Job Search Could Soon Be Required To Keep Unemployment Benefits

Jun 4, 2020

Weekly initial unemployment claims in South Dakota.
Credit Josh Haiar / SDPB

During the pandemic, South Dakotans haven’t had to look for work while receiving unemployment benefits. 

But that could change by August. 

Marcia Hultman leads South Dakota’s Department of Labor. She said people on unemployment are typically required to look for work, or they risk losing unemployment payments. 

Marcia Hultman

“That seemed counterproductive during a time when many businesses were closed and we had individuals social-distancing,” Hultman said. 

So, Hultman suspended that requirement during the pandemic.  

But now the economy is reopening. Some people are going back to work. Initial unemployment claims in the state fell to 1,435 last week. That’s the lowest number since before the pandemic. 

Hultman said Thursday during a meeting of the state’s Re-Employment Assistance Advisory Council that she might reimpose the work-search requirement on Aug. 1. 

“But with all things COVID-related, obviously we just are continuing to monitor and make sure that as we get closer, that’s the proper decision at the time,” Hultman said. 

Unemployment benefits come from a state trust fund. Employers pay taxes into the fund. The federal government is also paying extra benefits temporarily. 

More than 50,000 South Dakotans have filed unemployment claims since mid-March. About 22,000 are currently receiving benefits. 

Before the pandemic, the balance in the state’s trust fund was about $132 million. Now it’s about $103 million. Hultman projects it’ll be down to $37 million by the end of the year.