/Lawmakers begin crafting legislation to help Mississippi’s small businesses

Lawmakers begin crafting legislation to help Mississippi’s small businesses

Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), House Speaker, stated that there is a chance that lawmakers could vote Tuesday on small business financial relief packages when they return to Capitol.
Friday’s meeting saw the Senate and House members discuss how stimulus money should be used. It was intended to partially pay for coronavirus-related costs. Gunn stated that the two most important areas are small business assistance and unemployment benefits. Mississippians who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic are already eligible for federal money. However, people are finding it difficult to get through to the overwhelmed Employment Security Agency in order to claim benefits. Legislators are looking for ways to speed up this process. Reeves has been discussing the possibility of using some federal money to grant grants to small businesses, many of which have closed due to safety concerns for over a week. Reeves has spoken out about the importance of helping hair salons and barbershops. Reeves and legislators engaged in a heated argument about who was responsible for appropriating the funds. This could have led to a dramatic standoff. Reeves negotiated a compromise and agreed to go through the legislative appropriations process in order to spend the money. Reeves maintained that he could have spent the money more efficiently and quickly, but said that an ongoing battle would have distracted from the mission of helping Mississippians. It was clear Friday that Reeves, or the agencies he oversees, will still have a significant say in how funds are distributed. A tentative plan was presented to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It would have $100 million put into a fund that could provide grants up to $25,000 for small businesses in order to cover the cost of rent, utilities, and salaries in the event of a pandemic.
The Mississippi Development Authority, a state agency under the control of the governor, will administer the funds and set regulations regarding who would get them. Josh Harkins (R-Flowood), Senate Finance Chair, stated that “time is of the essence.” “We are working to get these funds out as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that there are many businesses that require help to stay afloat. Companies with 50 employees or less would be eligible for the funds. Senator Angela Turner-Ford (D-West Point) pointed out that even though a company may have fewer employees than 50, it can still be very wealthy in terms of net worth and income. Together with others, she said that a priority should be placed on small businesses, especially sole proprietors, who are not eligible for assistance under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). PPP provided assistance to companies during the pandemic for payroll and other expenses. Harkins stated that the state program would grant the first grants to companies that had not received federal assistance. The state grants could be applied for by companies that have received money from the PPP. Senator Chad McMahan (R-Guntown) also questioned the decision to leave the Mississippi Development Authority with the authority to administer this program. This is especially because the agency doesn’t have any locations in the state, so it is difficult for companies outside of Jackson. The speaker established several committees in the House to address coronavirus-related problems. These issues included assistance for local governments in addressing coronavirus costs, distance education issues, and ways to make voting safer if the virus is still present. The Senate and the House met to discuss these issues, with the intention of approving legislation next week. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today.