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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.

Confirmed Cases: 95310

Reported Deaths: 2874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7063159
DeSoto552159
Harrison382973
Jackson345670
Madison326586
Rankin325677
Lee268368
Jones246879
Forrest245571
Washington221972
Lafayette215439
Lauderdale2044125
Bolivar182366
Oktibbeha177350
Lamar167534
Neshoba1559104
Lowndes152658
Panola146328
Sunflower144546
Warren140250
Leflore139581
Pontotoc125916
Pike123050
Monroe122168
Scott117327
Copiah117133
Coahoma115028
Holmes109558
Marshall109217
Lincoln108353
Grenada107736
Yazoo105530
Simpson102544
Union99324
Tate97637
Leake95338
Adams93037
Wayne89421
Pearl River87353
Marion85735
Prentiss84417
Covington81922
Itawamba79421
Alcorn79111
Newton76723
George76513
Tallahatchie76321
Winston73719
Tishomingo67238
Chickasaw67024
Tippah66517
Attala65425
Walthall59825
Clay58918
Clarke58145
Hancock57721
Jasper56815
Noxubee54816
Smith53114
Calhoun51312
Tunica48313
Claiborne46216
Montgomery45920
Lawrence43112
Yalobusha42814
Perry41918
Humphreys37615
Quitman3725
Stone37012
Greene36617
Jefferson Davis33911
Webster33613
Amite32510
Carroll31512
Wilkinson30318
Kemper28815
Sharkey26513
Jefferson2449
Benton2252
Franklin1923
Choctaw1816
Issaquena1043
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 133433

Reported Deaths: 2349
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19441349
Mobile13271291
Montgomery8778179
Madison775480
Tuscaloosa7496119
Shelby584951
Lee582961
Baldwin516550
Marshall390944
Calhoun346641
Etowah342047
Morgan325428
Houston278123
Elmore263247
DeKalb239120
Walker228483
St. Clair227837
Talladega212728
Limestone206120
Cullman188519
Dallas177426
Franklin175529
Russell17442
Autauga173825
Lauderdale168233
Colbert163626
Blount159415
Escambia158425
Jackson154611
Chilton153531
Dale135444
Covington134427
Coffee13078
Pike11879
Chambers115142
Tallapoosa114685
Clarke107717
Marion95729
Butler91339
Barbour8577
Winston73712
Marengo70820
Lowndes65327
Pickens65114
Bibb64210
Randolph63713
Hale62828
Lawrence60922
Geneva5995
Bullock59814
Cherokee59115
Monroe5818
Clay5707
Washington55613
Perry5407
Conecuh53111
Crenshaw53132
Wilcox53111
Henry4865
Macon48020
Fayette4438
Sumter43419
Lamar3632
Choctaw34612
Cleburne3396
Greene30315
Coosa1673
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