North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party leaders on Wednesday called for a special legislative session to determine how to divvy up what remains of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid sent to the state.
“Citizens deserve to be involved in how we spend this money to recover from the pandemic,” said state Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo. “Legislators have a responsibility to do our job in restarting our faltering economy."
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum rejected the idea of calling the Legislature to Bismarck.
“We’ve worked closely with legislators from both parties and many other stakeholders to deploy Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars in the most impactful way possible under the narrow set of federally defined eligibility rules, and a special session isn’t needed to continue that collaborative approach,” he said in a statement. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to direct the majority of this federal funding toward economic recovery and unemployment insurance instead of emergency health care, thanks to North Dakotans’ outstanding efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus and limit the impact on our health care system.”
The $1.25 billion is through the federal CARES Act economic rescue package.
The state’s all-Republican Emergency Commission and the Legislature’s 43-member Budget Section in May approved spending more than $524 million of the amount. Aid was designated for the attorney general’s office, the secretary of state’s office, the Council on the Arts, the departments of health, human services, commerce, information technology, trust lands, agriculture, and corrections and rehabilitation, Job Service North Dakota, the Bank of North Dakota, the North Dakota Veterans Home and the North Dakota Industrial Commission.
The Emergency Commission is to meet Thursday to decide on spending another big chunk of the state's CARES Act money -- more than $400 million. The Budget Section meets next week.
Four Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday presented a $1 billion plan that would ensure $230 million for cities, counties and townships and $770 million for infrastructure projects statewide.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shelley Lenz plans a public listening session via Zoom at 6 p.m. CDT Thursday to hear from state residents on how they’d like to see the federal aid spent. Go to www.lenz-vigfornd.com/rsvp to sign up for the link.
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