Mississippi is working on pandemic financial relief plans – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi senators are taking the first steps toward spending some of the $1.8 billion the state is receiving from the federal government to pandemic relief.

Senators passed bills Monday to invest $104.6 million in the state Department of Mental Health, $59.1 million in the Department of Child Protective Services, 10.4 million in the Mississippi National Guard and $3.2 million in the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Bills will go to the House for further work. Other bills are expected to be debated in the coming weeks.

A Senate committee held hearings in the fall to consider wish lists from a long list of state agencies. Republican Senator John Polk of Hattiesburg said he requested $8.3 billion, more than four times the amount available.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Briggs Hopson, a Republican from Vicksburg, said Monday that legislative leaders want “generational and transformational” projects from the money the state receives.

President Joe Biden signed the U.S. bailout in March while lawmakers in Mississippi were still holding their 2021 session. The Treasury Department released guidance on how states can spend the money in May, more one month after the end of the Mississippi session.

States have until the end of 2024 to decide how to spend the money and until the end of 2026 to spend it.

“It’s a very tight deadline for the federal government,” Polk said Monday.

The largest sum of money recommended by the Mississippi Senate is $750 million for water and sewer projects. This proposal has not yet been voted on.

Mississippi has faced lengthy lawsuits over foster care and mental health services.

Polk said the money for Child Protective Services will ‘get us very, very close’ to paying for court-ordered enhancements to foster care by allowing the agency to hire more of employees.

Money for mental health includes nearly $18.6 million for community mental health centres. Polk said that also includes money to establish a federally mandated 988 hotline for mental health crisis calls.

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