Last week, the Mississippi Legislature concluded its extended session by returning to the state capitol to reallocate some of the $1.25 billion in federal funds provided to the state to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the spending includes $20 million for assistance to landlords, $10 million to upgrade the state’s wireless information network for emergency rooms, $10 million to fund improvements at intensive care units at hospitals statewide and $13 million for relief for farmers affected by the pandemic.
The state received the funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March by Congress, which appropriated $2.2 trillion for COVID-19 relief.
According to the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration’s Transparency page, there is more than $498 million that is currently available. Any leftover funds remaining before the end of the year will be redirected to the state’s unemployment compensation fund.
Here are some details on the final legislation passed in this year’s session:
- House Bill 1810 creates a $20 million rental assistance program to compensate property owners up to $30,000 for lost rental income due to COVID-19 and eligible commercial businesses are only eligible for up to 25 percent of all funds spent for the program.
- Senate Bill 3059 will provide $10 million in CARES Act funds to the state-owned veterans homes to help them with pandemic-related costs.
- HB 1813 will provide $4 million to be allocated to specialty hospitals to compensate them for COVID-19 related expenses.
- HB 1812 will appropriate $10 million to upgrade the Mississippi Wireless Information Network, which provides communication between first responders and hospital emergency rooms.
- SB 3055 will allocate $10 million to a fund designed to help hospitals increase the capacity of their intensive care units, with no individual hospital receiving more of 25 percent of the available funds and 20 percent of funds reserved for hospitals with Level III or Level IV trauma centers. According to the state Department of Health, there are 16 Level III and 62 Level IV-rated centers statewide.
- SB 3056 will automatically schedule any drug approved by the federal government to treat COVID-19.
- SB 3058, also known as the Mississippi Agriculture Stabilization Act, will provide $9.5 million to create a supplemental grant program for farmers. It will also allocate $3 million to poultry farmers who dealt with the economic effects of COVID-19 and $500,000 to help sweet potato farmers.
- HB 1808 will allow the Mississippi Department of Emergency Management to purchase a building with CARES Act funds to store personal protective equipment and other gear related to mitigating the COVID-19 virus.
The Legislature will have only a short break, as it will likely reconvene for the 2021 session in January.