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

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

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (SDNW) — South Dakota acquired practically $14 billion in federal COVID-19 funding from March 2020 via January, based on an inner state fiscal report obtained completely by South Dakota Information Watch. 

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

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

State authorities acquired about $4.2 billion, whereas the remaining $9.6 billion went on to native governments, well being care suppliers, the schooling system, companies and people, based on 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 companies. The hassle sought to avoid wasting lives, shield a fragile economic system and supply a way of normalcy to how individuals will dwell in a post-pandemic world.

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

The state report reveals that multi-million-dollar initiatives had been enacted to diagnose and deal with individuals with COVID-19; to scale back additional infections and supply life-saving vaccines; to assist companies keep afloat and preserve particular person staff employed, fed and of their houses; to offer vital help to low-income and aged populations; and to assist educate kids and adults throughout a large disruption within the public schooling system.

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

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

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

“The context was one in every of a nationwide emergency, … and it was a matter of making an attempt to avoid wasting lives and on the similar 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, based on 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 companies and a whole lot of companies, neighborhood companies and native aid efforts, as of January: 

  • Native packages: $8.8 billion (grants and loans to medical suppliers, small companies, workers, neighborhood teams and native companies, and so on.)
  • Bureau of Finance and Administration: $2.9 billion
  • Division of Schooling: $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 Schooling: $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 via her spokesman mentioned the state used the federal stimulus cash “correctly” to help the state throughout the pandemic.

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

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

Life-saving assist

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

However that funding should 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 mentioned.

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

The federal funding saved lives throughout the top of the pandemic in addition to after these preliminary unsure months, he mentioned. 

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

‘Erred on the excessive aspect’

Rounds mentioned the congressional funding packages typically adopted a timeline that addressed 4 main wants throughout 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 package deal offered cash immediately to assist people, households, companies and the nationwide economic system survive a possible “meltdown.”
  3. Congress then shifted its focus and funding to Operation Warp Pace, 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 preserve companies and workers afloat over an extended time interval.

Rounds mentioned 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 authorized supplemental funding efforts the place want was demonstrated, he mentioned. 

“If something, we erred on the excessive aspect when it comes to authorizing assets,” Rounds mentioned. “There was a priority if we did nothing, there was a priority we might lose 5% of our inhabitants.”

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

Well being care 

Resting on the heart of your entire COVID-19 pandemic, the well being care business in South Dakota endured a number of the hardest challenges and in addition acquired a number of the largest federal funding ranges in response.

The state Division of Well being acquired greater than $282 million in federal funding, and the state medical business was allotted a whole lot of hundreds of thousands 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,” mentioned Rave, whose group represents well being suppliers and long-term care services throughout South Dakota. “The influence it had was arduous to explain, from the well being care capability points on high of three,100-some individuals dying immediately from COVID, it was robust sledding and I’ve by no means seen something prefer it.”

Hospitals and different medical services endured difficulties on a number of ranges, from making an attempt to find out about and deal with COVID-19 circumstances early on, to conserving workers and directors protected from an infection, to dealing with a workforce disaster during which many workers retired, stayed residence to assist relations or caught the virus themselves.

Tim Rave

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

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

City and rural hospitals acquired one other $445 million in different pandemic help often called Supplier Aid Funds that didn’t circulate via the state well being division.

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

The pandemic funding was vital to help in diagnosing and treating sufferers but in addition to take care of the monetary viability of hospitals in South Dakota, that are largely not-for-profit entities that function at a revenue margin of close to zero as much as 3%, he mentioned. 

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

The federal funding helped preserve individuals wholesome in different methods.

About $100 million was offered to offer meals and vitamin to households and schoolchildren. One other $235 million was offered in extra unemployment compensation to individuals who couldn’t work throughout the pandemic. 

South Dakota nursing houses encountered sudden bills to maintain residents, workers and guests protected throughout the pandemic. On this 202o picture, Tim Mercy hugs his mom, 88-year-old Patsy Mercy, via a “hugging wall” constructed with plastic boundaries on the Edgewood Speedy Metropolis assisted-living facility. Picture: Information Watch file

Nursing houses

Among the federal funding went immediately to assist nursing houses and different long-term care services in South Dakota keep open and as protected as doable throughout the pandemic, mentioned Mark Deak, govt director of the South Dakota Well being Care Affiliation.

