How South Dakota spent nearly $14 billion in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds

How South Dakota spent almost $14 billion in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (SDNW) — South Dakota obtained almost $14 billion in federal COVID-19 funding from March 2020 by means of January, in accordance with an inner state fiscal report obtained completely by South Dakota Information Watch. 

The doc tallies the $13.84 billion meant to assist governments, companies, organizations and people survive and recuperate from a pandemic that killed 1 million Individuals and greater than 3,100 South Dakotans. 

The federal funding got here from six separate acts of Congress and was a part of an general $4.6 trillion in federal COVID-19 support offered to states.

State authorities obtained about $4.2 billion, whereas the remaining $9.6 billion went on to native governments, well being care suppliers, the training system, companies and people, in accordance with Gov. Kristi Noem’s workplace

The precise reply of the place the cash went lies amid an advanced conglomeration of spending initiatives undertaken by the state, native governments and federal businesses. The hassle sought to avoid wasting lives, shield a fragile financial system and supply a way of normalcy to how folks will stay in a post-pandemic world.

The South Dakota medical neighborhood spent tens of millions of {dollars} on diagnosing and treating COVID-19, together with arranging for cellular testing that enable sufferers and practitioners to be secure. Picture: Information Watch file

The state report reveals that multi-million-dollar initiatives had been enacted to diagnose and deal with folks with COVID-19; to cut back additional infections and supply life-saving vaccines; to assist companies keep afloat and maintain particular person staff employed, fed and of their properties; to supply essential support to low-income and aged populations; and to assist educate youngsters and adults throughout a large disruption within the public training system.

The state report notes that a number of the stimulus cash was allotted however has not but been spent. Some funding could have shifted from one program or company to a different after it was obtained.

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., stated the early days of the pandemic had been a time of robust bipartisan efforts by Congress to supply states with the funding and assets essential to battle one of many greatest crises in American historical past.

“The context was one among a nationwide emergency,” he advised Information Watch. “And it was a matter of attempting to avoid wasting lives and on the identical time to forestall a complete financial collapse due to what was anticipated to be a really extreme pandemic.” 

“The context was one among a nationwide emergency, … and it was a matter of attempting to avoid wasting lives and on the identical time to forestall a complete financial collapse.” — U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

The place the cash got here from

Right here is South Dakota’s share of the six main COVID-19 stimulus funding packages, in accordance with the Congressional Price range Workplace and the state of South Dakota: 

  • $5.85 million of the $8.3 billion Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Appropriations Act, March 6, 2020
  • $194 million of the $192 billion Households First Coronavirus Response Act, March 11, 2020
  • $8.74 billion of $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Help, Aid and Financial Safety Act (CARES Act), April 24, 2020
  • $64.3 million of the $483 billion Paycheck Safety Program and Well being Care Enhancement Act, March 27, 2020
  • $1.1 billion of the $1.4 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 ($900 billion for COVID), Dec. 27, 2020
  • $3.8 billion of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, March 11, 2021

The place the cash went

Here’s a abstract of how a lot federal COVID-19 funding flowed into 14 separate state businesses and lots of of companies, neighborhood businesses and native aid efforts, as of January: 

  • Native packages: $8.8 billion (grants and loans to medical suppliers, small companies, staff, neighborhood teams and native businesses, and so on.)
  • Bureau of Finance and Administration: $2.9 billion
  • Division of Training: $675.1 million
  • Governor’s Workplace of Financial Improvement: $488.8 million
  • Division of Social Providers: $289.1 million
  • Division of Well being: $282.1 million
  • Board of Regents/Technical Training: $162.3 million
  • Division of Transportation: $160.1 million
  • Division of Public Security: $16.9 million
  • Division of Human Providers: $16.5 million
  • Division of Labor and Regulation: $16.2 million
  • Division of Tourism: $6.8 million
  • Division of Agriculture and Pure Sources: $1.1 million
  • Secretary of State: $3 million
  • Unified Judicial System: $99,500
  • Complete: $13.84 billion

Noem declined a request for an interview however by means of her spokesman stated the state used the federal stimulus cash “properly” to assist the state in the course of the pandemic.

