South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced this week that she is declining the "lost wages assistance" program provided by President Donald Trump's executive order. The program is meant to be a temporary unemployment aid to offset the economic recession of the coronavirus pandemic, but Noem feels that her state does not need it. In a public statement published by CBS News, she explained why she would not enlist South Dakota in the program.
"My administration is very grateful for the additional flexibility that this effort would have provided, but South Dakota is in the fortunate position of not needing to accept it," Noem said. "Many, many businesses are looking to relocate to South Dakota because of the decisions we made during the pandemic. South Dakota is open for business – that applies to our business owners and their employees."
Noem is reportedly one of Trump's biggest supporters among America's governors. Her state and others in the midwest have benefited from their lack of crowding in recent months, making it harder for the virus to spread among groups of people.
Right now, South Dakota's unemployment rate is at about 3.7 percent — well below the typical U.S. average of 11 percent, according to CNBC. That means about 19,000 people in South Dakota are collecting unemployment benefits. Noem also claimed that the state had recovered almost 80 percent of the jobs lost when the pandemic struck.
Still, Trump's order might have provided those unemployed in South Dakota with a much-needed boost. The lost wages assistance program takes money from FEMA's disaster relief fund to provide up to $300 per week on top of unemployment checks until the Senate and Congress agree on a more comprehensive stimulus plan.
Initially, Trump's plan was to add $400 to unemployment checks — as long as the state agreed to pay for 25 percent. However, as the plan has been put into action, states are now allowed to count their existing unemployment structure towards that 25 percent, so in most cases, workers will only receive $300 more than usual.
The benefit may not last long, either. The lost wages assistance program has a strict limit of spending $44 billion on this aid, so it may last no more than three weeks. So far, seven states have been approved for this program, while other state leaders have until Sept. 10 to get their applications in.