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Legislators Return to Capitol to Allocate Relief Funds for Small Businesses
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Senate Appropriations Committee Discussing Small Business Grants
Desare Frazier

Lawmakers return to the capitol tomorrow to continue working on legislation to quickly get Covid 19 federal relief funds to Mississippi small business owners. MPB’s Desare Frazier reports.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee is drafting a plan to provide $100 million in grants to Mississippi businesses with 50 employees or less. Fifteen million would be earmarked for women and minorities owned businesses. It’s part of $1.25 billion the state received from the CARES Act. Republican Senator Briggs Hopson of Vicksburg chairs the committee. He says the state’s development authority would manage the program.

“Those of us who have been dealing with this a lot in the last few days recognize that any agency that uses these funds is probably going to have to hire some additional people or contract out some part of this,” said Hopson.

Hopson says grants will go to small businesses that haven’t received any federal assistance first. The amount would range from $1,000 to $25,000 but Democratic Senator John Horhn of Jackson thinks $1,000 is too low to begin with.

“If you really want to try and help folks, we really oughta look at making the floor higher than than $1,000 and I would hope we could get it back closer to $5,000,” said Horhn

Across the aisle House members are focused on seeing unemployment claims processed faster. There are more than 200,000 Mississippians out of work. House Republican Donnie Bell of Fulton chairs the Workforce Development Committee. He says the department of employment security needs a new phone system so calls are directed to people who can answer specific questions.

“No matter what the issue is, you’ve got one person trying to fix that problem where they may not be an expert on a particular area,” said Bell.

Legislators say they have to carefully appropriate the relief funds according to federal guidelines or risk having to pay the government back.