SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — FEMA has started to approve states for the enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefit authorized by President Trump on August 8. However, as KELOLAND News has reported, Governor Kristi Noem turned down the $300 a week unemployment benefit, saying South Dakota doesn’t need it.
While unemployment claims in the state are falling and job openings are increasing, thousands of people remain out of work and are struggling to survive after losing $600 a week in federal benefits just a couple of weeks ago. Some of those workers have a message for Governor Noem.
New COVID-19 Weekly Economic Metrics posted at https://t.co/AOc9FoGn44— SD Finance & Mgmt (@SDBFM) August 21, 2020
Initial reemployment claims fell to 741 for the week ending Aug 15. Continued claims fell by 5898 to 8817 for the week ending Aug 8. Statewide job openings are up 4.2% from their Mar 19 pre-pandemic peak. pic.twitter.com/oO83pLdMSd
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 and received the extra $600 a week.
Morrison: Basically what it turned out to be was my regular paycheck.
Kennecke: You ended up making your regular paycheck with the $600?
Morrison: With the $600, yeah.
But two weeks ago, the $600 ended and Morrison’s benefit was reduced to $330 a week. She’s been applying for jobs as required by the South Dakota Department of Labor.
“I have, but the problem is, you put in an application and it could be two to three weeks before you even hear anything,” Morrison said.
Morrison also has a bad back, which limits what job she can do. This week, she applied for disability, but that’s a three to four month process.
“I don’t want to be on disability. I’d love to go to work. Unfortunately, the governor has put me in a position that I don’t want to be in. Either you do this, or you go without,” Morrison said.
“There are a lot of people out there that truly do need it,” Mark O’Rear said.
Mark O’Rear of Onida started the Facebook group South Dakota Unemployment Problems after he ran into issues getting unemployment benefits at all. Eventually he did receive them, but now that the $600 a week ended, his benefits were cut to $234 a week.
“It’s made it difficult to pay rent. It’s harder to pay the bills I do need to pay. Several times I’ve had to borrow money from mostly family,” O’Rear said.
Facebook group outraged over Gov. Noem turning down the federal funds
One man says, “just because people are back to work it does not mean full time.” He’s only getting 25 hours a week.
A woman says she’s under a stay-at-home order by a doctor for being high risk and feels like she is being punished.
A single mother of four says she tested positive for COVID-19 and can’t pay her $836 in rent.
Several people also commented that when the $600 ended, all unemployment payments stopped.
Kennecke: If you were speaking to the governor right now, instead of me, what would you say to her?
O’Rear: I would probably explain to her that there are several families out there–families and single adults that are struggling. There are still businesses closing. The COVID rate is still going up. That people really need this additional assistance.
“Since I lost my job, not due to my work ethic, but due to COVID, I feel that Noem is disciplining us for that reason. It’s not our fault that we’re on this. And she’s our governor, she should be helping us through this. Whether she doesn’t want to give us the extra $100, she should be giving us the $300 that President Trump is willing to give us,” Morrison said.
Maggie Seidel of Governor Noem’s office said there are resources for workers displaced by the pandemic on SouthDakotaWorks.org and specifically mentioned the UpSkill program, which allows people to earn certificates from the state’s technical colleges at little or no cost. Seidel also encourages people to reach out to the SD Department of Labor for help.
The 400-plus members of Roar’s group are planning a peaceful protest in Pierre of Noem’s decision to reject the federal assistance.