Anyone who finds themselves out of a job in South Dakota will want to find out about the state's Reemployment Assistance (RA) system, the new name for the state's unemployment insurance program. Currently, an unemployed worker in South Dakota may be eligible for both state reemployment assistance and also federal pandemic unemployment assistance.
The federal program, enacted in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, expands eligibility, benefits and duration of benefits for UI recipients in all states, including South Dakota. Both programs are administered through South Dakota's Department of Labor and Regulation, and claims are best initiated online.
South Dakota Reemployment Assistance
South Dakota used to call its benefits program for out-of-work individuals unemployment insurance, but it is now called Reemployment Assistance (RA). This assistance is essentially the same thing as unemployment insurance benefits and is financed by a tax on employers in the state. Generally, only residents who were employees of companies who paid this tax are eligible for benefits.
Like other states, South Dakota limits state RA to those employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. Applicants must also meet financial qualifications to have their claims accepted, including earning at least $728 during the highest-paid quarter in the state's base period to qualify for assistance.
South Dakota defines the base period for reemployment benefits as the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before the worker filed a claim for assistance. For example, if a claim is filed in September of 2021, the base period would be from April 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021. This is similar to the practice in most other states.
Weekly Benefit Amounts
Anyone found eligible for assistance in South Dakota receives payments on a weekly basis, and workers must certify their continued eligibility every two weeks. Eligible workers receive a weekly benefit based on their earnings during the base period – at least as much as the state minimum and not exceeding the state maximum. The state minimum for RA is $28 a week and the maximum is $428 a week at the time of publication. The maximum duration of RA benefits in South Dakota is 26 weeks.
Federal Benefits Programs
Generally, unemployment benefit programs are regulated solely by the states. However, sometimes the federal government steps up to supplement the state programs. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in 2020, it was considered to be an unusual circumstance that merited federal action. Congress passed a financial assistance bill called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to assist workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The CARES Act expanded unemployment insurance eligibility in all states and paid a supplemental pandemic unemployment benefit to every worker receiving state unemployment, including South Dakota's RA program. The initial CARES Act passed in March 2020, included a supplemental $600 benefit per week in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.
The bill also added up to 13 weeks of supplemental benefits and extended benefits eligibility to self-employed and gig workers, who are not generally covered under state UI/RA programs. This was implemented under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
Extensions to Federal UI Programs
The federal UI supplemental benefits program, which paid an additional $600 a week to UI claimants, ran only until July 31, 2020. From that date through December 26, 2020, claimants in South Dakota received only the state RA benefit amount. The federal program was amended in December, 2020, by the Continued Assistance Act (CAA) to provide a supplement of $300 per week benefit in addition to state-provided benefits. This ran from December 26, 2020, to March 14, 2021, then was further extended through September 6, 2021, by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The CAA (extending the benefit duration by 13 weeks) was set to expire on December 31, 2020, but was extended to March 14, 2021. In addition, the extension was increased to 24 additional weeks. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 increased the number of benefit weeks available to South Dakota residents to a total of 70 weeks.
The federal law that extended UI/RA benefits to self-employed and gig employees was set to expire on December 31, 2020. The time frame was extended by the CAA legislation through March 14, 2021, and the American Rescue Plan of 2021 further extended it to September 6, 2021.
South Dakota Reemployment Laws
Anyone who has recently lost work in South Dakota can apply for reemployment insurance benefits. The program is run by South Dakota's Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the agency that determines a claimant's eligibility.
To apply for either state reemployment benefits or federal pandemic benefits, a South Dakota worker must file a claim with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The application asks questions that will help determine whether a claimant is eligible for reemployment benefits under the applicable law.
Eligibility under South Dakota law requires that the worker:
- Be unemployed through no fault or misdeeds of their own.
- Is legally in the country.
- Be able to work, available to work and actively seeking employment.
- Has registered with South Dakota’s designated workforce agency.
- Meets certain financial earnings requirements.
Fault Under South Dakota RA
South Dakota's RA program is intended to offer financial help to workers in the state who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own, such as a layoff. Eligibility turns, in part, on the reason that a worker lost their job. For example, if a South Dakota employee is fired for bad behavior, like selling illegal drugs at work or stealing money from the company, they will not be eligible for RA benefits. Even matters like failing to follow rules can be classified as misconduct.