Spokesman Ian Fury stated in an e-mail to Information Watch that the governor approached use of federal pandemic funding in a conservative style. She rejected former President Donald Trump’s provide of prolonged unemployment advantages for state staff in August 2020 and likewise despatched again greater than $80 million in rental help.

“We centered on fixing long-term issues with one-time investments relatively than creating new authorities packages,” Fury wrote. “We’re assured that we utilized that cash extra properly than different states would have.”

Life-saving assist

Tim Rave, CEO of the South Dakota Affiliation of Well being Care Organizations, stated the federal funding offered to private and non-private well being care suppliers in South Dakota is definitely a big quantity. 

However that funding have to be thought-about amid the context of a once-in-a-century disaster that introduced each medical and monetary challenges to the state’s well being care business and the inhabitants at giant, he stated.

“It was some huge cash, an unprecedented quantity, however with what the world went by means of and with the pressures, definitely within the well being care house, we actually didn’t have a alternative,“ Rave stated.

The federal funding saved lives in the course of the peak of the pandemic in addition to after these preliminary unsure months, he stated. 

“The massive factor it purchased was entry, as a result of with out that cash, it’s not onerous to think about closures of well being care amenities or limits on companies. And if you begin taking away entry to well being care, it finally results in lack of life or elevated burdens on households and sufferers,” Rave stated. 

‘Erred on the excessive facet’

Rounds stated the congressional funding packages usually adopted a timeline that addressed 4 main wants in the course of the pandemic: 

  1. The preliminary emergency funding was geared toward bolstering capability and entry to the well being care system that was diagnosing and treating COVID-19 sufferers.
  2. The second bundle offered cash instantly to assist people, households, companies and the nationwide financial system survive a possible “meltdown.”
  3. Congress then shifted its focus and funding to Operation Warp Velocity, which offered $10 billion to hunt a remedy for COVID-19 and vaccines to restrict its unfold.
  4. And at last, later funding packages together with the Paycheck Safety Program, helped maintain companies and staff afloat over an extended time interval.

Rounds stated Trump and Congress allotted funding to states and allowed some leeway on how cash was spent on the native stage, although Rounds argued for much more flexibility. General, federal lawmakers wished to be beneficiant in funding packages and at occasions authorised supplemental funding efforts the place want was demonstrated, he stated. 

“If something, we erred on the excessive facet by way of authorizing assets,” Rounds stated. “There was a priority if we did nothing, there was a priority we might lose 5% of our inhabitants.”

Important-care nurses, corresponding to Christine Murphy of Monument Well being in Fast Metropolis, had been in brief provide in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, so well being system spending rose to maintain staff on workers or to rent touring specialists. Picture: Courtesy of Monument Well being

Well being care 

Resting on the middle of all the COVID-19 pandemic, the well being care business in South Dakota endured a number of the hardest challenges and likewise obtained a number of the largest federal funding ranges in response.

The state Division of Well being obtained greater than $282 million in federal funding, and the state medical business was allotted lots of of tens of millions extra to diagnose, deal with and reply to sufferers sickened by the coronavirus.

“I’ve been in well being care since 1992, and it was by far the hardest factor I’ve ever seen,” stated Rave, whose group represents well being suppliers and long-term care amenities throughout South Dakota. “The impression it had was onerous to explain, from the well being care capability points on prime of three,100-some folks dying instantly from COVID, it was robust sledding and I’ve by no means seen something prefer it.”

Hospitals and different medical amenities endured difficulties on a number of ranges, from attempting to study and deal with COVID-19 circumstances early on, to retaining workers and directors secure from an infection, to dealing with a workforce disaster by which many staff retired, stayed residence to assist members of the family or caught the virus themselves.

