Photo courtesy of Visit Yazoo

UPDATE: Bill passed on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. It will now be transmitted to the House. 

Senator Angela Hill (R) has filled a bill that will ensure cities and counties are covered when it comes to incurred expenditures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill is entitled the Mississippi County and Municipality Emergency Relief Program.

Sen. Angela Hill

SB 3047 gives the Mississippi Development Authority the authority to ensure these reimbursements are distributed based on applications submitted. The intention of the bill is to explain the vehicle for how these cities and counties will receive funds.

“We are looking at what their [city and county] requests are, and we are trying to provide what we are able to,” said Hill.

In order to receive the reimbursements these local governments would be required to submit receipts or invoices and those expenses must align with the federal treasury. The applications will then go through MDA before being approved.

At this time, Hill said the estimates show that cities and counties as a whole could receive $80 million from the state ($40million/$40 million split). This bill would not allow for those dollars to be given as reimbursements in the event that any federal grants would cover them. This should prevent any double dipping, she said.

MDA would be responsible for letting the cities and counties know how much money is set aside for them, what the requirements for reimbursement are, and to make the initial disbursements by August 15, 2020. However, applications can still be accepted after that date. MDA would receive up to $100,000 for their services to administer the program. This number was a change from the original bill by $50,000.

“So, if a county or city made their application August 15, got some reimbursements but continued to have expenses as long as there is money left in the fund they could submit another expenditure after that date,” said Hill.

In order to ensure there is a fair distribution of the funds, Section 5 of the bill outlines that subject to the actual appropriation by the Legislature, each city or county will have set aside a pro rata share of the dollars for reimbursement of qualified expenditures according to population from the 2010 census.

On November 30, if there are un-obligated funds still left they will go back to the Governor to be appropriated to a state agency by his discretion.

Hill also included a clause that in the event any part of the bill conflicts with federal law, or is invalidated, the remaining sections will still remain in full force. The bill would be effective upon passage.

MDA is required to provide a report to the Legislature by October 1, 2020, of applications received and dollars given. This coincides with when the Legislature may be back at the Capitol.

Senator Melanie Sojourner offered an amendment to require cities and counties to provide documentation on any federal CARES Act money they have received or documentation on any of those dollars they may have applied for.

“Just to give us a way to cross-reference what they are asking for and what they have already received from the feds,” said Sojourner.

Sen. Hill did not oppose the amendment and it was passed in the committee. The committee substitute was adopted, and the bill passed.