Mississippi legislature works to move around unused CARES Act money before end of year

Updated: Oct. 1, 2020 at 7:45 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - You may remember hearing about the $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief money that Mississippi received. But the state’s on a deadline to get it spent before the end of the year.

The Back to Business grant program is one of the first things lawmakers set aside. $240 million for small businesses. So far, $63 million has been sent out. Another $85 million under review.

The Mississippi Development Authority has received 33,292 applications. They have approved 13,289, totaling $63 million. They have rejected 9,666 applications, totaling $65 million. Currently, 10,337 applications are being reviewed for a total of $85 million. Businesses whose applications have been rejected may file an appeal.

But even if all pending applications are approved, it’s still just over half of what the legislature thought would be needed for the program. Stephanie Hall had just opened her business last November when the pandemic hit and forced her business to shut down.

“We didn’t have a lot of extra money, a lot of extra cash flow just sitting around,” explained Hall, co-owner of Sera and Soul in Tupelo. Hall was able to itemize the expenses and receive around $10,000 in grant funding.

“The bouncing back process for us was really hard and this money made such a difference," described Hall. "I don’t know that we would’ve been able to keep our doors open if it weren’t for something like this.”

Salons also took a big hit and salon owner Courtney Goldsmith says the grant helped fill in the gaps that she didn’t think she’d be able to fill at all.

“I was at the point to where it’s a possibility that it may even have to shut down and just go ahead and close because it was no way possible,” said Goldsmith, owner of Extensions of Beauty in Moss Point.

In the Delta, MM and K Trucking took a hit when the cases started to surge.

“It stopped us from going into certain areas," said Ebony Williams. "It’s slowed down our carriers from sending loads as well as delivering loads to certain areas that are called hotspots.”

With around 20 employees, they ultimately received the max amount allowed in the grant program of $25,000.

“It kind of secured payroll for us,” noted Williams.

But because the full $240 million hasn’t been utilized, lawmakers are working to shift that money to other businesses and areas of need.

“Hospitals needed a little more," said Sen. Dean Kirby. "Veterans needed some more. Farmers needed some more. So we’re taking some of that money plus some other money from others and we’re moving it in there.”

Lawmakers are trying to get those reallocations complete because the CARES Act money has to be spent by the end of the year. Gov. Reeves has said any unused money will go to the drained unemployment trust fund.

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