BISMARCK, ND — The Legislative Budget Section voted today to allocate the last of the $1.25 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. The $221 million had been returned from agencies after previous allocations. The budget section gets only an up or down vote, but Sen. Tim Mathern moved for $16 million in oil company subsidies to be voted on separately. The virus is getting worse every day in North Dakota. According to news reports, the oil industry already has reached it’s full workforce, which was the original reason for using CARES Act money to cap abandoned wells.
Those federal funds intended for public health and economic relief could have been spent on support for nursing homes and long term care facilities for staff and infrastructure to ensure in-person visitation in time for the holidays. Nursing homes and long term care facilities have seen more than half of all infections in the state. Emergency Sick Leave is also a proven method to slow down the virus while protecting workers, families, and businesses. The Emergency Commission has declined to consider it.
Sen. Tim Mathern said:
“The worldwide price of gas and oil determines the activity in the industry and there are other ways to spend that $16 million that are directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. The consequence of the pandemic will become much more dramatic as we go through this winter. Our first responsibility is to protect the lives and health of our citizens, and if we continue to have deaths and infections at the present rate, the entire economy across the North Dakota landscape is also going to struggle.”
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee:
“There is no other industry or business in the state right now that we’re providing direct payments for production purposes. The support we’ve been providing to small businesses and businesses through the state in every industry have been to help them to convert their facilities, help with staffing, with sanitation, PPE, to help the public have trust in our economy to mitigate the spread of our virus. To divert funds away from addressing the public health needs of citizens while this virus is peaking every day is irresponsible. Our nursing homes and long term care facilities also need more help while they face the worst of the pandemic. As we come to the holidays, we should use some of the funds to support workers at these facilities so they can find ways to enable in-person visitation, so we can all see our loved ones safely.”