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ND allocates remaining CARES Act dollars

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota has no more CARES Act dollars left.

The governor and legislative leadership approved the remaining $320 million of the $1.25 billion given to the state. For the past three months, lawmakers debated priorities, and many are upset with how every dollar was given.

In this third and final round of CARES Act allocations, there was $319 million remaining, but $445 million requested; a nearly $130 million gap.

The more notable amounts belonged to Job Service who received a flat $100 million and the Department of Health at more than $96 million. As this behemoth of a bill comes to an end, some say the entire process has been “unconstitutional”.

Before the final round, 13% of all the CARES Act dollars went to health and safety. The Department of Health collected more than $182 million, and the Human Services with about $48 million. At the end, 33-percent of the funds have been used on economic assistance for individuals; Job Service received $310 million to tackle unprecedented unemployment claims.

“Back in May, we were thinking we were gonna need an excess of $500 million for this. And fortunately, with the economy coming back a little bit, that helps a little bit. So now I think our total across is going to be $410 million,” said Bryan Klipfel, Director of North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance.

Businesses also came out big winners. Thirty-one percent of the $1.25 billion went to struggling businesses. But not everyone is on board with these portions. North Dakota Democrats say there hasn’t been enough representation in the allocations.

“I suspect at some point, enough people will wake up and say ‘wait a minute! This is not fair for me and my district,’” said Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo.

Democrats point to the $66 million granted to the Industrial Commission, which is using the money to cap oil wells for companies no longer using them. While the industry says it protects the wells and the environment, Mathern says it’s money going to the wrong priority.

“We’re taking coronavirus money and cleaning up their mess. That amount of money could be used to buy masks for all of our children going to school. That amount of money could be used to test all of our teachers and all of our children,” Mathern said.

Mathern and other Democrats called for a special session in June, but that request fell on deaf ears.

As a response, Mathern voted against that round of allocations, and he said he might do it again.

As with all federal funds, to this point there’s one more hurdle for the CARES Act dollars before they can be used. The budget section of the state legislature must approve them as the final sign-off. That meeting is a week from Thursday.

Copyright 2020 KFYR. All rights reserved.

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