The Mississippi Senate Appropriations Committee met on Friday to discuss the first proposed piece of language dedicated to the disbursement of CARES Act dollars. It focuses primarily on support for small businesses in the state. This language is only a draft and has not yet been filed, but that could come early next week.
Senator Josh Harkins, who walked the members through the language, said that this was a good place to start and would allow them to come back and appropriate more if necessary.
Lawmakers are set to come back to continue working on regular session business by May 18.
This particular potential language establishes the “2020 COVID-19 Mississippi Business Assistance Act.” It would be used primarily to appropriate funds for small business. That has been a priority for leadership as that was the reason for calling legislators in this week.
The language proposes a “Back to Business Mississippi Grant Program” that would be established within the State Treasurer’s office. The program would initially hold $100,750,000 from funds provided by the federal government and allow for $100 million to be utilized for the business grants from the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
The remaining $750,000 would go towards administrative costs for the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) to disperse the dollars. The monies will be subject to compliance with federal government regulations and are also subject to audits by the State Auditor’s office.
Harkins said they looked at what other states were doing to determine that $100 million number. He said surrounding states were staying close to that number, with other larger states settling on $120 million or $150 million.
Businesses who are eligible must have filed taxes for 2018 or 2019, be a domestic business prior to March 1 of 2020, controlling interest must be held by Mississippi residents, it should serve customers at a physical location, have no more than 50 employees, and have a period of “business interruption” beginning March 1 through December 30 as caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harkins said those who receive funds first will be businesses who underwent forced or voluntary closures during the business interruption period and have not been able to receive federal aid through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The bill would also provide assistance for non-profits who do not have a net worth or annual income of more than $500,000.
This language would have business make application for these grants possible through the Treasurer’s office. Grant amounts would range from $1,000 to $25,000. It also clarifies that at least $15,000,000 of the appropriated grant money would go to minority business enterprises. The grants will not be subject to taxation.
This language would also roll over control of any leftover monies to Governor Reeves’ discretion, allowing transfers to other state agencies.
At this time, no date is set in the language for when applications would be due. Harkins said that could be up to the MDA, but that decision has not been solidified.
In Friday’s hearing, legislators clarified that these grants would only be for reimbursing businesses for costs incurred during the period, not covering lost profits.
You can read the language HERE: