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: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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