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

In South Dakota, expert nursing services acquired about $145 million total in federal pandemic funding, which helped preserve services open and preserve workers and residents alive, Deak mentioned in an electronic mail to Information Watch. 

“This funding was completely essential throughout the top of the pandemic,” he wrote. “No different well being care suppliers had been impacted by the pandemic to the extent that nursing houses had been, significantly within the completely vital space of staffing.”

Regardless of the federal funding, seven long-term care services in South Dakota have closed prior to now yr and others are fighting continued challenges, significantly on account of workforce shortages and underfunding of Medicaid packages.

Deak mentioned {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 Dwelling in Sioux Falls prepares protecting tools utilized in dealing with the our bodies of people that die throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Quite a few industries, together with the funeral residence business, suffered financially throughout 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; places of work had been unable to perform; and your entire state economic 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 detrimental results on South Dakota companies in 2020-21. Articles centered on companies that couldn’t keep stock or had misplaced their buyer bases within the tourism, eating, leisure and retail industries. Employee shortages plagued well being care, building and authorities. Sudden penalties befell quite a few industries, together with newspapers that noticed promoting dry up, arenas that canceled large occasions, and even funeral houses that noticed a short lived finish to in-person wakes and companies.

Tom Martin, an teacher on the Beacom College of Enterprise on the College of South Dakota, known as the multitude of challenges dealing with companies on the time “an ideal storm” of detrimental influences and outcomes.

However companies throughout the state and their workers had been a number of the largest benefactors of federal packages geared toward conserving the state and nationwide economies from coming 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, based on the state fiscal report. 

The division allotted funding to private and non-private enterprise entities via 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, based on the state report.

However big quantities of federal funds flowed to South Dakota companies and workers with out shifting via state companies. 

Greater than $2.7 billion went to companies to maintain workers on the payroll via the Paycheck Safety Program of 2021. One other $895 million in 30-year Financial Harm Catastrophe Loans had been provided to small companies and non-profit organizations in 2021. The state report additionally consists of line gadgets for Financial Impression Funds to companies of $795 million beneath the CARES Act and one other $1.1 billion in Financial Impression Funds which might be out there via the continued American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The funding offered to companies, a lot of it supposed to counter direct losses brought on by the pandemic, proved vital to maintain companies afloat throughout very arduous occasions, mentioned Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau.

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

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

Okay-12 schooling

The state Okay-12 public schooling system was hit with an unprecedented disaster when the COVID-19 pandemic struck halfway via the second semester of the 2019-20 faculty yr. 

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

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

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

With practically 24,000 college students, 1,800 academics and practically 40 educational buildings, the Sioux Falls College District had two primary goals, based on Kirk Zeeck, director of federal packages and language immersion for the district.

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

In whole, the South Dakota Division of Schooling acquired about $675 million in federal pandemic aid funds, based on the state fiscal report. Most got here via three rounds of the Elementary and Secondary College Emergency Aid Fund, which allotted about $595 million to public faculties throughout the state.

The Sioux Falls district acquired about $58 million of that cash, which was used the previous three years and into this faculty yr for a wide range of efforts to maintain faculties and college students on observe, Zeeck mentioned.

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 mentioned.

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

In center and excessive faculties, extra 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 boundaries in faculties to dam the unfold of the coronavirus and for an improve of air filtration methods to make faculties safer from all airborne illnesses. 

The federal cash was vital as a result of all these wants weren’t budgeted, and the district labored arduous to make use of the funding correctly, Zeeck mentioned.

“I feel (ultimately the) district did very properly to assist decide one of the best ways to make the most of these funds to take care of security and assist youngsters develop academically,” he mentioned.

The South Dakota Board of Regents spent hundreds of thousands in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds to maintain campuses open and as protected as doable throughout the pandemic, together with at South Dakota Mines in Speedy Metropolis. Picture: Information Watch file


With workforce challenges a continual downside in South Dakota, previous to and for the reason that pandemic, conserving the state’s public college system working throughout the COVID-19 disaster was vital, based on Brian Maher, govt director of the South Dakota Board of Regents.

