- Associated Press
Friday, July 24, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota is on track to use the entire $1.25 billion it received in federal coronavirus relief, money that is being used to pay for everything from unemployment insurance claims to protective gear at the state’s two privately owned horse racing venues.

North Dakota has allocated $930.2 million from its share of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act approved in March, records show.

State Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrissette said proposals for the balance of available funds, about $320 million, will be chosen Monday for consideration.

“All of the money will be spent,” Morrissette said Friday.

Morrissette, the state’s top budget writer, said the proposals will be narrowed from requests totaling $445 million by his agency, the governor and lawmakers. They will then be forwarded to the secretary of state’s office.

The North Dakota Emergency Commission headed by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum will vote on the requests next month. The requests go to the Legislature’s 43-member Budget Section for final approval later in August.

Records indicate the largest expenditure so far has been $310 million to support the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The state-owned Bank of North Dakota has been the second-biggest recipient, with $200 million earmarked for a loan buy-down program for small businesses.

The North Dakota Racing Commission got the smallest amount of money to date, $1,000 for personal protective equipment for workers at horse racing tracks in Fargo and Belcourt.

Among the approved expenditures in federal coronavirus aid is $33 million to plug “orphaned” oil wells, many of which have been abandoned by companies financially disrupted amid low energy prices and sparse demand brought on by the pandemic.

State and industry officials have said the idea is both a jobs program for energy workers and an attempt to curb a growing problem in North Dakota, the nation’s No. 2 oil producer behind Texas.

The North Dakota Health Department has received more than $85 million from the COVID-19 aid, records show, Morrissette said most of the money is being used for coronavirus tests and lab work.

Health officials on Friday reported a record 970 active cases of COVID-19 statewide, up 49 from Thursday’s tally. Hospitalizations dropped by 20 Friday to 37.

North Dakota’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by two to 99 as of Friday.

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