S.D. legislators want more to get COVID-19 funds; governor aims $100 million at health care

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The governor’s proposal to distribute federally-funded grants to South Dakota small businesses that suffered revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic should be broader, some state lawmakers recommended Friday.

The Legislature’s Joint Local Government Committee suggested adding owners of rental housing, non-profit economic development groups, chambers of commerce, county conservation districts, workforce development organizations, meat packers, and new or expanding businesses.

The committee also wants the $200 million that the governor allocated for municipal and county governments to be fully spent, by redistributing unused funds to those cities and counties whose eligible COVID-19 expenses exceed their allocations.

Representative Herman Otten, a rural Lennox Republican, said some local officials have told him they won’t use all of their allocations, while others such as Pennington and Minnehaha counties will use all of their allocations and would need more.

The recommendations will be given to the Legislature’s Interim Appropriations Committee to consider at its September 30 meeting.

Lawmakers are trying to advise Governor Kristi Noem on how to spend as much of South Dakota state government’s $1.25 billion share of federal coronavirus relief funds before a December 30 deadline.

The governor meanwhile announced Friday afternoon a framework for up to $100 million to assist South Dakota’s community-based health care providers. It would work much like the small-business program she announced nine days earlier, with applications open October 12 through October 23.

Yvonne Taylor, executive director for the South Dakota Municipal League, spoke in support of Congress extending the Dec. 30 deadline for committing federal coronavirus aid.

Tamara Darnall, who heads the Legislative Research Council’s budgeting staff, told the committee that various proposals in Congress include language that would extend the deadline. “But they don’t seem to be moving anywhere,” Darnall said. 

The Legislature’s Executive Board has set five committee meetings on COVID-19 funding and policies.

The appropriators met September 14 to review the governor’s proposed framework for distributing up to $400 million of federal COVID-19 aid.

The governor has said she would consider calling a special session of the Legislature if Congress doesn’t agree on extending the December 30 deadline for state governments to contract the COVID-19 federal aid.

In addition to the $1.25 billion from Congress, South Dakota has received tens of millions of dollars in direct-targeted aid.

The Legislature could also call itself into special session, with two-thirds of the members of each chamber signing a petition.

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