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Educators' unions call for efforts to ensure in-person learning keeps students, teachers, families, and staff safe; and an update on hate crimes by state.

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SD: Don't Leave Emergency Rental Assistance on Table

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Thursday, April 22, 2021   

PIERRE, S.D. -- A state housing agency and community-assistance groups hope South Dakotans in need hear their message to apply for emergency rental assistance.

Officials say there's plenty of aid still left in the latest round of federal funding tied to COVID relief.

At the start of the year, South Dakota received $200 million to distribute to renters struggling with their monthly payment because of the pandemic.

Lorraine Polak, executive director of the South Dakota Housing Development Authority, said while they saw some initial application demand, it has tapered off, leaving most of the assistance unclaimed.

"Treasury will continue to work with each state to analyze throughout the process how they're doing with disbursement of funds," Polak explained. "So, at the end of the day, yes, we anticipate funds will be returned. But we want to make sure that all households are aware and able to take advantage of the program."

To date, roughly $2 million of the state's share has been distributed. The funding came from the COVID-relief bill approved in late December. Additional assistance is forthcoming from the stimulus package recently signed by President Joe Biden.

Polak said it's possible that because South Dakota didn't see a statewide lockdown during the pandemic, the need might not be as prominent as in other states. But local communities had the ability to enact business restrictions.

Cindy Dannenbring, CEO of the Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership in eastern South Dakota, said those who work in sectors such as hospitality still might need help.

"Though they are starting to come back, it's a slower process than some of the other businesses," Dannenbring observed. "So, those folks still have some struggles to make ends meet."

Polak noted, like most states, South Dakota had affordable-housing issues prior to the pandemic. The emergency aid was meant to help residents and landlords who have been financially impacted due to COVID.

The next round of funding also will include help for homeowners.


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