PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Many South Dakota businesses and other entities that applied for public assistance to offset losses from the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t answered emails from state government seeking more information, the governor’s budget director said Wednesday.

State government must have the correct information to pay them, state Finance Commissioner Liza Clark told members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. The December 30 deadline Congress set for obligating federal coronavirus funds hasn’t been changed, she said.

As of November 17, state government had received 5,968 applications from businesses and others for five categories of grants, according to a handout she presented. Many didn’t have correct information, but follow-up emails haven’t produced many replies. “There are thousands of responses we haven’t received,” Clark said.

Legislators passed a resolution in October recommending that Governor Kristi Noem make available $597 million of grants from the federal coronavirus relief funds. Clark gave these numbers Wednesday:

  • 4,848 applications from small businesses totaling more than $277 million. $400 million is available.
  • 576 applications from small-business non-profits totaling more than $21.8 million. $40 million is available.
  • 363 applications from small businesses with interrupted startups totaling more than $8.2 million. $10 million is available.
  • 145 applications from community-based health care providers totaling more than $31.8 million. $115 million is available.
  • 36 applications from hospitals that provide acute care totaling more than $15.5 million. $15 million is available.

Clark said all of the acute-care applications likely would be granted. She said about $1.8 million of housing assistance has been sought, with $10 million available, and letters recently went out seeking applications for $2 million of grants for adult education and private non-accredited education.

State Tourism Secretary said $4.8 million was distributed to destination-marketing organizations. There was $5 million available.

Answering a question on when the money would go out, Clark wants payments to start flowing in December. “I would say mid-December is something people can plan on,” she said.

Relying solely on emails to get correct information concerned Senator Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat from Sioux Falls: “I just worry about email systems, really important emails ending up in a spam folder.”

Colin Keeler, a director on Clark’s staff, said people can check the portals where they applied. Nesiba suggested a secondary form of communication be attempted to alert applicants that more information is needed. “I’ll look into that,” Clark said.

Based on the applications, there could be $200 million or more still available. Clark said the Noem administration is looking at how it could be obligated before the December 30 deadline. “The governor is still pushing hard for an extension and additional flexibility,” Clark said. “There are a lot of states in our same boat.”

Some states have been using the federal aid to provide hazard pay for healthcare workers. Clark said the federal guidance on healthcare prohibits one-time bonuses and across-the-board bonuses. Another requirement is they must show a physical hardship from COVID-19 but there’s no definition, Clark said.

There might be a second application period for businesses with broader criteria, she said.