Tim Rave

“The (variety of) individuals who retired or simply left the well being care area was unprecedented throughout that point,” Rave stated.

Main federal funding initiatives throughout the Division of Well being included greater than $135 million for COVID-19 testing in communities and colleges, at the very least $70 million to manage vaccines and greater than $50 million to assist rural well being care amenities or those who handled low-income sufferers.

City and rural hospitals obtained one other $445 million in different pandemic support generally known as Supplier Aid Funds that didn’t movement by means of the state well being division.

Many well being care suppliers needed to pay bonuses to staff or rent touring nurses and different suppliers that added vital working prices, Rave stated. 

The pandemic funding was essential to assist in diagnosing and treating sufferers but additionally to keep up the monetary viability of hospitals in South Dakota, that are principally not-for-profit entities that function at a revenue margin of close to zero as much as 3%, he stated. 

“With out these {dollars} we’ll by no means know what might have occurred,” Rave stated. “It completely, completely stabilized the system. In the event you simply objectively take a look at that and take into consideration the place the margins are in a traditional 12 months, and dump all that strain of elevated value on it, you may solely think about if that had gone on for much longer.”

The federal funding helped maintain folks wholesome in different methods.

About $100 million was offered to supply meals and vitamin to households and schoolchildren. One other $235 million was offered in further unemployment compensation to individuals who couldn’t work in the course of the pandemic. 

South Dakota nursing properties encountered surprising bills to maintain residents, workers and guests secure in the course of the pandemic. On this 202o picture, Tim Mercy hugs his mom, 88-year-old Patsy Mercy, by means of a “hugging wall” constructed with plastic obstacles on the Edgewood Fast Metropolis assisted-living facility. Picture: Information Watch file

Nursing properties

Among the federal funding went instantly to assist nursing properties and different long-term care amenities in South Dakota keep open and as secure as potential in the course of the pandemic, stated Mark Deak, government director of the South Dakota Well being Care Affiliation.

The federal authorities offered $50 billion in support from the Supplier Aid Fund to amenities that settle for Medicare, together with hospitals and expert nursing amenities, which was geared toward giving suppliers as much as 2% of their annual spending, he stated. Nursing properties throughout the U.S. then obtained one other $7.4 billion from that fund, Deak stated.

In South Dakota, expert nursing amenities obtained about $145 million general in federal pandemic funding, which helped maintain amenities open and maintain workers and residents alive, Deak stated in an e-mail to Information Watch. 

“This funding was completely essential in the course of the peak of the pandemic,” he wrote. “No different well being care suppliers had been impacted by the pandemic to the extent that nursing properties had been, notably within the completely essential space of staffing.”

Regardless of the federal funding, seven long-term care amenities in South Dakota have closed previously 12 months and others are scuffling with continued challenges, notably on account of workforce shortages and underfunding of Medicaid packages.

Deak stated {that a} latest evaluation by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that nursing residence staffing is down by greater than 14% since early 2020, whereas hospital staffing has risen barely since then.

Phil Schmitz of George Growth Funeral Residence in Sioux Falls prepares protecting gear utilized in dealing with the our bodies of people that die in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Quite a few industries, together with the funeral residence business, suffered financially in the course of the pandemic. Picture: Information Watch file

Enterprise and business

A way of pure panic struck companies each small and enormous throughout South Dakota within the spring of 2020 as preliminary fears of the pandemic introduced provide chains and buyer visits largely to a halt. 

Retail and repair workplaces had been shuttered; eating places closed briefly or for good; workplaces had been unable to perform; and all the state financial system slowed to a crawl as many individuals stayed residence as dozens had been dying and no vaccines had been but in sight.

Information Watch documented a variety of adverse results on South Dakota companies in 2020-21. Articles centered on companies that couldn’t preserve stock or had misplaced their buyer bases within the tourism, eating, leisure and retail industries. Employee shortages plagued well being care, development and authorities. Sudden penalties befell quite a few industries, together with newspapers that noticed promoting dry up, arenas that canceled huge occasions, and even funeral properties that noticed a short lived finish to in-person wakes and companies.

