Minority Leader Johnson talks disbursement of CARES Act funding

The Mississippi Legislature recently passed a bill that allocated $300 million of the $1.25 billion received as part of the CARES Act to the state’s small businesses.

SB 2772 will provide relief to businesses through two separate programs. The first program will use $60 million of the $300 million for direct payments to businesses forced to close down due to orders induced by COVID-19. According to the minority leader of the Mississippi House of Representatives, Robert Johnson III, those initial payments should be dispersed this week.

“I don’t know the exact day the Department of Revenue is getting those out, but they will go out this week,” Johnson explained on today’s episode of The JT Show. “The idea was that there were people who met the qualifications in terms of businesses that were shut down either by a gubernatorial executive order or by a municipal order. Those people didn’t have any choice in that, so we wanted to get them a little something just to stave off some of the economic harm they suffered.”

Regarding the second program, which will disperse the remaining $240 million through an application-based process, Johnson hopes to see those funds in the hands of small business owners by the end of June.

“They anticipated it would take three to four weeks to get an application ready and get that program’s website set up, so we hope some time before the end of the month those applications will go out or be available,” Johnson said.

Now, the question remains of where the other $900 million received from the federal government will go.

“What I’m hearing…is that people want to address the problems, and I mean these are issues that cross party lines,” Johnson continued. “They are issues concerning healthcare, contact tracing, making sure some health facilities and rural areas are available and open and have the resources necessary to treat people or provide the protection that some people would need.”

Besides providing further funding to the healthcare industry, Johnson also believes education and prisons need to be taken into account.

“The next thing and probably the biggest and most daunting task that we have would be going about distance learning and education and how much is it going to cost to make that a reality,” Johnson said. “The other big issue that we have is what we’re going to do about corrections…There are federal laws and constitutional laws that we have to abide by, and we have a responsibility to provide a minimum duty of care or protection for people who are locked up.”

While the legislature continues to work towards appropriating the remaining $900 million, Johnson did mention that the money needs to go out “rather quickly.”

To watch the entire interview with Minority Leader Johnson, click the video below.