South Dakota recently implemented a new effort to help those collecting unemployment benefits get back to work more quickly, and the effort is working.
Government must always be cautious about creating or encouraging dependency. After years of work at Children's Home Society, I know there are those in South Dakota who need help. But we should always encourage those who are able to help themselves. As Theodore Roosevelt once said:
"If a man stumbles, it is a good thing to help him to his feet. Every one of us needs a helping hand now and then. But if a man lies down, it is a waste of time to try and carry him; and it is a very bad thing for everyone, if we make men feel that the same reward will come to those who shirk their work and those who do it."
More than six weeks ago, I directed the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation to implement Re-employment Intensive Services (RIS). This program gives a "helping hand" to those who are out of work, but demands that those receiving benefits do not expect to be "carried."
RIS requires full, one-on-one assistance with dedicated labor specialists to all unemployment claimants who have received payments for more than 10 weeks. The program helps participants evaluate their skills, identify in-demand career areas, and find training options. And the program directs participants to appropriate job openings.
The good news is the program is working. Since May 1, 121 of the 237 participants are in new jobs, pursuing other opportunities like school or training, or are no longer receiving benefit checks.
South Dakota is a land of industrious, self-reliant people. We know the meaning of hard work. In South Dakota, our unemployment rate stands at 4.3 percent, the third lowest in the country. We have the lowest number of long-term unemployed people in the nation, despite having more total citizens than a number of other states.
Too many in our country have forgotten the meaning of hard work, or have chosen to avoid it. Earlier this year, the federal government again extended the period of time that a citizen can receive unemployment payments. In some areas of the country, a person can receive unemployment payments for up to 99 weeks -- almost 2 years.
I understand that anyone can stumble. Some unemployed are truly unable to find work, despite their willingness, but we must not become a society that rewards those who ask to be carried.
We must honor the industrious and praise self-reliance. All work has dignity. All work is worth doing. I am proud of the people of our state and their resiliency during tough times.
I hope South Dakota can be a model -- a "shining city on the hill" -- for the rest of the country. The self-reliant worker has pride of achievement. South Dakota encourages that achievement, and I hope our country will, as well.