“You propose and put together for nearly any eventuality, however not for a worldwide pandemic,” Maher mentioned. “It was a ‘creating the airplane when you’re flying it’ scenario.”

Sustaining the schooling of scholars was a problem heightened by the necessity to preserve college students, college and workers protected throughout an unsure time, Maher mentioned in an interview with Information Watch.

Vital federal funding acquired by the college system aided in each these missions, Maher mentioned.

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 up to now, Maher mentioned.

In a normal breakdown, about $39 million was used to offer as many as 33,000 college students statewide with bills associated to disruption of campus operations. That cash paid for meals, lodging, know-how, well being care and little one care for college kids, Maher mentioned.

The system spent about $8 million in federal funds to switch system revenues misplaced throughout 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 mentioned.

One other $33 million went to issues to maintain instructing and studying shifting ahead, reminiscent of for laptop {hardware} and software program, constructing security renovations and cleansing and medical provides.

Maher mentioned the federal funding allowed the college system to maintain workers and college students protected 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 mentioned. “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 throughout the pandemic, however federal funds helped bridge the hole. John Erk and his household altered their ordinary 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 arduous, particularly within the early days, mentioned 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 mentioned. In the meantime, main COVID-19 infections at meatpacking crops and different indoor ag services disrupted the power of processors to just accept livestock and preserve their crops operational.

“From provide chain disruptions, to getting elements and livestock transported and processed, there have been a variety of very detrimental impacts,” VanderWal mentioned. 

Information Watch reported on a number of results of the coronavirus pandemic on the agricultural business, together with broadly various and customarily low costs paid to beef producers; main losses by corn growers and the ethanol business as People stopped touring; and even how sheep farmers misplaced a serious 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 essentially the most acute COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020, VanderWal mentioned.

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 probably be offered on to agriculture producers hit with value declines and extra advertising 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 almost 6,000 companies and people in 2021 who suffered losses as a result of pandemic. About $71 million of that cash went to the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, based on state information.

VanderWal mentioned that agriculture, like many different industries, continues to endure fallout from the availability chain interruptions and workforce scarcity that started throughout the pandemic.

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

Warren Peterson, an enrolled member of the Decrease Brule Sioux Tribe, and his spouse Heather, had been in a position to keep their enterprise, The Pizza Shoppe in Martin, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, throughout 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 help tribal governments which have suffered long-term inequities in federal funding.

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

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

The CARES Act of March 2020 offered two separate allocations particularly to U.S. tribal governments, together with $400 million beneath the Operation of Indian Applications appropriation and an $8 billion funding effort for tribes inside 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 immediately or via state companies, however examples abound of tribal nations utilizing pandemic funds to assist their residents.

As a part of the CARES Act, the Oglala Lakota Faculty on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation acquired practically $7 million to purchase laptop computer computer systems for about 700 college students so they may be taught remotely and keep protected. The school additionally used federal pandemic funds to feed college students throughout the lockdown.

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

The Sissteon-Wahpeton Oyate in northeastern South Dakota launched into a number of spending initiatives to assist preserve residents protected throughout the pandemic. The tribe used federal cash to construct a COVID-19 quarantine and restoration heart subsequent to an area Indian Well being Providers hospital to maintain contaminated residents remoted and stop additional unfold of the coronavirus.

The tribe used vital funding to coach residents in regards to the virus, learn how to get vaccinated and learn how to get hold of medical care if sickened. The tribe additionally used federal funding to offer meals and different help to tribal members who had been remoted of their houses throughout the pandemic.

Senators: Historical past will probably be sort

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

“Congress acted shortly, and in an overwhelmingly bipartisan method, to offer vital aid to hundreds 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 mentioned he believes South Dakota acquired its justifiable share of federal funding throughout the pandemic and that historical past will largely look again upon authorities efforts to handle the COVID-19 disaster with a positive view.

“I feel they’ll say that Congress did the best factor in doing its finest to reply,” he mentioned. “And that whereas it might not have been good, it was close to unanimous in assist.”

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