/Lawmakers approve $300 million for Mississippi small businesses impacted by coronavirus

Lawmakers approve $300 million for Mississippi small businesses impacted by coronavirus

The Legislature worked late Wednesday night and passed the bill. It was sent to Gov. Tate Reeves proposed that all businesses affected by the pandemic be provided $2,000 checks. Businesses that have been approved by the Mississippi Development Authority will be eligible for grants of $1,500 to $25,000 Program grants up to $25,000 to small businesses with 50 employees or less. The program also reserves $40 million to ensure that minority-owned businesses can access the grants. Trey Lamar (Republican), House Ways and Means Chair, stated that “if you were forced by the government to close down, you were entitled for a check.” The House approved the bill with one vote from the 122-member chamber. The proposal was approved by the 52-member Senate with no dissenting vote. Two senators voiced opposition to the bill, “pairing” their vote with senators who weren’t present but would have voted for it. The paired votes don’t count in the final vote tally, however. Charles Busby (R-Pascagoula), one of three House negotiators, stated that a little less than 30,000 businesses would be eligible for direct checks. The grants are available to businesses that had to close or those that may have closed their doors voluntarily. Busby stated that if the money runs out, they can add more to the program. The governor and the Legislature were locked in a dispute over control of federal funds last week. In the dispute over who would get the $1.25billion, the Legislature won. The bill that was approved Wednesday night will allow MDA to administer the program. This is interesting because it is controlled by the governor. Members of Reeves staff had the opportunity to review the legislation and provide input before the Senate and House negotiators signed Wednesday night’s agreement. Reeves and legislator leaders both agreed that the priority should be a program to assist small businesses during the current economic slowdown. Reeves frequently cited hair salons and barbershops as examples of businesses that were forced to close due to economic hardship. The small business program was created by legislators who have worked behind closed doors for many days. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who preside over the Senate said that work on the small business program started before the dispute with the governor over control of the money. Tuesday saw the finalization of the program by the Legislature. The Capitol’s halls are usually crowded with lobbyists and other interested parties when legislators are approving large amounts of money. The Capitol’s halls were mostly empty, with only a handful of people looking in. Social distancing was a common practice among legislators. They listened from their offices and not in the chamber, which meant that they were able to hear the action on the floor. House Speaker Philip Gunn and Hosemann both appointed members to the Legislative Black Caucus, which was responsible for the final details. Gunn named Robert Johnson of Natchez as the House Democrats’ chair, while Hosemann appointed Derrick Simmons of Greenville to the Senate Democrats’ chair. Reeves objected to the bill’s language and threatened to veto it last week. This language places the money in a legislative fund.