BISMARCK, ND — The North Dakota Legislative Budget Section voted today to spend $406 million in federal CARES Act dollars for covid-19 relief. The Budget Section had only an up or down vote, and 14 districts or roughly 200,000 people were not represented in the process. They received a recommendation from the six-member Emergency Commission that plans to spend all $1.25 billion in federal money without a public process.
CARES Act money is meant to address the pandemic economy, which has put record numbers of people out of work, contributed to an oil crash, and hurt an already sluggish ag economy. Localities are told not to budget for Prairie Dog infrastructure projects they had planned on. Last week the Dem-NPL Joint Caucuses called for a special session to address these and other pressing needs statewide.
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said:
“We have at least one more round of CARES Act funding to allocate, and we will continue to advocate for greater public input in how we spend it because every North Dakotan deserves a voice. Our local governments across the state are being told not to plan on long-awaited road and bridge projects because of the pandemic economy, and they should get a say through their elected legislators. We’re calling for a special session because among other proposals, we could pass a $1 billion infrastructure bond plan that ensures we invest in our communities and level out the bust and boom.”
Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman said:
“Many North Dakotans have long struggled with access to food whether it was because of income or infrastructure that left them in a food desert. The pandemic compounded this problem, and we’re hopeful the next round of CARES spending will include the proposal by the Food Access working group to address emergency food needs while also investing in infrastructure that supports family farmers and local economies.”