Mississippi legislators to revise some virus relief spending

Coronavirus

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers are returning to the Capitol to reconsider how the state is spending some coronavirus relief money from the federal government.

The House and Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Thursday, and they are expected to remain until Friday.

Mississippi, like many other states, received $1.25 billion from Congress to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re looking at moving some money around,” Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby, a Republican from Pearl, said Wednesday. “We put too much in some places and not enough in others.”

Kirby said legislators could shift some money to veterans’ homes, and send some to hospitals for intensive care units. He said budget writers might reconsider the $300 million they already put into aid for small businesses.

Officials have said the state received fewer requests than expected for the business aid. But, some business owners have said the state has been slow to respond to their applications.

The coronavirus relief money is supposed to be spent by late December. Mississippi legislators have already decided that money not spent by the deadline will be moved into the state unemployment trust fund, which has decreased dramatically as claims for jobless benefits surged because of the pandemic.

The trust fund had $706 million in mid-March, when Mississippi detected its first cases of the virus.

Jackie Turner, director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, told legislative budget writers last week that fund’s latest balance was about $423 million. The latest figure includes nearly $182 million that legislators have already put there from the federal pandemic relief, she said.

Mississippi legislators usually finish their annual session by March or April. The pandemic scrambled plans this year as legislators left in mid-March. They rearranged their work deadlines and returned for several days in May and June and one day in August. They have two work days remaining before the session expires.

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