If Kristi Noem continues to brag about the “Freedom” and economic strength that South Dakotans have enjoyed since she became Governor, she ought to at least give credit to Uncle Sam for the $13.84 billion in coronavirus relief and stimulus dollars that the federal government poured into South Dakota to keep our state alive throughout the pandemic:
The federal funding came from six separate acts of Congress and was part of an overall $4.6 trillion in federal COVID-19 aid provided to states.
State government received about $4.2 billion, while the remaining $9.6 billion went directly to local governments, health care providers, the education system, businesses and individuals, according to Gov. Kristi Noem’s office
The specific answer of where the money went lies amid a complicated conglomeration of spending initiatives undertaken by the state, local governments and federal agencies. The effort sought to save lives, protect a fragile economy and provide a sense of normalcy to how people will live in a post-pandemic world [Bart Pfankuch, “How South Dakota Spent $14 Billion of Pandemic Relief,” South Dakota News Watch, 2023.03.01].
Pfankuch reports that $10 billion of the federal assistance came from Congress under the Trump Administration, with the biggest chunk, $8.74 billion, allocated in the April 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; Congress and the Biden Administration sent South Dakota another $3.8 billion with the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021.
Former Republican legislator and now chief lobbyist for the hospitals Tim Rave says that federal money saved lives and kept hospitals open:
“The big thing it bought was access, because without that money, it’s not hard to imagine closures of health care facilities or limits on services. And when you start taking away access to health care, it ultimately leads to loss of life or increased burdens on families and patients,” Rave said.
…The pandemic funding was critical to aid in diagnosing and treating patients but also to maintain the financial viability of hospitals in South Dakota, which are mostly not-for-profit entities that operate at a profit margin of near zero up to 3%, he said.
“Without those dollars we’ll never know what could have happened,” Rave said. “It totally, totally stabilized the system. If you just objectively look at that and think about where the margins are in a normal year, and dump all that pressure of increased cost on it, you could only imagine if that had gone on much longer” [Pfankuch, 2023.03.01].
That emergency socialism also kept lots of capitalists in business:
More than $2.7 billion went to businesses to keep employees on the payroll through the Paycheck Protection Program of 2021. Another $895 million in 30-year Economic Injury Disaster Loans were offered to small businesses and non-profit organizations in 2021. The state report also includes line items for Economic Impact Payments to businesses of $795 million under the CARES Act and another $1.1 billion in Economic Impact Payments that are available through the ongoing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The funding provided to businesses, much of it intended to counter direct losses caused by the pandemic, proved critical to keep businesses afloat during very hard times, said Scott VanderWal, president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau.
“The money that was sent to offset losses – that was frankly used to keep people in business,” VanderWal said. “It literally kept some people in business and helped us to just go on” [Pfankuch, 2023.03.01].
Governor Noem continues to peddle the fiction that her resistance to “Communist lockdowns” made South Dakota freer and richer. But without $13.84 billion in socialist handouts from the federal government, the pandemic would have put many more South Dakota businesses and humans in permanent lockdown.