Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann encouraged area leaders to take a thoughtful and future-focused approach to spending the massive amounts of money coming to the state and individual cities and counties through the federal American Rescue Plan.
The state is slated to receive a total of around $6 billion from the program with $1.8 billion to be appropriated by the state legislature, $900 million allocated for counties, $258 for smaller cities and $97 million for the state’s metro areas, along with $1.6 billion earmarked for K-12 education, $429 million for higher education and $166 million for capital projects focused on rural broadband access.
Hosemann told leaders gathered Thursday at the Crossroads Arena with the funds going to the counties and cities along with the funds controlled by the legislature there is an unprecedented opportunity to change the future of the state.
“The question is not what are you going to do with your money, it’s what were we going to with our money. We have to work together,” he said.
Detailed rules set by the federal government control how the funds can and cannot be spent and Hosemann spent much of the meeting discussing those regulations. Funding to counties can be spent to replace lost revenue due to slowdowns related to the pandemic, along with projects to enhance broadband, water and sewer and other items. They cannot be used to directly pay for roads. However, Hosemann did note funds designated for replacing lost revenue can be put toward anything normal county revenues would be used for.
The lieutenant governor said at the local level the funds are an opportunity to shape the future growth of the state because decisions on where they are spent to improve infrastructure will inspire and encourage future growth.
He encouraged leaders to take a thoughtful approach and noted the funds can be placed in interest-bearing bank accounts while decisions are made to allow them to grow.
Hosemann said Mississippi leaders and economists anticipated a year of slowed growth and economic challenges in 2020 due to the pandemic but the reality has actually been unprecedented growth in state revenues as people have continued to spend, driving sales tax revenues. He said the state is currently $920 million over anticipated revenue for the fiscal year, which ends June 30 and he anticipates that figure to climb to $1 billion over by the end of the fiscal period. The legislature will be faced with a unique opportunity to determine how to spend the unexpected revenues to provide for the future of the state and he expects intense discussions among legislators, county leaders and others as that course is charted.
Area county allocations through the American Rescue Plan include $7,177,687 for Alcorn County, $4,870,000 for Prentiss County and $3,760,000 for Tishomingo County. The payments will be made in two phases coming this year and next year.