Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem will not change her state’s approval process for rent relief included in multiple federal COVID-19 relief packages, despite a request from Democratic South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn.
“South Dakota’s state leadership will not lower its standards just to meet the objectives of a Congress that is completely out of touch with the actual needs of this state,” Noem wrote Tuesday in a letter to Clyburn, obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller. Clyburn previously requested information about how South Dakota planned to distribute rent relief funds “efficiently, effectively, and equitably.”
Congress allocated $46.6 billion to be accessed by individuals behind on their rental payments due to COVID-19-related unemployment. However, only $5.2 billion had been accessed by renters by Aug. 25, the Department of the Treasury announced. At the same time, the Trump and Biden administrations, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered an eviction moratorium, arguing that evictions would cause an increase in COVID-19 infections. (RELATED: Supreme Court Strikes Down Biden’s New Eviction Moratorium)
Some state officials have claimed that the disbursal process made getting cash into the hands of renters and landlords more difficult.
“Developing and implementing a program of this magnitude has never been done by our department before,” Connecticut Department of Housing spokesperson Aaron Turner told the Daily Caller News Foundation in August. “Continuing outreach to residents who may be eligible, and then the process to make sure everything is accurate has required sending the application back to landlords or tenants which increase turnaround time.”
Clyburn claimed in his Aug. 31 letter to Noem that more than 16,000 South Dakota residents were facing eviction. He also suggested that South Dakota’s “sluggish distribution of assistance” was the result of “burdensome documentation requirements.” (RELATED: ‘Political Stunts’: Unspent COVID Relief Funds Could Trigger Eviction Crisis After Supreme Court Ruling, Top Republican Warns)
Noem noted in her response that “the stated intent of the relief bills passed by Congress is to assist those impacted by COVID-19.”
“South Dakota will not simply cover everyone’s rent without first substantiating a COVID-19 impact,” she continued.
Noem also cited her state’s economic status and unemployment rate.
“Our renters enjoy something even better than government hand-outs: a job. South Dakota’s unemployment rate is 2.9%. We currently have only 1,298 South Dakotans on unemployment benefits but have more than 27,000 jobs available. Put differently, there are 20 jobs available for every South Dakotan on unemployment,” she wrote.
“South Dakota’s economy is the strongest in America because we respected freedom,” Noem told the Daily Caller. “Instead of doubling down on the failed ‘relief programs,’ Congress should get the government out of the way of the nation’s economic recovery.”
Read the letter here: