S.D. governor extends time, broadens eligibility for COVID grants, opens housing aid program

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota businesses and healthcare providers who lost revenue during the COVID-19 slowdown will have more time to apply for federally funded grants and will have lower thresholds for eligibility, the governor’s office said Thursday.

The deadline was extended to October 30 for applications to the $400 million small-business relief grant program and the $115 million healthcare-providers grant program, according to Governor Kristi Noem. The South Dakota Housing Development Authority meanwhile will handle applications for $10 million of aid to help South Dakotans with housing expenses.

State Representative Chris Karr urged Thursday that business people should apply regardless of how small their losses might have been, because grant money could remain after distribution of the first round of grants. Business applications so far totaled about $40 million of the $400 million available, according to the Sioux Falls Republican. He co-chairs the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

“The criteria likely will decrease further,” Karr said. “That’s why I’m pushing everybody to get an application in. If they don’t get the application in, they don’t have any chance of getting recovery assistance.”

The Legislature in special session October 5 approved a resolution recommending how the governor should spend the remainder of the $1.25 billion that Congress allocated to South Dakota as part of the CARES Act. Karr said the purpose of the resolution was to allow flexibility to the governor. “The goal was to fill the cracks,” he said. “I think we’re a long way from getting out of the weeds yet.”

Meanwhile, the South Dakota Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion Thursday stating that legislators can’t contract for coronavirus relief grants directly or indirectly, because of Article 3, Section 12, of the South Dakota Constitution that bars legislators from engaging in contracts with state or county government. The governor requested the opinion.

Representative Arch Beal, a Sioux Falls Republican, said the court’s decision was “a travesty” for some lawmakers whose businesses could have qualified.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck, a Watertown Republican, wrote on an email listserv, “This is a big deal. There are several that have businesses seriously affected, that will forgo six figure grants due to their $12,000 legislator gig. New spin on public service. Hope it doesn’t prove to be a detriment for future candidate recruitment.”

The Noem administration has a one-stop portal on its COVID-19 website for small-business and healthcare grants. Among the changes announced Thursday for the various business grants:

The minimum grant amount has been decreased from $750 to $500.

The maximum grant has been increased from $100,000 to $500,000.

The eligibility requirement has been expanded from a reduction in business of more than 25% to a reduction in business of more than 15%.

Karr provided the following data to other legislators Thursday morning:

CategoryApplications created or started/Applications submitted
Small Business COVID Interruption         3,4591,932
Small Start-Up Business COVID Interruption1,878162
Small Non-Profit Business COVID Interruption Grant                         404211
Community Based Healthcare Providers Grant10661
Acute Care in Hospitals2215

Karr’s memo to legislators also covered the tourism and education portions of the resolution.

He said the state Department of Tourism started receiving applications Wednesday. The state Department of Education has been working with the nonaccredited schools on the grant agreements. The state Department of Labor and Regulation has been working with the adult education groups on those grant agreements.

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