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$68 million in CARES Act funding going toward South Dakota education
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$68 million in CARES Act funding going toward South Dakota education

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Noem Presser Monument Health 20200318

Gov. Kristi Noem

Gov. Kristi Noem announced Tuesday that $68 million in federal CARES Act funding has gone toward education funding in the state.

These funds are separate from the $1.25 billion the state received in funding, which Noem said will go toward health care, small business, education and local governments. She previously asked counties and cities to keep track of any COVID-19 related expenses they incur from the pandemic.

Noem said she will have a plan soon on how much of the $1.25 billion will go to cities and counties and there was no requirement from the Department of Treasury that the funding go to municipalities.

Noem also signed an executive order Tuesday extending the state’s emergency declaration “because federal law requires us to have it in place in order to be able to access federal dollars,” she said.

“The balance of these dollars will be held to fill immediate needs, but also we need to make sure we’re not just addressing immediate needs and covering costs for some of these local governments, but saving some dollars we could potentially use for revenue replacement,” Noem said, noting flexibility on using the dollars for revenue replacement could be granted from the federal government.

Noem has previously said her “hands are tied” and that she can’t use the money for revenue replacement for decreasing sales tax revenue. She said she’s asked the state’s Congressional representation to advocate for the idea, but said Tuesday she hasn’t received any follow-up for that.

Noem said the state will not need a special session in June to go over the state budget, but “potentially we could need one later on, though.” She said revenue numbers will be available for the month of April next week, and “we’ll have a better picture then as to what we’re looking at.”

Relief for schools

The estimated $68 million in other CARES Act funding went into three different “buckets,” Noem said, including $19 million from higher education emergency relief funds which went to 10 colleges and universities in the state.

Half of that money went to college students to cover costs such as food, housing, technology, health care and childcare, Noem said. The other half went to colleges and universities to “defray some of the expenses they incurred” due to the pandemic, she said.

Elementary and secondary schools were the second area Noem noted received CARES Act funds. She said the relief fund for those schools amounted to $41 million, which will go towards cleaning expenses, helping schools meet health and sanitation recommendations, providing technology and internet for students through remote learning and more.

The third “bucket” receiving CARES Act funds was the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds. $7.9 million went to this fund, Noem said, noting $5.7 million of that went to quality remote learning, teacher professional development and “supporting students as they come back into the building.”

The remaining $2.2 million of that fund will go to support workers who have layoffs or closures “tied to those businesses where they worked,” Noem said.

Noem said the state will soon announce grants for private schools and for universities.

As fall inches closer, the state is still planning to have students back to school but many districts are putting in contingency plans for remote learning.

“I think they’re being wise in preparing for any situation that could come along this fall,” Noem said.

Trials, testing

The World Health Organization dropped its clinical hydroxychloroquine trial over the weekend as studies suggest the drug could increase a patient’s risk of fatality from COVID-19.

The WHO trial had seen 3,500 patients from 17 countries enrolled, and participants were randomly assigned for treatment with hydroxychloroquine or three other experimental drugs as COVID-19 treatment. Only the hydroxychloroquine part of the trial will be put on hold by WHO.

Health secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said Tuesday that the state doesn’t have plans yet to halt its clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine and “the experts conducting the study are taking into account the other studies.”

She said there are more than 175 hydroxychloroquine-related studies across the country and continent that are all different and may have differences in dosage, drug combination, patient demographics and more.

“Just because one study won’t move forward does not mean it’s not comparable,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “We will be looking at (the WHO) study results and making sure that the safety protocols that are in place for the South Dakota study remain strong and will protect people from poor outcomes.”

Malsam-Rysdon did not have information on how many people are now enrolled in the trial, but said the first patient was enrolled “a couple weeks ago.”

Malsam-Rysdon also said last week’s mass testing event for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate went well and the Department of Health is now working with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to implement mass testing and get testing supplies to them.

She said the Yankton Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux Tribe have expressed interest in mass testing as well, but said both the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have not reached out. The OST tweeted Tuesday that 17 of their members have new COVID-19 diagnoses.

“We hope they will (reach out to us for mass testing),” Malsam-Rysdon said.

President Donald Trump has threatened in recent days to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina, and two Republican governors — Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida — have offered their states as possible hosts.

When asked if she has offered South Dakota as a potential host for the RNC, Noem said she hasn’t put forth a proposal to host the convention.

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