PIERRE, S.D. — A total of 384 South Dakotans made unemployment insurance claims in the first two weeks of March, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The number of initial claims filed during the week ending March 14 was 169. The week prior to that, 185 claims were filed.

Dawn Dovre with the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation said the current balance of the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund is $128.8 million.

“It is too early to tell what the COVID-19 impacts to the fund will be, but we are doing a stress analysis,” Dovre said in an email to the Forum on Wednesday, March 25.

Dovre said the state’s unemployment insurance call center typically operates with 11 staff, which has since changed since the call center is not operating under normal circumstances due to COVID-19.

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Business closures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have boosted the number of unemployment insurance claims in the state, leading to a need for more staff to take calls regarding the claims.

“Since the significant influx of claims, we have added 16 more staff in this area to help take calls, reset passwords, and process online claims. 92 phone lines are available, and we are adding an additional 23,” Dovre said.

For small businesses struggling as a result of COVID-19 in South Dakota, the Small Business Administration fund recently approved businesses in the state to receive low interest Economic Injury Disaster Funds, according to a news release.

The low interest loans are available for a period of up to 30 years. They can be used for working capital needs such as payroll.

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