“Child care stabilization grants” continue to be dispersed to daycare providers

Despite a group of GOP state lawmakers asking the Attorney General’s office to review the constitutionality of their dispersal, grants have continued to go out to providers.
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 9:31 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - “Child care” stabilization grants have gone out to over 600 daycare providers across South Dakota since February.

This despite a group of GOP House lawmakers asking Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to have the constitutionality of the spending authority on those grants reviewed.

“Obviously, we started with $61.9 million dollars, we distributed $35.4 million,” Brenda Tidball-Zeltinger told members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations Wednesday. Tidball-Zeltinger is the Deputy Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Social Services, who oversaw the dispersal of the grants. “That leaves us with $25 million remaining, we now have what we are calling the final application period, the final distribution phase.”

All in all, 673 state certified daycare providers have received the grants already distributed, made available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The push to have the Attorney General’s office review the constitutionality of the dispersal of funds came immediately following the close of the legislative session in March. In February, Governor Kristi Noem announced that she initiated the dispersal of those funds, and that she would not need any further authority from the legislature to do so because the appropriation had been approved in the previous years budget. The State Senate unanimously passed a resolution agreeing with the Governor’s argument.

State Rep. Chris Karr (R-Sioux Falls), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Appropriations, spearheaded the effort to have the Attorney General review the constitutionality of the dispersal.

“If we didn’t discuss an item, we didn’t appropriate dollars for a certain program to actually have the dollars to fund it, that still has to happen,” Karr said.

But the Attorney General’s office confirmed Wednesday that a review into the matter had not been initiated.

“At this time, there is no activity regarding the issue of daycare funding within the Office of the Attorney General,” Chief of Staff Tim Bormann said in a statement.

Karr and other members of the Appropriations committee also continue to raise other concerns about the daycare grant program as well. Chief among those concerns, that only state certified day care providers are eligible for the grants, not locally certified providers.

“Government programs are classic for picking winners and losers,” Karr said. “We brought this up during session, if you’re going to provide something, some sort of subsidy dollars or assistance, I think it should be available to everybody, instead of just folks that are registered through a particular entity.”

The Attorney General’s office also did not offer up any sort of timeline in regards to when they think the issue could be passed along for review by another entity.

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