2020 S.D. Legislature: Legislators rely on public input on how to share CARES Act wealth

By: 
Steve Haugaard, Speaker of the House
This past week we remembered the sad events of Sept. 11. This year we are dealing with the sad events of a viral outbreak and the impact it has had on individuals, families, and our economy. The disruption of life as we knew it continues and we are attempting to remediate some of the damage done by government shutdowns across our state. Thankfully, South Dakotans are resilient and work together to overcome adversity.
 
Last Friday, I saw that resilience firsthand. I conducted a “listening session” at Western Dakota Tech. It was well attended and we heard from individuals voicing their concerns and recommendations about the financial and workforce impact of the virus. Recommendations were made in regard to expansion of meat processing plants within the state. We heard from business owners who were affected by the shutdowns. We heard about the added costs as well as the logistical challenges that have impacted non-profit Community Support Providers. Many unintended consequences were identified with the hope that maybe the CARES Act funds and revision of some state laws or regulations might help alleviate some of the suffering.
 
This week started with hearings in Pierre inviting testimony as to the impact of the virus on agriculture. The shutdowns certainly affected larger meat processing plants, commodity prices, and availability of labor for many segments of the ag economy. We will continue with four additional hearings, which will consider the impact on all other sectors of the economy as well as education and other public services.  
 
As we know, businesses across the state are trying to find a new normal for their business. Unfortunately, many businesses have already failed due to the restrictions that were placed on them. The GOOD NEWS is that some retail business is getting back to full operation. Other businesses are doing the best they can with the ongoing restrictions, such as restaurants with only partial use of their facilities.
 
Many businesses have developed ‘plan B’ or ‘plan C’ scenarios to do what they can to survive and make the necessary modifications to their business. I expect that these innovative ideas will have some very good and long-term results.  
 
The listening sessions appear to be having the intended result of gathering great public input and suggestions as to needed changes. We expect there will be modifications to various state rules, regulations and laws, and hopefully, there will be much needed modifications to federal regulations as well.
 
The infusion of federal dollars is keeping revenues afloat, for now. We hope to find reasonable formulas for distribution of the available state and federal funds. We do have some challenges in coordinating with available funds and services. We will continue to pursue clarification of the resources and try to work with the federal government and the Governor’s Office. I still believe it is necessary to finalize some of the CARES Act funding distribution through a special session in order to comply with our South Dakota Constitution. That is a discussion that will be ongoing for the next weeks.  
 
There is much work to do because there are many who are already suffering losses and business failures. We need to continue to apply the wisdom that says enduring a challenge will make us better people. It’s also said that “No one likes change other than babies with wet diapers and the political party who is not currently in the majority.” In this case, some of the changes that are occurring might be quite helpful. We will look forward to the good changes and deal with the challenges.  
 
Please look to www.sdlegislature.gov for the current schedule of hearings for the CARES Act funds, and please keep in touch with any concerns or recommendations you have. You can contact me at  steven.haugaard@sdlegislature.gov 

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