Tom Martin, an teacher on the Beacom Faculty of Enterprise on the College of South Dakota, known as the multitude of challenges going through companies on the time “an ideal storm” of adverse influences and outcomes.

However companies throughout the state and their staff had been a number of the greatest benefactors of federal packages geared toward retaining the state and nationwide economies from getting into a free fall.

The state Bureau of Finance and Administration was the single-largest recipient of federal pandemic funds amongst all state departments, receiving virtually $2.9 billion, in accordance with the state fiscal report. 

The division allotted funding to private and non-private enterprise entities by means of 4 main funding mechanisms: the Coronavirus Aid Fund ($1.25 billion); the State Fiscal Restoration Fund ($974 million); the Municipal Liquidity Facility fund ($548 million) and the Capital Initiatives Fund ($116 million.) 

Availability of a few of that cash will stretch into 2024, in accordance with the state report.

However big quantities of federal funds flowed to South Dakota companies and staff with out transferring by means of state businesses. 

Greater than $2.7 billion went to companies to maintain staff on the payroll by means of the Paycheck Safety Program of 2021. One other $895 million in 30-year Financial Harm Catastrophe Loans had been supplied to small companies and non-profit organizations in 2021. The state report additionally contains line objects for Financial Affect Funds to companies of $795 million underneath the CARES Act and one other $1.1 billion in Financial Affect Funds which can be obtainable by means of the continued American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The funding offered to companies, a lot of it meant to counter direct losses attributable to the pandemic, proved essential to maintain companies afloat throughout very onerous occasions, stated Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau.

“The cash that was despatched to offset losses – that was frankly used to maintain folks in enterprise,” VanderWal stated. “It actually saved some folks in enterprise and helped us to only go on.”

Tracy Vik, principal of Sonia Sotomayor Elementary Faculty in Sioux Falls, sat at a desk in a classroom the place protecting obstacles had been constructed to guard college students in fall 2020. Faculty districts confronted main new bills to maintain workers and college students secure in the course of the pandemic. Picture: Information Watch file

Okay-12 training

The state Okay-12 public training system was hit with an unprecedented disaster when the COVID-19 pandemic struck halfway by means of the second semester of the 2019-20 faculty 12 months. 

In mid-March 2020, because the coronavirus started to appear in South Dakota, Noem declared a state of emergency, ordered state staff to earn a living from home and instructed public colleges to close down.

The closure put faculty districts, academics, workers and college students in a troublesome spot. Throughout the state, directors and educators labored collectively to rapidly develop a system to conduct distant instruction of scholars to shut out the 2019-20 faculty 12 months. 

Over the summer time of 2020 and into the autumn semester, colleges additionally took costly and time-consuming steps to make colleges safer when college students returned and to permit for efficient instruction of scholars whose dad and mom elected to have them taught remotely.

With almost 24,000 college students, 1,800 academics and almost 40 educational buildings, the Sioux Falls Faculty District had two major targets, in accordance with Kirk Zeeck, director of federal packages and language immersion for the district.

“We took steps to assist children and workers be secure and but nonetheless attempt to get some studying performed,” he stated. “It undoubtedly wasn’t like the normal classroom setting previous to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In complete, the South Dakota Division of Training obtained about $675 million in federal pandemic aid funds, in accordance with the state fiscal report. Most got here by means of three rounds of the Elementary and Secondary Faculty Emergency Aid Fund, which allotted about $595 million to public colleges throughout the state.

The Sioux Falls district obtained about $58 million of that cash, which was used the previous three years and into this faculty 12 months for quite a lot of efforts to maintain colleges and college students on observe, Zeeck stated.

Kirk Zeeck

Initially, some cash was used to accommodate distant studying, together with shopping for laptops for all academics and college students and upgrading laptop white boards in lecture rooms to succeed in each in-person and distant learners, he stated.

