SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s Department of Labor is handling 17 times the number of unemployment claims that it did before the pandemic, up from 3,000 to 52,000. It’s taking a lot longer, up to two months, for the department to process those claims, especially when there are unique circumstances that must be verified.
That left a Sioux Falls man waiting more than eight weeks to collect unemployment when he stayed home following Governor Kristi Noem’s executive order for Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties.
Chad Klinsing works for a small construction company that builds decks, sunrooms and replaces siding, windows and doors. It’s not always an easy job with his severe asthma, which requires daily medication.
“I’ve gotten used to breathing the way I breathe. But it’s just not normal. Somebody at my age, their breathing should be about a 75 and mine is at about a 40,” Klinsing said.
Klinsing never considered not working, despite his condition, until Governor Noem’s executive order on April 6th for Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties.
“The chronic medical conditions that will be impacted by this executive order include chronic lung disease, and persons with moderate to severe asthma. This executive order will direct them to stay home for the next three weeks,” Gov. Kristi Noem said on April 6.
“I was working up until that point. That’s when it really kicked in, when she said, ‘Try to stay home.’ Isolate. Be careful. Be safe. That’s when I started doing it,” Klinsing said.
Noem extended the order on April 24 for two more weeks and Klinsing filed for unemployment. Then the waiting game began.
“It just kept saying undecided, undecided, undecided,” Klinsing said.
Klinsing called the Department of Labor once a week.
“The people we talked to said it was there on their screen; they saw it, but they had to wait for somebody above them to decide,” Klinsing said.
Eventually Klinsing contacted both the governor’s office and his local state representative, who got this answer from unemployment, saying the fact that Klinsing quit his construction job with a doctor’s note had complicated processing his claim.
“It was tough. The stimulus check helped for a little bit. My wife works hard, but she doesn’t make a lot of money,” Klinsing said.
So Klinsing went back to his construction job a month ago.
“I just wanted an answer. I’m not necessarily relying on the money–I don’t think I’m going to get the money. I really don’t at this point in time. I just wanted an answer,” Klinsing said.
Just Tuesday, following our interview and after we contacted the Department of Labor to ask about cases like Klinsing’s, he got his unemployment check, including back pay for the time he wasn’t working. The South Dakota Department of Labor tells KELOLAND News:
“If an individual is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, they may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)… Each claim is unique and determined on a case-by-case basis.”Dawn Dovre, SD Dept. of Labor