According to the Associated Press, more than $600,000 in funds from a state grant pushed by North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) went to businesses tied to her own family.
The program “directed federal coronavirus relief funds to small businesses,” the news outlet reported.
A ranch belonging to Noem’s family, Racota Valley Ranch Partnership, received one payment of $500,000, and a business operated by her brothers, Rock and Robb Arnold, received payments of just over $100,000, according to records on the grant program.
The Legislature approved the grant plan in October, but the family businesses benefitted from adjustments the Republican governor made. The plan initially capped grants at $100,000, but later in the month, with plentiful federal funds at their disposal, Noem’s administration adjusted the grant cap to $500,000. The governor also later opened up a second round of grant applications to businesses hurt by the pandemic from September to November.
A total of 126 businesses across the state — less than 4% of grant applicants — received grants of $500,000. Some received even more because they applied in both rounds of applications. There is no indication that Noem played a part in the allocation of funds.
The AP reported that Noem “once maintained part-ownership of the ranch, but her office said she no longer does.”
Noem spokesperson Ian Fury told the AP that “The Governor has no financial interest in Racota Valley and hasn’t for years.”
However, “he acknowledged the ranch had paid rent for 22 acres of farmland Noem owns,” per the report. The land was rented out for $2,200 a year, but Fury said the lease agreement ended on Jan. 1.
Racota Valley Ranch Partnership received the grant on Feb. 19, while the business operated by Noem’s brothers, Arnold Bros. Water Management Inc., received payments on Jan. 6 and Jan. 20.
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