The district additionally employed 14 studying specialists in elementary colleges to assist college students catch up after the 2020 shutdown and added a summer time academy program with the identical purpose. 

In center and excessive colleges, further academics and academic assistants had been employed to spice up studying. New counselors helped college students who suffered social or psychological issues.

Federal cash additionally paid for security obstacles in colleges to dam the unfold of the coronavirus and for an improve of air filtration programs to make colleges safer from all airborne ailments. 

The federal cash was essential as a result of all these wants weren’t budgeted, and the district labored onerous to make use of the funding properly, Zeeck stated.

“I believe (ultimately the) district did very effectively to assist decide the easiest way to make the most of these funds to keep up security and assist children develop academically,” he stated.

The South Dakota Board of Regents spent tens of millions in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds to maintain campuses open and as secure as potential in the course of the pandemic, together with at South Dakota Mines in Fast Metropolis. Picture: Information Watch file


With workforce challenges a persistent drawback in South Dakota, previous to and for the reason that pandemic, retaining the state’s public college system working in the course of the COVID-19 disaster was essential, in accordance with Brian Maher, government director of the South Dakota Board of Regents.

“You propose and put together for nearly any eventuality, however not for a worldwide pandemic,” Maher stated. “It was a ‘creating the airplane whilst you’re flying it’ state of affairs.”

Sustaining the training of scholars was a problem heightened by the necessity to maintain college students, school and workers secure throughout an unsure time, Maher stated in an interview with Information Watch.

Vital federal funding obtained by the college system aided in each these missions, Maher stated.

The federal authorities offered about $86 million to the regental system over roughly the previous three years and about $83 of that funding has been spent to date, Maher stated.

In a common breakdown, about $39 million was used to supply as many as 33,000 college students statewide with bills associated to disruption of campus operations. That cash paid for meals, lodging, expertise, well being care and baby care for college students, Maher stated.

The system spent about $8 million in federal funds to interchange system revenues misplaced in the course of the pandemic. One other $1.3 million was used to reimburse college students for monies paid prematurely for companies they didn’t then obtain, he stated.

One other $33 million went to issues to maintain educating and studying transferring ahead, corresponding to for laptop {hardware} and software program, constructing security renovations and cleansing and medical provides.

Maher stated the federal funding allowed the college system to maintain workers and college students secure whereas sustaining the pipeline of graduates wanted to fill the various open jobs within the state.

“It was essential, and that’s not an overstatement,” he stated. “Consider the variety of college students we had in South Dakota at the moment who had been getting ready to depart the college system and go into the workforce. That interruption might have prompted an actual blockage in getting ready our workforce, and that was one thing we are able to’t have in South Dakota.”

The South Dakota agriculture business suffered big monetary losses in the course of the pandemic, however federal funds helped bridge the hole. John Erk and his household altered their common timeline for elevating and promoting sheep on their Butte County farm to keep away from losses. Picture: Information Watch file


The pandemic hit South Dakota farmers, ranchers and meals processors onerous, particularly within the early days, stated VanderWal, of the Farm Bureau.

Provide chain interruptions prevented producers from getting supplies wanted to function and stopped them from promoting or delivery their items, he stated. In the meantime, main COVID-19 infections at meatpacking vegetation and different indoor ag amenities disrupted the power of processors to simply accept livestock and maintain their vegetation operational.

“From provide chain disruptions, to getting elements and livestock transported and processed, there have been quite a lot of very adverse impacts,” VanderWal stated. 

Information Watch reported on a number of results of the coronavirus pandemic on the agricultural business, together with broadly various and usually low costs paid to beef producers; main losses by corn growers and the ethanol business as Individuals stopped touring; and even how sheep farmers misplaced a significant income pipeline when the cruise business shut down.

Some employers within the agriculture business in South Dakota benefited from the federal Paycheck Safety Program that allowed them to maintain staff on the payroll throughout probably the most acute COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020, VanderWal stated.

