To the Editor:

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide much needed funds for South Dakota to address a wide range of infrastructure issues. Over five years we’ll get $1.9 billion for highway renovations, $225 million for bridge repair, $370 million to improve public transportation, $29 million to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations, and $100 million to expand broadband.

These funds couldn’t come at a more dire time for South Dakota. Covid has left our state reeling, and it’s the working folks who have been hardest hit. And it’s not just job loss, it’s also the loss of our job force. New graduates across South Dakota are taking their diplomas and leaving.

“Brain drain” is real and it’s compounded by the fact that our leaders in Pierre appear to not be using theirs. The biggest roadblock to better roads, bridges, and broadband and to thousands of new jobs for South Dakotans resides in the governor’s mansion. Since taking office, Gov. Noem has led the effort to leave critically important federal funds on the table.

Readers will remember the countless opportunities our governor has sabotaged. In the middle of a pandemic she refused much needed additional federal funds to supplement unemployment for out-of-work South Dakotans. Her petty hostility toward the resources we need to recover is grandstanding at best, betrayal at worst.

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Why would young South Dakotans stay here when it’s clear that our governor is angling for a new job in a different capital city - D.C.? But there’s hope. Organizations like United Today, Stronger Tomorrow are helping communities across South Dakota advocate for the fair and effective allocation of federal funds. They’ve demonstrated that when we’re united - across politics, class, and race - we can influence the decisions of our leaders.

That’s what we must do now. Call, email, or visit our elected representatives and demand that they not only support the acceptance of these funds, but use them to improve South Dakota and the lives of South Dakotans.

Kooper Caraway

President, AFL-CIO