2020 SD Legislature: COVID repercussions could be far-reaching

By: 
Rep. Steve Haugaard, District 10

We are now taking in some of the new information concerning the virus, the economy, and the federal CARES Act. It appears that the virus carries traits which are similar to other viruses that affect lung tissue (compare SARS, MERS, flu) and that the virus has a similar method of transmission. However, there also seems to be an unknown element which is deadly for a very limited number of people. Hopefully, a vaccine as well as an agreed recovery protocol will develop in the next few months. 

It also appears the impact to our economy is not quite as predicted. There are greater challenges being caused to the agriculture economy than one might have expected. Tourism might not be hit quite as badly as expected. We are seeing high usage rates for the state parks as well as the tourist attractions in the Black Hills. Small towns are seeing strong sales.

Many businesses such as restaurants, entertainment venues and other personal services have permanent losses and will need either special assistance, tax relief, rent accommodations or potentially some special creditor or bankruptcy protection. It is also likely that we will see federal ‘bailouts’ for some industries such as airlines and other public transportation systems as well as other businesses which suffered irreparable harm due to government requirements.

Medical services were greatly disrupted due to the efforts to distance and provide for the anticipated need for hospital bed space. The unintended consequences in that regard have been in the area of delayed treatment, which has resulted in some deaths and lost income for medical services providers. Also, the inability for some to receive ongoing counseling has led to a rise in petitions for involuntary commitment based upon danger to self or others. 

The impact on criminal justice has been in the area of delayed hearings, increase in ‘failure to appear’ due to the issuance of citations instead of actually arresting and booking individuals, a five-fold increase in disorderly conduct, a dangerous increase in domestic assaults, an increase in drug and alcohol use, as well as an increase in internet related crimes. 

The impact on education is yet to be determined, but the methods used to complete the school year have been innovative and will potentially lead to an ongoing change in the delivery of some education services. Hopefully, there will be adequate safeguards available in the next two months to resume face to face classroom instruction.

As the distribution of funds from the CARES Act continues it is becoming more apparent that we will need a Special Session to provide input from the Legislators who are seeing and hearing first-hand the impact on constituents from across the state. A Special Session will allow your representatives a meaningful opportunity to identify and potentially distribute the funds to the real areas of need. To that end, I and the rest of your legislative members would like to hear from you. So, please let us know the impact the virus has on your life and business.

Please go to the Legislative Research Council's website, sdlegislature.gov to listen to the recorded meetings and to see the latest news from the Legislature. As always, please feel free to contact me at  steven.haugaard@sdlegislature.gov

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