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MS Legislature shifts $60 million in COVID-19 relief funds at the end of the 2020 session

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MIssissippi State Capitol. (Photo by formulanone from Huntsville, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

The Mississippi Legislature concluded its 2020 business by shifting more than $60 million from the coronavirus relief funds allocated to the state from the federal government.

Adjournment sine die, which officially ends the 2020 session, is Saturday, Oct. 10.

New programs made possible by the reappropriations include:

  • $13 million in a grant program for general agriculture and poultry farming losses
  • $10 million for veterans’ facilities
  • $20 million in a grant program for residential and commercial rental assistance
  • $10 million in a grant program for the construction of hospital ICU beds and negative pressure rooms, and
  • $10 million to upgrade emergency wireless communication across the State.

“COVID has taken a significant toll on our families, businesses and communities. It has been the Legislature’s priority to maximize funds Mississippi received from Congress,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said in a statement. “When it became apparent some of the money from the previous appropriations would not be spent, legislators decided to reappropriate to necessary programs which had not yet been funded.”

In their final days of the 2020 Session, legislators also provided express authority in state law for school districts to license Wi-Fi hot spots and service for up to one year to better enable distance learning. Legislation was also passed to allow the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to purchase a warehouse to store a 30-day supply of PPE and other materials necessary to respond to COVID-19.

Mississippi received $1.25 billion in coronavirus relief funds appropriated to the state through the federal CARES Act. In May, the Legislature began appropriating the funds, beginning with a $300 million grant program for small businesses struggling from the economic shut down accompanying the pandemic.

Any coronavirus relief funds not spent by the federal deadline of Dec. 30, 2020, will be reallocated to the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. Shoring up that fund is also intended to help small businesses by keeping low the contribution rates employers pay into the fund.

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