The first program that helped farmers, ranchers and different producers was the Coronavirus Meals Help Program. The state report exhibits that just about $1.4 billion in funding from that program was or will likely be offered on to agriculture producers hit with value declines and extra advertising and marketing prices.

South Dakotans within the agriculture business additionally benefited from the state Coronavirus Aid Fund, part of the federal CARES Act, which offered roughly a half-billion {dollars} to just about 6,000 companies and people in 2021 who suffered losses because of the pandemic. About $71 million of that cash went to the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, in accordance with state data.

VanderWal stated that agriculture, like many different industries, continues to endure fallout from the provision chain interruptions and workforce scarcity that started in the course of the pandemic.

“One little factor impacts all the things down the road, and we’re nonetheless affected by that to some extent,” he stated.

Warren Peterson, an enrolled member of the Decrease Brule Sioux Tribe, and his spouse Heather, had been capable of preserve their enterprise, The Pizza Shoppe in Martin, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in the course of the pandemic due in partto federal monetary help. Picture: Information Watch file


In a November 2022 report by the U.S. Treasury, the federal authorities acknowledged that particular pandemic-era funding was wanted to assist tribal governments which have suffered long-term inequities in federal funding.

“Many points going through tribal communities, whether or not well being care, poverty, training, meals safety, social justice, or financial improvement – together with tax parity – all have one component in frequent, inequitable entry to assets,” the Treasury report stated. 

“Throughout Indian Nation, the impacts of the COVID-19 disaster, regionally and regionally, weren’t all the identical. Nevertheless, it did lead to one commonality; the pandemic made pre-existing inequitable circumstances even worse.”

The CARES Act of March 2020 offered two separate allocations particularly to U.S. tribal governments, together with $400 million underneath the Operation of Indian Applications appropriation and an $8 billion funding effort for tribes throughout the Coronavirus Aid Fund. 

The ARPA program signed by President Biden in 2021 has a $20 billion funding allocation particularly for tribal governments. The state fiscal report doesn’t break down federal funding allotted to South Dakota tribes, both instantly or by means of state businesses, however examples abound of tribal nations utilizing pandemic funds to assist their residents.

As a part of the CARES Act, the Oglala Lakota School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation obtained almost $7 million to purchase laptop computer computer systems for about 700 college students so they might study remotely and keep secure. The school additionally used federal pandemic funds to feed college students in the course of the lockdown.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe in central South Dakota invested federal fiscal restoration funds to construct reasonably priced housing on the reservation, in accordance with the Treasury.

The Sissteon-Wahpeton Oyate in northeastern South Dakota launched into a number of spending initiatives to assist maintain residents secure in the course of the pandemic. The tribe used federal cash to construct a COVID-19 quarantine and restoration middle subsequent to a neighborhood Indian Well being Providers hospital to maintain contaminated residents remoted and forestall additional unfold of the coronavirus.

The tribe used vital funding to coach residents in regards to the virus, the way to get vaccinated and the way to acquire medical care if sickened. The tribe additionally used federal funding to supply meals and different help to tribal members who had been remoted of their properties in the course of the pandemic.

Senators: Historical past will likely be type

U.S. Sen. John Thune advised Information Watch in an e-mail that Congress was extremely aware of the pandemic and did its greatest to maintain people and the financial system thriving amid a nationwide disaster.

“Congress acted rapidly, and in an overwhelmingly bipartisan means, to supply essential aid to 1000’s of people, households, and small companies in states throughout the nation, together with these all through South Dakota when COVID threatened our financial safety,” Thune wrote

Rounds stated he believes South Dakota obtained its fair proportion of federal funding in the course of the pandemic and that historical past will largely look again upon authorities efforts to handle the COVID-19 disaster with a positive view.

“I believe they’ll say that Congress did the proper factor in doing its greatest to reply,” he stated. “And that whereas it might not have been excellent, it was close to unanimous in help.”

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