Noem previews plan to spend $1.25 billion coronavirus relief
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday previewed her plan to disburse the $1.25 billion the state has received from the federal government for coronavirus relief following a push from President Donald Trump’s administration to share the money with local governments.
The Republican governor said she will be putting the funds toward health care, small businesses, education and local governments, while holding some back in the hope she gets the go-ahead from the federal government to use it to make up for revenue loss. Vice President Mike Pence told governors on a call Tuesday that sharing the money with city and county governments is a “great priority of the administration.”
Noem did not go into many details on her spending plan, saying she would release more soon. She said two weeks ago she planned to allow local governments to tap into the funds but has held onto the $1.25 billion while she lobbied the White House to allow her to use it to fill gaps in the state budget.
“We’d like to deploy some of those funds as soon as possible because we know that counties and cities are incurring costs,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
The governor emphasized that the federal government is not requiring her to share the money with local governments. She said that schools in the state, from elementary to private colleges, will receive about $68 million in federal funding to help respond to the coronavirus crisis.
Updated tax figures will be released next week, giving state lawmakers a better idea of how much economic damage the coronavirus pandemic has caused. Noem said she didn’t think a special legislative session in June to adjust this year’s budget would be needed but signaled it might be necessary to call legislators to Pierre later to adjust next year’s budget.
Meanwhile, South Dakota health officials reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 but no new deaths in the state tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new cases bring the state’s total to 4,653 cases, and about 75% of those have recovered. Health officials have warned the actual number of infections is higher because many people may not display symptoms or have not sought testing for mild symptoms.
While Minnehaha County, the state’s most populated area, has accounted for the bulk of cases statewide and an outbreak at a Smithfield pork processing plant that infected over 800 employees, several other counties have seen a significant number of cases in recent days. Beadle County reported the highest number of cases Tuesday with 18.
Outbreaks at other meat processing plants have fueled the rise in cases in some of those counties.
The DemKota Ranch Beef plant in Aberdeen has reported 147 cases among employees, and 58 employees of a Jack Link’s plant in Alpena have tested positive for the coronavirus. Employees at the Dakota Provisions poultry plant in Huron have also tested positive, but the Department of Health does not release case counts for a specific employer until they reach over 40.
So far, 50 people statewide have died from COVID-19. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.