Lawmakers are saying they will be back in Jackson by the end of the week, likely Thursday and Friday, for more work in the 2020 session. Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have both said it would likely be Thursday before members return.
Hosemann told SuperTalk radio on Monday that they plan to focus on monies that have not yet been allocated.
“We’re looking at things like, the Ag community which has suffered a good bit, our veterans’ homes have had a lot of Coronavirus, they need some help,” said Hosemann.
The Legislature originally allocated $240 million into the Back to Business program and Hosemann says that $60 million there will need to be reallocated. He said much of the money is being put into the Employment Security Trust Fund because the state is paying out somewhere between $9 and $12 million weekly in claims.
$3.1 billion has been paid in unemployment compensation in 2020 for Mississippians.
Once that $60 million is moved around, Hosemann estimated that another $100 million would be left over. He expects over half of it will go back to unemployment compensation, due to the federal restrictions on CARES Act dollars.
In an interview early last week Speaker of the House Philip Gunn made similar comments regarding the agenda for the Legislature’s return.
He said the Legislature’s main purpose for returning was to evaluate where CARES Act dollars were designated back in June and whether or not they have been spent, determining how much is left and if there is a need to move any of those dollars around.
“It was hit pretty hard. Before the pandemic I think the number was $750 million in the trust fund. I think it’s down to $450 million now. Obviously, we would like to get that back up if we could,” said Gunn. He noted that if some funds are available, lawmakers might look at putting dollars into the trust fund.
Hosemann also touched on other expenditures made from the CARES Act that have been pivotal for Mississippians.
“It has been $1.25 billion hopefully has been allocated properly,” said Hosemann. “We gave every child, I think 397,000 Ipads or Chromebooks for children across Mississippi. A lot of good things came out of this part, our Distance Learning part.”
He added that the Legislature was also able to help reform Driver’s License Bureaus across the state through the Department of Public Safety. Significant changes were made, like allowing some renewals to go online, in order to cut down on outrageous wait times.
The Legislature’s self-imposed Sine Die day for 2020 is October 10. Even with the spread-out session, Hosemann said they will still use less than the 120 days allowed.