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Analysis: Mississippi to mull many requests for relief cash

Mississippi lawmakers and Gov. Tate Reeves still have to make big decisions about spending most of the $1.25 billion that the federal government is sending the state for coronavirus relief.

Posted: May 17, 2020 4:37 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers and Gov. Tate Reeves still have to make big decisions about spending most of the $1.25 billion that the federal government is sending the state for coronavirus relief.

After ending their feud over who has power to spend the money, the Republican governor and the Legislature worked efficiently last week to create a plan to use $300 million for small business grants.

“My priority from day one has been the quick release of these funds and getting back to the people who need it,” Reeves said during a news conference Thursday, hours after legislators approved the grant program in a late-night session.

Republicans hold a three-fifths supermajority in the Mississippi House and the Senate. While Democrats have had few prominent roles in writing important legislation in recent years, some were deeply involved in creating the grant program for businesses. The proposal passed with broad bipartisan support.

Reeves and legislators will face long list of requests as they consider how to spend the additional federal money.

Cities and counties, for example, have incurred extra expenses because of the coronavirus pandemic, with police officers and sheriff's deputies patrolling places like parks and beaches to ensure that large crowds are not congregating.

Educators and others spoke at the Capitol last week about the need to expand high-speed internet service, particularly in rural areas where coverage is spotty or nonexistent.

Reeves said he would like to use some of the money to replenish the state fund that pays for unemployment benefits. He also said he wants to spend some of the relief money to help the tourism industry.

“Whether you’re a bed-and-breakfast in Natchez or a major casino on the coast, the shutdown has significantly changed your business outlook, it has significantly changed your revenue, and it has significantly impacted your employees," he said.

The $300 million small business grant program is divided into two parts. One has $60 million to provide $2,000 grants for businesses that were forced to closed by government orders, including barbershops, salons, dance studios, gyms and child care centers.

Reeves said many barbers and salon operators were not able to collect unemployment benefits and did not receive aid from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Speaking of the state grants, Reeves said: “I think we’ve got to make sure that we are getting monies in the hands of those who were most affected that have not been helped by other programs.”

The small business program has $240 million 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.

Both parts of the grant program are for businesses that existed before March 1 and have 50 or fewer employees. The U.S. Treasury Department has issued rules about how the federal money can be spent. The grants can cover expenses that businesses face because of the coronavirus pandemic — restaurants that have to buy masks for their employees, for example. The grants cannot be used to make up for businesses' lost profits.

Mississippi Development Authority, the state agency that promotes job creation and tourism, will handle the applications for the $1,500 to $25,000 grants, and officials say they hope the application process will be simple.

The governor said he wants to get money into people's hands soon.

“It will never happen as quick as I’d like,” Reeves said. “But I know that we’re through the first days of the negotiating process, I’m grateful to everyone who got involved in this, for working together and get this done for the people of Mississippi.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
Lauderdale11937314
Lowndes10934185
Lamar10470135
Pearl River9431237
Lafayette8454138
Hancock7697126
Washington7365156
Oktibbeha7111129
Monroe6727174
Warren6642176
Pontotoc6609101
Neshoba6606205
Panola6460131
Marshall6386132
Bolivar6266145
Union596094
Pike5784152
Alcorn5633101
Lincoln5417134
George491879
Scott470998
Tippah465381
Prentiss464181
Leflore4627143
Itawamba4596104
Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
Wayne438572
Yazoo438586
Covington427394
Marion4216107
Sunflower4215104
Coahoma4115104
Leake407787
Newton380879
Grenada3692108
Stone358464
Tishomingo356391
Attala330289
Jasper328265
Winston313191
Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
Noxubee185340
Montgomery179056
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 813481

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1139971910
Mobile722271323
Madison51970686
Shelby37279341
Baldwin37069540
Tuscaloosa34934599
Montgomery33953725
Lee23142240
Calhoun22142470
Morgan20639372
Etowah19758496
Marshall18245300
Houston17302405
St. Clair15912337
Cullman15306290
Limestone15202198
Elmore15075284
Lauderdale14143294
Talladega13715272
DeKalb12569259
Walker11085366
Blount10094174
Autauga9893146
Jackson9789180
Coffee9182189
Dale8859181
Colbert8789200
Tallapoosa7044195
Escambia6732127
Covington6682179
Chilton6587160
Russell625958
Franklin5930105
Chambers5559142
Marion4955126
Dallas4882199
Clarke472782
Pike4719105
Geneva4564126
Winston4473101
Lawrence4264117
Bibb421686
Barbour355475
Marengo334089
Monroe330262
Randolph327063
Butler324794
Pickens313882
Henry310965
Hale309187
Cherokee299957
Fayette290679
Washington250951
Cleburne246958
Crenshaw243575
Clay240367
Macon230562
Lamar215846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178538
Lowndes173761
Wilcox167438
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131038
Greene125544
Choctaw86927
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 68°
Columbus
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 68°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 68°
A cold front passing through our area overnight will bring into our area some of the coolest temperatures of the season so far. We will see most of the highs this weekend only in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While overnight lows will drop off down into the 40s Saturday night.
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