Claiming unemployment benefits online is faster than calling

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Businesses are closing and people are out of work, which means unemployment is up.

A view from outside the Rapid City location.

Marcia Hultman is the Cabinet Secretary for the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation.

"It has pointed out areas where we can maybe streamline processes, some potential improvements to our website, so we are definitely noting all of that," said Hultman. "We'll keep that in mind in the future but right now our primary concern, our number one priority for the department, is to help people get those claims processed."

But calls to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation can last more than 90 minutes before even talking to someone who could help with a claim.

"So typically we get this time of year about 190 claims per week and for the numbers we have, we won't have new numbers until this Thursday, but the numbers we released last Thursday we'd had 1703 claims in a week," said Hultman.

Because of all the claims, they've needed more people.

"We're adding capacity, so right away we went from eleven staff in our call center and we added an additional twenty-five," said Hultman.

And more will be added across the state. The people taking calls are reassigned staff who have been trained to take on these responsibilities.

But right now not everyone in South Dakota is eligible to apply for unemployment. The federal government created a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through December 31, 2020.

"Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a program that will now offer individuals such as independent contractors, small business owners, others that typically would not qualify for unemployment assistance to possibly be eligible," said Hultman.

It is not available in South Dakota yet. The state is waiting on the federal guidelines that should be arriving soon and the program may be available later this week.

The department says the easiest way to file a claim is online... which you can do here.