PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota lawmakers officially approved appropriating federal coronavirus relief funds into the general fund, earmarking the funds for the state’s hospitals, businesses and long term care facilities.

During a special legislative session in Pierre on Monday, Oct. 5, lawmakers adopted a resolution with recommendations for Gov. Kristi Noem on where to spend the leftover $597 million in remaining federal relief funds.

The recommendation includes $400 to fund small businesses, $115 million for long term care facilities, $2 million for adult education and private non accredited education, $10 million for housing assistance, $5 million for marketing and advertising organizations, $10 million in business start up grants, $40 million for non profit organizations and $15 million for hospitals.

The state has until Dec. 30 to spend the federal relief funds, which total $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds.

Noem addressed lawmakers Monday morning, saying that seven months into the pandemic there is still much to learn and that “we have a better sense for the common enemy we’re fighting.”

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“Our initial models showed a very troubling situation: We could expect as many as 600,000 people sick," Noem said. "And at our worst point, we could have up to 10,000 South Dakotans in the hospital.

“In addition to these dire numbers, there were many unknowns. How was the virus spreading? Who was most likely to get it? How sick would they be? How would we manage the tens of thousands of illnesses all at once? Are there any treatments? And on and on.”

Noem said that her decision to not put restrictions or mandate a lockdown in South Dakota was the right one.

“We all know that the science tells us we cannot stop this virus. Our goal from day one was to slow the spread and free up hospital capacity for those who may need higher levels of care. We accomplished that,” she said.

“In South Dakota, we didn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. And the results have been incredible. We had the fewest low-income job losses of any state in the region, and we’ve already recovered those losses. Our unemployment rate is the fourth lowest in America, already back down to 4.8%. When the virus first hit, every state’s economy shrunk. But our state had the second smallest losses. We closed the 2020 budget year with a $19 million dollar surplus. And our general fund revenues are up 8.7% so far this fiscal year.”

Noem said the lawmakers must comply with federal law and use the funds very specifically in response to the pandemic.

“This includes many costs incurred by the state, by cities and counties, and by education institutions" she said. "We can also use the funds to help private entities if they can show they were negatively impacted by COVID. These expenses, though, had to be incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30 of this year. And all the money has to be spent by Dec. 30. Not just set aside. Not obligated in a contract. Actually spent.

“Together, that’s exactly what we’re doing. It’s important that we remember, especially during difficult times, that we are stronger united, rather than divided. I believe we all have the same goal in mind — making South Dakota safer, stronger, and healthier.”