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Noem Wants Deadline To Spend $900 Million Extended

Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary

Governor Kristi Noem says she anticipates considering calling a special legislative session to spend more than $900 million in coronavirus stimulus money.

During an interview with the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary, she says that’s something she might do if the federal government does not extend a December deadline to spend the funds.

The CARES Act gives governors latitude to spend those relief dollars.

Governor Noem says she’d prefer the legislature meet during a normal session to decide how to spend the roughly $900 million left over. She says that would allow for committee hearings and floor debates to have time to make a wise decision.

But the legislature will meet about two weeks after the deadline to spend those dollars. Noem wants that December 30th deadline extended.

“That’s what we’re asking for,” Noem says. “If we don’t, then we will make sure that we have a plan coming forward where the legislature will be a part of making sure that we know where it goes and how it gets spent and that it’s the right place. What would happen is, the language would have to change in a federal bill.”

Governor Noem says the state has fared the pandemic storm well, thus far. She attributes that to keeping businesses open, cutting state spending and federal spending that reached the state.

State Senator Reynold Nesiba is a Democrat from Sioux Falls. The economics teacher at Augustana University says those federal programs, like paycheck protection and additional unemployment benefits, have run out.

He says the state should have been proactive in creating a plan for the CARES Act money. He says the state doesn’t have one.

“The CARES Act was passed as a stimulus. The point was the money was moving from the federal government down to the state level so that states could administer and direct those funds to their best purposes,” Nesiba says. “But it’s not a stimulus if it doesn’t get spent.”

Nesiba says the governor could appoint a taskforce comprised of lawmakers and community members to come up with grant opportunities for affected industries.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.