As COVID-19 cases increase, unemployment numbers have also risen this week in South Dakota and surrounding states. Between September 27- October 3, the South Dakota Department of Labor says it received 404 initial weekly claims. That’s up 137 compared to the week before.
The number of members in the Facebook Group “South Dakota Unemployment Problems” has risen to nearly 600. It’s made up of those who’ve been denied payment or are still waiting for their claims to be processed. Some have been told they collected when they shouldn’t have and now must pay the money back.
We have an update on a woman we met in August, who says she is falling through the unemployment cracks.
Karilyn Morrison is a certified medical aide and worked for the senior in-home care company, “Right at Home,” until COVID-19 hit and she was laid off. She qualified for unemployment.
She also applied for jobs as required by the South Dakota Department of Labor in order to receive unemployment benefits.
“They get overwhelmed with applicants. There’s just so many of us fighting for one job,” Morrison said.
Morrison got one of those jobs, but says her bad back prevented her from performing the duties. She reapplied for unemployment and submitted her medical history and doctor’s note. That was five weeks ago.
“Right now they say it’s in the adjustment phase where it goes to somebody else’s desk and sits there for however long for them to get to it,” Morrison said.
According to the South Dakota Department of Labor, the majority of initial claims receive the first payment in approximately 21 days.
However, the state says there are a variety of reasons why some benefit payments are delayed, ranging from clerical errors to job separation issues.
The State says it’s also flagged nearly 4,895 fraudulent claims, filed from all over the world. Sometimes those claimants are using stolen identities or they have filed in several states.
In her speech to lawmakers in Monday’s Special Session to determine how to spend federal dollars earmarked for COVID-19 relief, Governor Noem bragged about low unemployment numbers in the state:
“Our unemployment rate is the fourth-lowest in America, already back down to 4.8%,” Governor Noem said on October 5.
But for those who remain unemployed, like Morrison, Noem has pledged more assistance.
“We set aside $100 million dollars to the re-employment insurance fund,” Noem said on October 5.
“I’m hoping she sticks to that and helps us, because I’m not the only one. There are lots and lot of us out there in South Dakota that need help. You never realize COVID could be this crazy,” Morrison said.
Morrison applied for disability in August, but hasn’t received a decision on whether or not she qualifies yet.
Nearly 1,300 people have appealed denial of unemployment benefits.
The Department of Labor says hearings on appeals are being scheduled all the way out into February.