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.

Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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