State lawmakers returned to Jackson on Thursday to begin work on reallocating some COVID-19 relief money.

The Associated Press reported hospitals, veterans’ centers, famers and landlords in Mississippi could receive money to respond to the coronavirus pandemic under proposals introduced so far.

“Mississippi received $1.25 billion in CARES Act money from the federal government and must use it before the end of the year or the funds will have to be returned,” said Republican Rep. Nick Bain of Corinth. “A chuck of the money was put into the small businesses program – $300 million, and that has been helping those small business owners who have struggled to stay open or pay employees during the pandemic.”

The state received fewer requests than expected for the business aid and is now discussing how the remaining funds can be used to benefit the state.

One of the bills being discussed would set aside $13 million for agriculture operations, including poultry farms that have lost at least one flock during the pandemic.

Separate bills would make $10 million available to hospitals for improvements to intensive care units and $10 million to the state Veterans Affairs Board.

Legislators also proposed $20 million to help residential or commercial landlords with lost rental income. The program would only be available to those who have not evicted people who were unable to pay rent between March 1 and Dec. 30.

Landlords would be able to seek a maximum grant of $30,000, which would be exempt from income tax.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves banned evictions in Mississippi early in the pandemic, but that prohibition expired at the start of June. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order Sept. 1 banning evictions of people who lost work because of the pandemic, but advocacy groups have expressed concern that evictions are still happening.

Mississippi legislators usually finish their annual session by March or April, but the pandemic upended those plans this year. Legislators took an extended break starting mid-March, soon after the virus was first detected in the state. They rearranged their work deadlines and returned for several days in May and June and one day in August. Going into Thursday, they had two work days remaining before the session expires.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Staff Writer

Zack Steen was first hired in 1999 as a junior in high school to work in the Daily Corinthian design department. After several years away, he returned in 2014 as staff writer. He's married to the love of his life Brandy and they have 5 wonderful fur-kids.

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