Mississippi legislature votes for business grants amid virus

Mississippi legislators voted late Wednesday to create grant programs for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, using some of the $1.25 billion in relief money that the federal government is sending the state.

Posted: May 14, 2020 5:25 AM
Updated: May 14, 2020 9:42 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi legislators voted late Wednesday to create grant programs for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, using some of the $1.25 billion in relief money that the federal government is sending the state.

The total pricetag for the grants would be $300 million.

If Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signs the proposal into law, a $60 million program would provide $2,000 grants for businesses that were forced to closed by government orders and for child care centers.

The other $240 million would be for grants ranging from $1,500 to $25,000. For the first 21 days, the only applications considered would be from businesses that did not receive aid from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Josh Harkins said businesses will have to follow guidelines from the U.S. Treasury Department on using the money.

“The state's on the hook for any monies that are misspent,” said Harkins, a Republican from Brandon.

The programs would be for businesses that existed before March 1 and have 50 or fewer employees. Businesses that work in partisan politics or in lobbying are not eligible to apply.

Reeves has previously said he wants to use some of the federal relief money to help businesses. He feuded with fellow Republicans who lead the Legislature over who has power to spend the federal money. Legislators said the state constitution gives them spending power, while Reeves said a 40-year-old state law gives the governor some spending power during emergencies.

Reeves eventually did an about-face and said legislators could have a say in spending the federal relief money, but he wanted to quickly help businesses.

Hours before the legislative debate on Wednesday, Reeves announced that as of June 1, landlords can again start evicting tenants. He suspended evictions several weeks ago because people were losing jobs during the pandemic.

“I want to give everyone enough time for people to get the money that they need together to make a rent payment if you have fallen behind,” Reeves said.

Although unemployment remains high, Reeves has been gradually allowing businesses to reopen, including restaurants, barber shops and hair salons. He said he hopes the two-month suspension has helped people get through the “most painful time.”

“We have to recognize that housing doesn't just happen and it doesn't grow on trees and we cannot suspend evictions forever," Reeves said.

Reeves's announcement about evictions came a day after the state Public Service Commission said it is extending its order that bans utilities from cutting off customers' water, sewer, electricity and gas services for nonpayment. The two-month order had been set to expire this week, and it was extended until May 26. The commission said customers who owe money should arrange to make payments.

Mississippi legislators on Wednesday also heard from state education leaders about challenges that schools, community colleges and universities have faced since in-person classes were suspended in mid-March because of the pandemic.

State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said some schools were better prepared than others to offer online classes. She said parts of the state lack high-speed internet access, some students have no access to computers and others must share devices with others in their family.

“There has never been a better opportunity for this state to address the inequities that exist,” Wright said.

With the possibility that school will be disrupted by another outbreak of COVID-19 in the fall or by other events such as hurricanes, Wright said, Mississippi needs a long-term plan to improve access to distance learning. She said the state also needs to ensure that teachers are using high-quality programs that meet rigorous academic standards.

“Their future is not going to be in front of an individual teacher all the time," Wright said. “It is going to be online as well as what they are getting in the classroom.”

The state Health Department said Wednesday that Mississippi — with a population of about 3 million — had at least 10,090 confirmed cases and 465 deaths from the coronavirus as of Tuesday evening. That was an increase of 182 cases and eight 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 Wednesday that at least 100,048 coronavirus tests had been conducted in Mississippi as of Tuesday. The department said at least 1,267 cases of the virus had been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 212 virus-related deaths in those facilities.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319948

Reported Deaths: 7371
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22285267
Hinds20719421
Harrison18431317
Rankin13901282
Jackson13718248
Madison10263224
Lee10059176
Jones8467167
Forrest7832153
Lauderdale7261242
Lowndes6517150
Lamar635188
Lafayette6313121
Washington5425137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4670110
Oktibbeha466198
Pearl River4605147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425873
Monroe4157135
Union415777
Neshoba4063179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386987
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3371111
Alcorn327272
Scott320374
Yazoo314171
Adams308086
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298589
Tippah291968
Prentiss284161
Leake272074
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264642
Grenada264087
George252251
Newton248663
Tishomingo231868
Winston230181
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190474
Stone188433
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135347
Greene131834
Lawrence131124
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127238
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108234
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548657

Reported Deaths: 11306
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810031566
Mobile42105831
Madison35690525
Tuscaloosa26173458
Shelby25607254
Montgomery25081614
Baldwin21868314
Lee16278176
Calhoun14719327
Morgan14629285
Etowah14175364
Marshall12453230
Houston10781287
Elmore10293214
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10162251
Cullman9952201
Lauderdale9603250
DeKalb8972190
Talladega8460184
Walker7338280
Autauga7241113
Blount6945139
Jackson6932113
Colbert6413140
Coffee5635127
Dale4928116
Russell454841
Chilton4476116
Franklin431382
Covington4275122
Tallapoosa4138155
Escambia401680
Chambers3728124
Dallas3607158
Clarke353061
Marion3240107
Pike314378
Lawrence3133100
Winston283472
Bibb268564
Geneva257981
Marengo250565
Pickens236962
Barbour234559
Hale227278
Butler224271
Fayette218862
Henry194543
Randolph187544
Cherokee187345
Monroe180041
Washington170539
Macon163051
Clay160059
Crenshaw155957
Cleburne153444
Lamar146837
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124342
Conecuh113630
Coosa111729
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 70°
Columbus
Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 72°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Starkville
Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 72°
We will see the rainfall move out of our area overnight as a cold front moves through our area. We will see high pressure move into our area for a few days as we to through our Tuesday and Wednesday. However, more rainfalll in the forecast later in the week.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather