Noem's office lays out plan for $975M in federal virus funds


SIOUX FALLS (AP) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem's administration is looking to boost scores of infrastructure projects that address drinking water, sewage, broadband internet and emergency services as the state looks to spend nearly $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding.

The Republican governor's office outlined some of its plan on Thursday to lawmakers, who are tasked with making the final decision on how to spend the money. The governor's plan would spend the $974.5 million from the federal government over the next five years. Cities and towns would get another $275.5 million to spend on a wide variety of projects that qualify under the American Rescue Plan Act that Congress passed in March.

“These need to be long-term investments, transformational things for our state,” Aaron Schiebe, the governor's chief of staff, told a legislative committee.

Under the governor's proposal, most of the money – more than $710 million – would be allocated for water and sewage infrastructure projects. Broadband expansion, which has been a key project for the governor, would get $50 million. A tourism marketing project would receive $35 million and projects that upgrade emergency health services would get $37 million.

Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck said the unprecedented financial windfall has changed the way lawmakers approach the budget.

“This just overwhelms our system,” he said. “The Legislature has to learn more now than they ever did about funding.”

The dollar amounts are far from final. Congress is also considering changing the parameters for the funding, which could potentially add other projects to the list. The Legislature expects to get more details during the governor’s budget address next month before it decides on the projects.

“Now we’ve got a roadmap of what they’re looking at and now we’ll be exploring what is in the details,” said Republican Sen. Jean Hunhoff, who chairs the Appropriations Committee.

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