statement on the matter. That’s her statement,” Maggie Seidel said. “You may not appreciate them, but nevertheless the facts and reasons for her decision are all laid out in the statement.

“To pretend like she hasn’t addressed the subject or outlined her thought process isn’t fair or accurate. The critique of the headline is surreal – I’ve literally never had a journalist attack a press release headline in my entire career,” Seidel continued.

The headline said, “Governor Noem Grateful for President Trump’s Continued Leadership on COVID-19 Recovery.” The statement’s content addressed the president’s lost-wages memo that he had issued the previous Saturday.

Among the half-dozen sentences praising her administration’s response to COVID-19, Noem said: My administration is very grateful for the additional flexibility that this effort would have provided, but South Dakota is in the fortunate position of not needing to accept it.”

The day after the president’s August 8 memo, KELOLAND News sent questions to the state Department of Labor and Regulation and the governor’s media staff to see what South Dakota’s position would be:

“Does South Dakota support President Trump’s $400 compromise weekly payment on extended UI, if state government has to pay $100 of it? How much would it cost South Dakota per week at the current level of UI recipients? Third, what is the governor’s position on extending the federal UI bonus, and if so, at what level?”

Followup questions sent this week included asking the reason for the statement’s headline and whom the governor consulted for her decision.

The $600 weekly federal bonus expired after the last week of July. The two chambers of Congress haven’t been able to compromise on renewing it at some amount. The president’s program is expected to last three to six weeks. Unemployed in South Dakota continue to receive state benefits.

South Dakota this summer transferred federal COVID-19 aid to supplement its unemployment insurance program, known as reemployment assistance. South Dakota’s continued unemployment claims were 15,464 for the week ending July 25, a decrease of 179 from the prior week’s total of 15,643, according to an August 13 news release. The latest weekly numbers were announced Thursday morning, with continued claims at 14,715 for the week ending August 1.

The governor’s August 14 statement included this sentence: “South Dakota’s economy, having never been shut down, has recovered nearly 80% of our job losses.” A long-term chart of South Dakota unemployment, distributed in a packet Tuesday to the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, shows data that indicates otherwise: Continued claims rose sharply as COVID-19 spread in South Dakota, climbing from fewer than 5,000 to a peak of more than 25,000, before declining to 14,428 on the chart.

Noem has accepted an invitation to speak at the Republican National Convention next week when Trump will be nominated for re-election.

Read the federal FAQs on Trump’s plan here.

Page 1 of Fema Supplement Lost Wages Payments Under Other Needs Assistance Faq 0Page 1 of Fema Supplement Lost Wages Payments Under Other Needs Assistance Faq 0 Contributed to DocumentCloud by Eric Mayer of KELO-TVView document or read text

Previous KELOLAND News coverage was ‘S.D. council’s members say they’ve heard the $600 bonus kept unemployed from taking jobs.’

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