Legislators return to allocate additional CARES Act dollars

For what appears to be the last time this calendar year, the Mississippi State Legislature will reconvene Thursday morning.

According to the state’s two chamber leaders, lawmakers have two main items on the agenda: (1) adjust any CARES Act appropriations that were made in June, and (2) distribute what federal dollars remain from the original $1.25 billion as the deadline to spend relief money is December 31st.

“We passed most of our bills in June regarding the CARES Act money. We put the money where we thought it would be best needed, but we reserved some days for ourselves to come back and adjust those dollars,” Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said.

Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann echoed similar remarks as his cross-chamber counterpart.

“We’ll be paying attention to the monies that are not used this time and to reallocate those to other people,” he said. “We’re looking at things like the [agriculture] community, which has suffered a good bit, and our veterans’ homes.”

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Hosemann also said that $60 million of the $240 million Back to Business grant program for small businesses will need to be reallocated to the Employment Security Trust Fund as over $3.1 billion, during 2020 alone, has been paid in unemployment compensation for Mississippians.

“When we look back on our Back to Business (program), which we allocated $240 million to, the max that has been applied for would be $180 million, so there will be $60 million there that will need to be reallocated somewhere,” he explained. “A lot of this money we’re putting into Employment Security Commission’s trust fund as we’re paying out, with our own money, somewhere between $9 and $12 million a week.”

Regarding what’s been appropriated and spent already, the first-term lieutenant governor seemed pleased overall, especially in the realm of distance learning.

We gave…397,000 Ipads or Chromebooks for children across Mississippi. A lot of good things came out of this.”

Both chambers will gavel in at 10 Thursday morning with Sine Die day currently set for October 10th.