S.D. reemployment fund is on a record pace

Capitol News Bureau

FILE – In this Tuesday, July 27, 2021, file photo, a help-wanted sign is displayed at a gas station in Mount Prospect, Ill. The gulf between record job openings and a lack of people taking those jobs is forcing Wall Street to reassess the pace of the economic recovery. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Boosted by a big transfer of federal COVID-19 aid, South Dakota’s trust fund that helps people who have lost jobs through no fault of their own is headed into new territory.

The reemployment assistance fund is on pace to finish 2021 with a record-high balance of $168 million, state Department of Labor and Regulation officials told an advisory council Tuesday.

That includes $43 million in federal CARES Act funding that Governor Kristi Noem transferred into the account early this year.

That followed a $45.6 million transfer from the CARES Act in spring 2020 as COVID-19 spread through South Dakota. The reemployment account ended 2020 with a $117.7 million balance.

State Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman said Tuesday the account’s current strength means the schedule of reemployment-tax rates can stay in place.

There’s “a nice healthy balance,” division director Pauline Heier said. “Benefit payments have actually gone back to pre-COVID levels.”

Hultman said weekly claims lately have returned to the range of 700 to 850 per week that was typical for this time of year prior to COVID-19.

Last year, from mid-March to October, the program handled about 2,250 new claims per week on average, versus 232 per week in 2019; and continued weekly claims averaged 14,432, versus 1,742.

Employment in South Dakota was about 420,000 in early 2020 prior to the pandemic. It fell to about 387,000 in April 2020 but by June 2021 was back above 442,000.

The October 2021 unemployment rates were 2.8% for South Dakota and 4.6% nationally.

Managing the reemployment fund — formerly known as unemployment insurance — has been a matter of the account having too much or too little, Hultman said.

“It’s always such a fine balancing act,” she said. “Obviously I prefer this scenario.”

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