SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — State lawmakers in South Dakota are debating whether a special session is needed in the next few weeks to help decide how the remaining roughly $900 million of federal CARES Act money should be spent in the state.
“The whole thing was $1.25 billion, that’s huge when you consider that most of our general fund budget is not much more than that for an entire year to run the whole state,” Senator John Wiik said.
So far the governor has allocated $200 million of that money for cities and counties and used another roughly $100 million to support the state’s unemployment fund and other direct covid related expenses; right now there’s roughly $900 million of Federal Cares Money still unspent.
“I would think that we would want the legislative body to weigh in on $900 million,” Representative Linda Duba from Sioux Falls said.
Duba is one of 49 state lawmakers asking for a chance to decide how this federal money is spent in South Dakota.
“We all signed a letter and indicated that we were interested in a special session. That number of 49 would have been enough to pass the two thirds hurtle for the house, now we’re running up against it in the senate where they’re saying they feel they can push this back until January,” Duba said.
“Most of the rules on this money are very tight,” Wiik said.
Right now one of those rules is that the federal money must be spent by the end of the year.
“I think the most prudent use of our tax payer dollars are to tap the breaks a little bit and see if the federal government is going to change any of these rules,” Wiik said.
Senator John Wiik, the co-chair of the joint appropriations committee, says they’re working with South Dakota’s congressional delegation to help push the deadline back to September of next year.
“I think it could be much more accountable and more realistic use of federal government money,” Wiik said. “Its a lot of money so its very important that we get this right, that we do the best for the people of South Dakota and not rush into something that could end up costing the tax payers more down the road.
“We could wait until January, but there are families in this state, there are schools trying to operate that will not have the funds that they need to get through this fall,” Duba said.
Wiik said if the federal government does not extend the CARES Act funding deadline, he believes the state’s 18-member joint appropriations committee could allocated the $900 million of funds to people in need across the state before the end of the year. Duba says she and other lawmakers will continue to lobby for a joint session to help all 105 state lawmakers weigh in on how this large sum of money is spent.