Working for South Dakotans
While the Senate is conducting the impeachment trial, we are unable to hold votes on the full Senate floor without agreement of all 100 senators. So all other Senate business has virtually come to a halt. Important nominations are not being confirmed and legislation is not being considered that could benefit South Dakota families. While this is frustrating to many of us, we are still able to get some work done while we’re not in the trial. Most days, the trial has started at 1:00 p.m., allowing us to hold committee hearings and meet with constituents until that time. We’re also continuing to get work done for South Dakotans in other ways, just as we have since I took office.
My office frequently works with residents who are having trouble with different federal agencies. We can act as a liaison between you and the agency to identify the source of your issue and help to resolve it. We call this type of service “casework,” and it is actually the main focus of my offices in Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Aberdeen. Our staff members at those offices are specially trained to help South Dakotans navigate the federal bureaucracy.
We’re also continuing to respond to South Dakotans who have contacted my office to share their thoughts and views with me. Since I took office in January 2015, we have responded to over 147,000 inquiries from South Dakotans. That averages out to around 80 phone calls, emails, letters or personal visits per day over the past five years. Hearing firsthand the views and opinions of South Dakotans keeps me better informed as I work to make the best decisions for our state and nation.
The number of folks contacting us to help them with a federal agency continues to grow. In 2019, we opened more than 500 new cases. We work with people on issues they’re having at various different agencies, the most common being the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). We frequently assist people with visas and passports, we help veterans access their benefits from the VA and we help to make sure seniors are receiving their correct social security benefits—these are just a few examples of the types of cases we handle.
One of the biggest issues we’ve heard about from South Dakotans is getting H-2B visa workers to help with seasonal, temporary jobs in the tourism and construction industries. Without these temporary employees, many businesses in our state would be in danger of closing permanently because of the low number of available South Dakotans to work in these jobs. I recently led 188 of my congressional colleagues in a letter to the administration urging them to increase the statutory cap of available H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2020. The administration already has congressional authorization to release these visas, so we want to make sure they do so as soon as possible. 64,716 additional visas should be available for U.S. employers who need workers. We work on a lot of casework that involves expediting H-2B visas for workers coming to South Dakota. Last year, we helped a Sioux Falls landscaping company expedite H-2B visas for five workers that the company needed in order to finish work before winter.
Please reach out if you’re having any issues with any federal agency. We will do our best to find a resolution to your situation. Give us a call or stop in to one of our offices if you have any questions about the work we do for South Dakotans. All our location and contact information can be found on my website, www.rounds.senate.gov.