The 2021 coronavirus relief bill will bring an influx of cash to Mississippi communities with Lee County and Tupelo topping the list locally receiving $16,569,786.09 and $8,638,441.08, respectively.
There remains some confusion as to what the money can be used for, however.
The stated goal is to use the money to benefit the community with emphasis on losses that have occurred due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 628-page act provides funding for a plethora of departments and purposes but the aid to local governments may have the most impact on communities as a whole.
Some specified uses for local aid include assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; workers performing essential work during the COVID–19 public health emergency; the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year; and to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
A part of the $1.9 trillion is being given to cities and counties based on a formula incorporating factors such as population, rural population, poverty level and unemployment.
According to preliminary figures obtained through the help of State Rep. Sam Creekmore, it appears that Union County will receive $5,588,491.81 and New Albany will receive $1,973,592.47.
The Village of Blue Springs will receive $54,339.74, the Town of Myrtle will get $112,287.11 and Sherman will get $158,735.19.
Neighboring Pontotoc County will receive $6,239,949.17 and the City of Pontotoc will get $1,390,962.18.
Despite the many potential uses, it appears that most officials would like to designate the money for street or road maintenance.
“I would prefer to put it on street repairs but am not sure we can,” New Albany Mayor Tim Kent said. He added that the city already planned to use some of the money to reimburse $160,000 for first responder salaries from the past year, but had not known earlier how much the city would receive.
The city is in the midst of trying to resurface streets now and added four mills of tax two years ago specifically for street improvement. Many sections of the city’s approximately 75 miles of street need some work.
Union County Board of Supervisors President Steve Watson said that road work is probably the greatest need for the county as well. “I just found out about this (the fund amount) today. We will have to wait to see what we can use it for,” he said.
A representative from U. S. Rep. Trent Kelly’s office said various officials had been meeting much of the day Wednesday trying to determine whether funds could indeed be used on roads and streets. Although the act is fairly specific in what the money can be used for, streets are not mentioned. However, other infrastructure uses are, so it may be that roads and streets will be permitted, the officials hoped.
And although the act does spell out some uses, those involved also said that it ultimately will be up to the treasury department to specify and approve uses.
The president is expected to sign the bill Friday and it was not clear how soon funds would be distributed after that.
As noted, the extensive rescue act includes many, many funding designations.
One will provide direct payments of up to $1,400 per person for a large part of the population.
Another will add $300 per month to unemployment payments for six months while making part of those payments tax-free.
Health and education benefits are included.
Food stamps and school nutrition will get a boost as well.
Money will be available to help low-income households with rent, utilities and property taxes.
Parents with minor children will receive larger tax credits.
Affordable Care Act insurance will cost less and some premiums may be waived for some low-income citizens.
A disaster loan program will help small businesses and special emphasis will be placed on bars and restaurants.
And there is more.
If you would like to see local aid totals for other cities and counties, go to this address for a map and linked list:
If you would like to see the entire American Rescue Act, go to this address:
$1.9 trillion, American Rescue Act, Lee County, New Albany, Northeast Mississippi, Pontotoc, Pontotoc county, recovery, stimulus, streets, Tupelo, Union County