Mississippi could receive up to $4.68 billion from the federal government from two COVID-19 pandemic-related stimulus packages.
President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act on March 11 that will provide $3.43 billion for the state.
The biggest question is how the funds from the Biden stimulus — which includes $1.8 billion for state government and $1.63 billion for cities and counties — will be spent. These funds will be disbursed in two installments, the first which will be received by counties and metropolitan cities by May 10.
Other cities and towns statewide will have their funds distributed by the state, which will have an extra 30 days to complete their distribution by June 9. States can also apply for an extension due to an extra administrative burden
The state has already received $1.25 billion from the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020.
The good news for lawmakers is some of the decisions on where to spend can wait since the money will need to be utilized by 2024 in the case of most of the ARP Act’s provisions. The session is due to end on April 4 unless they are called back into special session by Gov. Tate Reeves.
The aid to cities and counties will be calculated using a formula based on population and estimates have already been made on how much counties and cities will receive from the ARP Act. These funds can be used to respond to the public health emergency or deal with its economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits or to help the tourism and hospitality industries. These funds can also be used to pay those performing essential work during the pandemic or to “make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.”
According to the ARP Act, these funds can’t be used to bail out pension funds.
According to the National Association of Counties, a lobbying group for county governments, Hinds County will receive more $44 million (most in the state), while Madison County will receive $20.6 million and Rankin County is set to receive $30.1 million.
Second highest statewide is Harrison County ($40.36 million), with DeSoto County ($35.87 million) third.
Jackson ($27.5 million), Forrest ($14.5 million), Lamar ($12.28 million), Lauderdale ($14.38 million) and Lee counties ($16.57 million) will receive some of the biggest aid packages.
As for cities, Jackson could receive about $46.66 million, with Gulfport ($18.01 million), Hattiesburg ($13.61 million) and Biloxi ($11.53 million) also receiving funds.
There is already data available on how the CARES Act monies were dispersed. The state’s transparency website has a section devoted to the dollar-by-dollar outlays. More than $207 million out of the $1.25 billion (16.56 percent) was left unused at the end of 2020 and was transferred to the unemployment insurance fund.
The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) administered a $300 million program called the Back to Business grant program that provided a one-time grant of $2,000. Firms that didn’t itemize their COVID-19 related expenses received a base payment of $1,500 plus $500 for each full-time employee.
Only $240 million of that total went to businesses statewide, while more than $60 million in unused funds went back to the unemployment insurance fund.
Of the 24,578 businesses that received aid (an average of $4,859 per business), 1,085 of them received the maximum amount of $25,000 or 4.41 percent. There were 1,360 businesses that received more than $20,000 in aid (5.53 percent).
The majority (23,218 or 94.5 percent) received $20,000 or less. The MDA also had to claw back more than $780,000 in aid to 204 businesses, many of which were ruled ineligible to receive grants under the program.
Lawmakers also provided $65 million in broadband spending for non-profit electric power associations, also known as cooperatives. Fifteen of the co-ops received an average of $4.3 million, led by the Tippah Electric Power Association, the 4-County and the Coast EPAs, which received $5.425 million apiece.