Strengthening South Dakota Families
By: Governor Kristi Noem
January 27, 2023
Family is everything. I grew up working our family farm and ranch with my parents and siblings. When my dad passed away, my siblings worked together to keep our family’s dreams alive. My greatest joy in life has been watching my children grow up into incredible adults with a deep love of their country and an even deeper love for the Lord – and now they’ve started blessing me with grandchildren, too!
Every time I agree to a business deal, make an appointment, or sign a bill, I always ask myself how that decision will impact South Dakota for our kids and our grandkids. Every decision is filtered through the lens of family. And this legislative session, we are continuing to build stronger families in South Dakota.
The biggest way that we’re doing that is by extending paid family leave opportunities across South Dakota. Three years ago, I brought legislation to offer paid family leave benefits to state employees for the very first time. Now, it’s time for us to expand this benefit even more.
This year, together with legislators, I announced a two-part paid family leave initiative. First, we’re going to allow state employees up to 12 weeks of leave when they have a new baby or adopted child, to take care of a sick family member, or to deal with a military deployment in the family. They’ll receive 100% of their salary as they take the time they need to be with their families. We’ll take out a state insurance policy to make this possible.
Then, we’re going to create a path for private businesses to join our state’s insurance group and offer these benefits to their employees, as well. This is going to make it much more affordable for private businesses and ensure that as many South Dakota families as possible have access to paid family leave. And the more businesses that join the pool, the lower the cost will be for everyone.
We’re also creating a new educational opportunity for kids in the foster care system called the “Stronger Families Scholarship.” Under this new initiative, any child in the foster care system will have the opportunity to receive up to $4,000 in a scholarship to help them achieve their full potential, from kindergarten through 12th grade. This money can be used to pay tuition at a private school, pay for tutoring or teaching services, purchase curriculum, pay for standardized tests or AP exams, and more.
We’ll strengthen families in other ways, like providing pregnancy and postpartum care for moms who are Medicaid recipients, supporting the cost of domestic adoptions for state employees, providing an additional $38 million in grants to South Dakota childcare providers, and creating a new path to healthcare benefits for childcare employees.
When we provide these kinds of flexible options for families, we make it easier for them to make decisions in their day-to-day lives. We open opportunities for them to bond with their kids, find childcare or educational options, get into the career of their dreams, and more. By tackling these challenges, we will strengthen South Dakota’s workforce, as well.
It all starts with stronger families. By continuing to focus on this, we will truly leave an even better South Dakota for our kids and grandkids.