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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: 517138

Reported Deaths: 10306
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison35086559
DeSoto33512432
Hinds32826644
Jackson24938392
Rankin22621405
Lee16564245
Madison14986283
Jones14195248
Forrest13865260
Lauderdale12343323
Lowndes11401193
Lamar10715140
Pearl River9762244
Lafayette8898143
Hancock7854132
Washington7562169
Oktibbeha7246138
Monroe7106179
Pontotoc7071110
Warren6915179
Panola6815136
Neshoba6762210
Marshall6751142
Bolivar6484151
Union647099
Alcorn5969108
Pike5953157
Lincoln5550136
George511380
Prentiss511086
Tippah498483
Itawamba4916107
Scott479599
Tate4790118
Adams4789125
Leflore4765144
Copiah458995
Simpson4587117
Yazoo458692
Wayne444372
Covington435895
Sunflower4338106
Marion4313112
Coahoma4263111
Leake414491
Newton396482
Tishomingo390294
Grenada3799109
Stone366466
Attala342290
Jasper341667
Chickasaw320867
Winston319092
Clay314378
Clarke302095
Calhoun289550
Holmes273789
Smith271452
Yalobusha246547
Tallahatchie233153
Greene225549
Walthall222266
Lawrence221142
Perry214656
Amite210657
Webster207248
Noxubee188943
Montgomery182857
Carroll176341
Jefferson Davis175043
Tunica164139
Benton153539
Kemper145641
Choctaw138027
Claiborne134939
Humphreys132639
Franklin127130
Quitman107928
Wilkinson106539
Jefferson97334
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 849409

Reported Deaths: 16199
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1165042004
Mobile744951384
Madison53605739
Shelby38474373
Baldwin38236590
Tuscaloosa36225644
Montgomery34599784
Lee25712264
Calhoun22652520
Morgan22569411
Etowah20084521
Marshall18878318
Houston17806426
St. Clair16987359
Limestone16220222
Cullman16183306
Elmore15967295
Lauderdale15126308
Talladega14275302
DeKalb13099271
Walker12202380
Blount10803193
Autauga10566157
Jackson10237196
Coffee9447192
Colbert9396210
Dale9052192
Tallapoosa7291202
Russell711965
Chilton7101171
Covington6985197
Escambia6972146
Franklin6379108
Chambers5815142
Marion5451132
Dallas5307210
Pike5135109
Clarke485986
Lawrence4857130
Winston4804111
Geneva4658137
Bibb436795
Barbour370880
Butler3446101
Marengo342593
Monroe338666
Randolph338567
Pickens335590
Fayette332785
Henry321566
Cherokee321264
Hale320289
Crenshaw262278
Washington256952
Cleburne255460
Lamar253755
Clay253169
Macon246667
Conecuh193962
Coosa186248
Lowndes178468
Wilcox178338
Bullock152845
Perry141940
Sumter139841
Greene130845
Choctaw94928
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 41°
Columbus
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Oxford
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 41°
Starkville
Mostly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 42°
Temperatures return closer to normal for Wednesday with the shower staying south of us for the middle of the week, but rain chances start returning Thursday and could include thunderstorms, some possibly strong by Friday late in the day.
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