The fact that an employee is fired doesn't necessarily mean they are disqualified from UI in South Dakota. Misconduct does not include good-faith mistakes, inefficiency, inability to perform the job or unsatisfactory conduct. Anyone fired because they lacked the skills to perform the work or for similar reasons may be still be eligible for UI.
Workers who quit a job in South Dakota remain eligible if they had good cause for quitting, which is defined as a work-related reason that would make a worker quit even if they really wanted the job. Certain personal reasons are also sufficient in South Dakota , like leaving a job because of a medical condition or to take care of an ill spouse.
Federal Law Modifies Fault Rules
Federal pandemic UI legislation has modified South Dakota's fault rules. The legislation added valid coronavirus-related reasons that a worker might leave their job that will not disqualify them for UI/RA benefits.
These include circumstances where a worker has contracted the virus, might have been exposed to the virus or has been told by medical personnel to stay home so they are not exposed to the virus or won't expose others. They can still get benefits if they are caring for a household member who is sick with coronavirus, or if they have to care for a child at home because the child's school or child care center is closed due to coronavirus.
Minimum Income Requirements
South Dakota imposes certain earnings requirements before a worker can receive state reemployment assistance benefits. Under South Dakota law, a worker is eligible for unemployment coverage only if they earned wages during two of the four calendar quarters of the base period. As described above, the state's regular base period is the four earliest calendar quarters of the five quarters completed prior to the claim being filed. In addition, the worker must have earned at least $728 in the highest paid calendar quarter.
In order to qualify for federal pandemic unemployment benefits, a South Dakota worker must meet these earnings requirements as well. That means that a worker who didn't earn $728 or more in the highest-paid quarter or failed to earn wages in two of the quarters will be disqualified from federal benefits, as well as state RA benefits.
Work Search Requirements
South Dakota's RA program is meant as temporary financial assistance for employees who are between jobs, not to pay workers who want some time off. A worker is not eligible for state reemployment benefits in South Dakota unless they want to work. The worker must want to work, be available to work and be actively seeking work. In South Dakota, an employee is not considered available for work if they are prevented from accepting work by other issues, like arranging transportation or making child care arrangements.
To continue to receive South Dakota unemployment benefits, workers must engage in a good faith search for work. They must register for work with the DLR and actively search for work each week, keeping a log of job contacts and other job search activities. A worker must make at least two job contacts per week.
Pandemic Unemployment Modifications
When the pandemic was declared in 2020, the federal government modified the available-to-work requirements in state laws, including South Dakota's. The modifications add certain situations in which a worker need not seek a job. These are all COVID-related situations.
For example, under the terms of the CARES Act, a worker doesn't have to look for work if they have COVID-19, are caring for someone who has COVID-19, or are taking care of minor children because schools are closed as a result of COVID-19. Likewise, if a worker has been ordered by their doctor not to leave home or by government order, they can also continue to collect UI without looking for a job.
Applying for South Dakota RA
It is possible to apply for South Dakota UI benefits by phone, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. Alternatively, a worker can apply online at Department of Labor and Regulation’s claims page. This is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the fastest method of applying for benefits.
A worker has to set up an account with a password to file the initial claim for RA. It makes things faster if the worker has their relevant personal information, such as Social Security number), and work-related information. This can include the name, mailing address, location and phone number of the worker's last employer; the first and last days worked; and information about earnings from work and other income received like vacation, severance or bonus pay. An RA claim is effective on Sunday of the week in which it is filed.
Calculating South Dakota RA Amount
The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation calculates a worker's weekly RA benefit using the base period. There is a formula for determining the amount: the total earnings during the highest-paid calendar quarter of the base period divided by 26. The amount must be between the minimum and maximum amounts permitted.
In South Dakota , RA benefits are available for up to 26 weeks. However, the CARES Act and other federal laws have extended the duration of benefits to 70 weeks. That provision is effective through September 6, 2021.
- Benefits.gov: South Dakota Unemployment Insurance
- South Dakota DLR: Reemployment Assistance (formerly Unemployment Insurance)
- South Dakota: RA Log In
- Investopedia: American Rescue Plan (Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package)
- Investopedia: https://www.investopedia.com/coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-cares-act-4800707
- Nolo: South Dakota Unemployment Benefits
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.