South Dakota Might Spend COVID Funds on Infrastructure Days After Biden Bill Enacted

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is looking to use federal COVID-19 funding on state infrastructure projects that would make improvements to sewage, broadband internet, drinking water and emergency services, the Associated Press reported.

Noem's office on Thursday laid out parts of its plan to lawmakers who are responsible for deciding how to use the nearly $1 billion in relief aid.

The governor's move came days after President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. The vast bipartisan package is worth more than $1 trillion and will fund projects centering on transportation, utilities, broadband internet access, water systems and other undertakings.

The funding is set to be distributed throughout a five-year period, CNBC reported.

"So my message to the American people is this: America is moving again, and your life is going to change for the better," Biden said during a signing event.

Noem's plan would have the state spend the $974.5 million in federal funds throughout the next five years, AP reported. An extra $275.5 million would be allotted to South Dakota's cities and towns to use for projects that fall under the American Rescue Plan, a sweeping pandemic relief package passed in March that provides federal aid to the unemployed, schools, state and local governments, businesses and other entities in need of financial assistance.

"These need to be long-term investments, transformational things for our state," Aaron Schiebe, Noem's chief of staff, told a legislative committee.

Most of South Dakota's aid, more than $710 million, would be used to make improvements on the state's water and sewage systems. Expansion of broadband internet, which has become a top priority for Noem, would receive $50 million in funding, according to AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

South Dakota Infrastructure Upgrades
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is looking to use federal COVID-19 funding on state infrastructure projects that would make improvements to sewage, broadband internet, drinking water and emergency services. Above, Noem speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference on July 11, 2021, in Dallas, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A tourism marketing project would also receive $35 million and projects that upgrade emergency health services would get $37 million.

Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck said the unprecedented financial windfall has changed the way lawmakers approach the budget.

"This just overwhelms our system," he said. "The Legislature has to learn more now than they ever did about funding."

The dollar amounts are far from final. Congress is also considering changing the parameters for the funding, which could potentially add other projects to the list. The Legislature expects to get more details during the governor's budget address next month before it decides on the projects.

"Now we've got a roadmap of what they're looking at and now we'll be exploring what is in the details," said Republican Sen. Jean Hunhoff, who chairs the Appropriations Committee.

Biden Signs Infrastructure Bill
President Joe Biden signs the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" during an event on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP Photo