$6 million could hire 120 more teachers to help ease the strain on our overworked teachers amidst the pandemic. Instead, Governor Kristi Noem is spending $6 million of coronavirus relief cash to ease the strain on her own team to pay a handful of consultants hundreds of dollars an hour to manage her small-business relief handouts:
…state officials are rushing to spend the money by the end-of-the-year deadline.
They’ve set aside $400 million for grants to businesses, $40 million for nonprofits and $10 million for business startups. The maximum grant is $100,000.
Applications opened Tuesday. They’ll stay open 10 days, through Oct. 23. The state hired a global consulting company, Guidehouse, to manage the process (including additional grants to healthcare providers) and will pay the company up to $6 million. Fury said that money will also come from the CARES Act [Seth Tupper, “Race Is On to Dole Out $450 Million to South Dakota Businesses and Nonprofits,” SDPB, 2020.10.14].
Guidehouse, an international firm with three offices in South Dakota (old Navigant offices, I think, acquired in an October 2019 merger) has whipped up an online application website for businesses seeking these grants. They’ll review the apps and calculate the disbursals. And their consultants will get paid up to $390 an hour to do the work we hired Noem and the Executive Branch to do:
For perspective, the lowest person on the Guidehouse totem poll in this contract is getting the equivalent of $100K a year. The “Engagement Partner” (and that sounds like consultant-speak for the person who will do the least actual work) is getting the equivalent of $780K a year.
I find it hard to believe that there are not people already on staff in the state’s Bureau of Information Technology, Bureau of Finance and Management, Department of Labor and Regulation, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development who could not do the same work on salaries we’re already paying that are far less than Guidehouse’s great dollop out of the coronavirus relief fund.
Review the parameters of the small business relief program that the Legislature rubber-stamped last week. It took me about a paragraph to explain it. It would take a programmer in BIT maybe an hour to whip up the online application form necessary to capture the required data from businesses. It would take me five minutes to load that data into a spreadsheet and calculate whether an applicant qualifies and how much each one gets. It would take DLR or BFM a day to print and mail the checks or transfer the cash electronically.
Heck, Governor Noem herself could probably oversee this project and do half the work, if she just skipped a few campaign rallies and opened her laptop.
This whole project could be done in house, quite possibly without any extra staff and just a smidge of overtime, leaving most of $6 million to go toward real coroanvirus relief. Instead, our hands-off absentee Governor is letting opportunistic consultants cash in on her laziness and divert coronavirus relief funds to pure corporate profit.