WASHINGTON, D.C. – As reported by CNBC, South Dakota was the only state that declined to apply for a temporary $300 boost in unemployment benefits from the federal government after previous enhanced benefits expired in July. The window to request the aid is now closed.

Governor Kristi Noem’s excuse for rejecting the aid — that South Dakota “doesn’t need it” — flies in the face of the fact that over 500 more South Dakotans have filed new jobless claims compared to the same time a year ago. Government watchdog Accountable.US urged Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds to not ignore the pleas for help from South Dakotans who’ve lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis as Governor Noem did — and instead pass a real coronavirus relief bill that includes an adequate boost to unemployment benefits.

“Governor Noem continues to put lives in danger by disregarding the threat of COVID-19 — and even fanning its flames. So it is no surprise she would also blow off the struggles of South Dakotans caught in the pandemic’s economic fallout. Noem’s policies are consistent in their recklessness and ignorance,” said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Accountable.US. 

“The governor’s claim that South Dakota has been immune to the recession does not square with the state’s surge in new unemployment claims — and her refusal to accept federal aid sitting on the table for struggling families is so extreme that she stands alone even among the nation’s most conservative governors. There is clearly no helping the governor to see reason, so it’s on Senators Thune and Rounds to get help to their constituents in need.”

BACKGROUND: The CARES Act included an extra $600 federal unemployment benefit, which expired in July. Nearly 30 million Americans, including over 9,000 South Dakotans, continue to draw unemployment benefits amid a worsening recession and health crisis. In May, the U.S. House passed another major recovery package called the HEROES Act that included a full extension of the enhanced benefit, but the Senate has refused to consider it.

In August, President Trump signed an executive order that took money from FEMA to offer $300 less in extra unemployment benefits that only last three weeks and excludes at least a million unemployed workers.

Last week, the U.S. Senate failed to pass its own “skinny” relief bill that proposed cutting the extra federal benefit by $300 and offered too little, too late for struggling states, families, and small businesses. The economic crisis cannot be solved until the health crisis is under control. It’s time the Senate meet the magnitude of the crises we are in by passing the HEROES Act.


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