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Gov: Virus relief grants will aid 'Main Street, Mississippi'

Gov. Tate Reeves speaking during a coronavirus news conference

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he expects to sign a bill to create grants for small businesses by using part of the state's coronavirus relief money.

Posted: May 15, 2020 10:18 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that he expects to sign a bill to create grants for small businesses by using part the state's coronavirus relief money.

The governor's staff was involved in negotiations that led to the bill that the Republican-controlled state House and Senate passed with broad bipartisan support late Wednesday. Reeves said his staff will review the bill, and he will sign it if all the details are as expected.

“Wall Street is going to be just fine,” Reeves said Thursday. “Main Street is where my concern is — Main Street, Mississippi.”

The aid package was crafted days after Reeves and legislative leaders set aside a feud over whether the governor or legislators have the power to spend the $1.25 billion that Mississippi is receiving from the federal government for virus relief.

“We were motivated by the needs of the people of Mississippi, and not by anything else,” Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said Thursday.

The price tag for the grants would be $300 million.

“We felt great urgency to get help to our small businesses,” Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said Thursday. “I think small businesses are the backbone of the state.”

A $60 million program would provide $2,000 grants for businesses that were forced to closed by government orders, including barbershops, salons, dance studios, gyms and child care centers.

The other $240 million would be for grants ranging from $1,500 to $25,000 to cover expenses for virus response. For the first 21 days, the only applications considered would be from businesses that did not receive aid from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. And for the first 60 days, $40 million of this money would be reserved for minority-owned businesses.

The programs would be for businesses that existed before March 1 and have 50 or fewer employees. Reeves said he hopes the grant programs can be up and running soon.

The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, appeared with the governor during a news conference Thursday. Dobbs said that Mississippi has one suspected case of pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome that is associated with COVID-19. He said physicians will start gathering information about other cases of the syndrome if they appear.

Dobbs also said that Mississippi will “aggressively ramp up” coronavirus testing in long-term care facilities, with a goal of testing every nursing home employee and resident in the state within two weeks.

In response to questions, Dobbs repeated what he has said at previous news conferences — that the Health Department will not release the names of long-term care facilities where residents or employees test positive for COVID-19, just as it does not release the names of facilities where other diseases such as tuberculosis are found.

“Ever since I've been at the Department of Health, we've recognized the real potential danger of identifying nursing homes in outbreaks,” Dobbs said. “In other states, we've seen adverse events where people are identified and stigmatized and even the centers were stigmatized. If a center gets stigmatized, there's difficulty finding staff, and then there is a possibility of undermining the integrity of the care.”

Hattiesburg Publishing Inc., which owns the Pine Belt News, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Health Department, saying that the department had improperly denied the newspaper's request for the name of a Forrest County nursing home where at least one case of COVID-19 had been found. The lawsuit said that the department spokeswoman did not provide a specific reason for not releasing the information, and it said that violated the state's public records law. On Thursday, a Hinds County chancery judge set an online hearing in the lawsuit for next Wednesday.

Other news organizations have also sought the names of nursing homes where coronavirus cases have been found.

The state Health Department said Thursday that Mississippi — with a population of about 3 million — had at least 10,483 confirmed cases and 480 deaths from the coronavirus as of Wednesday evening. That was an increase of 393 cases and 15 deaths from the numbers reported a day earlier.

The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

The Health Department said Thursday that at least 105,326 coronavirus tests had been conducted in Mississippi as of Wednesday. The department said at least 1,345 cases of the virus had been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 224 virus-related deaths in those facilities.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
Crenshaw1273
Lawrence1250
Cherokee1237
Geneva960
Lamar871
Clay852
Fayette821
Coosa651
Cleburne421
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