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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.

Cases: 309223

Reported Deaths: 7153
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21005250
Hinds19989411
Harrison17590303
Rankin13388277
Jackson13169243
Madison9965212
Lee9900170
Jones8319161
Forrest7554149
Lauderdale7232237
Lowndes6306144
Lamar614685
Lafayette6081118
Washington5296133
Bolivar4778130
Oktibbeha458097
Panola4461103
Pearl River4447142
Warren4310119
Marshall4302103
Pontotoc417672
Monroe4063132
Union405175
Neshoba4009176
Lincoln3892109
Hancock373785
Leflore3471124
Sunflower332090
Tate325984
Pike3226105
Scott311973
Yazoo305369
Alcorn301566
Itawamba297977
Copiah294365
Coahoma290779
Simpson290486
Tippah285368
Prentiss276659
Marion266479
Leake262473
Wayne261541
Grenada257385
Covington255380
Adams247082
Newton246161
George238947
Winston226181
Tishomingo222867
Jasper220248
Attala213673
Chickasaw205857
Holmes187272
Clay183354
Stone179733
Clarke178177
Tallahatchie176240
Calhoun165632
Yalobusha160236
Smith159734
Walthall131143
Greene129633
Lawrence126823
Noxubee126634
Montgomery125842
Perry125238
Amite121041
Carroll121026
Webster113932
Jefferson Davis105932
Tunica103425
Claiborne101430
Benton97525
Kemper95728
Humphreys94732
Franklin83123
Quitman78916
Choctaw74417
Wilkinson65329
Jefferson64928
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 522512

Reported Deaths: 10790
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson755371494
Mobile39129799
Madison34124500
Tuscaloosa25408444
Montgomery24059573
Shelby23225242
Baldwin20730302
Lee15638166
Calhoun14358311
Morgan14171273
Etowah13705348
Marshall12012220
Houston10416279
Elmore10024203
Limestone9862148
Cullman9509191
St. Clair9486236
Lauderdale9280233
DeKalb8762183
Talladega8127173
Walker7151276
Autauga6763106
Jackson6762110
Blount6532133
Colbert6236132
Coffee5436113
Dale4781111
Russell431239
Franklin421382
Chilton4130110
Covington4069115
Tallapoosa3922148
Escambia390374
Dallas3528150
Chambers3519122
Clarke347360
Marion3076100
Pike306676
Lawrence296395
Winston273272
Bibb256761
Marengo248561
Geneva246475
Pickens233259
Barbour227155
Hale218675
Butler213268
Fayette209660
Henry188444
Cherokee182744
Randolph177841
Monroe173140
Washington165538
Macon156548
Clay150255
Crenshaw149557
Cleburne147041
Lamar140034
Lowndes137353
Wilcox124727
Bullock122040
Conecuh109728
Perry107726
Sumter103332
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
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Columbus
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Oxford
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Starkville
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A strong cold front will pass through our area this evening. This will bring some very unseasonably cold air into our area for a few days. We will see some potential for some frosty conditions for tonight and for our Wednesday night.
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