SD Attorney General Says Child Care Grants Not Ready, State Benefits
PIERRE — South Dakota Treasurer Josh Haeder has authorized $32 million in child care relief funds through the Department of Human Services despite the state’s attorney general believing the program relaunch had not received proper approval.
Haeder told Chief Argus on Thursday afternoon that he had ordered the release of $32 million from a state bank account, from which about 600 Child Care Stabilization Grants will be drawn, shortly before 16 time.
Funds are expected to arrive in grant recipients’ bank accounts as early as Friday.
The development comes after Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg issued a memorandum to the Treasurer, along with State Auditor Rich Sattgast and House Appropriations Chairman Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, saying the $32 million marked for the first round of Child Care Stabilization Grants as well as an estimated additional $70 million received by DSS through the American Rescue Plan Act last year, it was first necessary to legislative approval before being disbursed.
List:See daycares that have received grants
However, Haeder said after a thorough review of all applicable state laws as well as the state Constitution, it was determined that the DSS had the authority to spend the money.
“Funds at one point were under review once we received the memorandum from the attorney general,” he said. Office.
In the end, we decided the best course of action was to release the funds because the memorandum was unofficial,” Haeder added.
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The confusion over issuing the payments stems from a dispute between the governor’s office and some members of the State House, who are backed by the attorney general.
They argue that because ARPA dollars came to the state after the current year budget was set last March, a new appropriation is needed. And that takes the approval of both houses of the legislature as well as the governor’s office.
“While SDCL 4-8-17 gives the governor the authority to accept federal funds on behalf of the state, SDCL 4-8B-10 limits that authority to the administration and expenditure oversight of only those funds that have been affected by an appropriations act of the legislature, or the expenditure of such funds as have been deemed appropriate by the provisional appropriations committee,” reads the 7-page memorandum signed by Ravnsborg and delivered to Haeder, Sattgast and Karr on Thursday after -midday.
But the governor’s general counsel and acting chief of staff, Mark Miller, told Chief Argus the memorandum was ‘hastily concocted’, ‘carries no legal weight’ and does not include any analysis of the argument advanced by the DSS and the governor’s office. And that is that ARPA dollars specific to child care grants fall within the federal spending power granted to the DSS in the 2021 legislative session.
Under Senate Bill 195, passed last spring, the DSS was authorized to spend $653 million in federal dollars. But because the DSS only spent about $455 million of those dollars, the administration’s position is that there is room in last year’s budget to incorporate the $100 million. new daycare funds sent to the state through ARPA since SB 195 passed, Miller said.
And this is also the case that Noem presented to reporters on Thursday morning.
“I already have the authority,” Noem said. “They gave me last year, in last year’s budget, the authority to do this program.”
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That position is backed by Sattgast, Haeder and the state Senate, which on Wednesday passed a resolution supporting the administration’s position.
But with the attorney general’s backing, some House Republicans who interpret the law differently continue to say that ARPA funds are “extraordinary in nature” and require earmarking.
Noem says “don’t trust” AG
The DSS did not immediately respond to request for comment Thursday, but the governor issued a quick critique of both Ravnsborg’s opinion and competence as South Dakota’s top prosecutor.
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“Like most South Dakotans, I have no faith in the Attorney General or his judgment,” she said in a statement. Just yesterday, the Senate unanimously backed the power of the DSS to send out these grants, which is also consistent with long-standing practice.
“This erroneous memo from Jason Ravnsborg misunderstands the basic facts and changes nothing.”