The Mississippi Department of Human Services received an additional $24 million in funding from the federal CARES Act, which was signed into law in March, and the U.S. Department of Human Services. The money will be used to fund two grants; both meant to help families pay energy costs and rent. Meanwhile, a recent report found that relief to small businesses in the state is lagging behind other Southern states.
The new grants for residents were announced last week. The first is a $9.2 million grant called the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which will help families pay electric and gas bills, as well as buying new air conditioners and heaters, reports WLBT. The second is the $15 million Community Services Block Grant, which will help families pay rent, as well as mortgage, employment, and educational expenses.
Anyone interested in applying for the programs can contact their local community action agency (CAA) or human resource agency (HRA) to apply. Mississippi residents can find their closest agency at MDHS.MS.gov, while the pre-application can be found at the Virtual ROMA site. The applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The funds are only available for Mississippi residents.
Last week, Mississippi Today reported that many small businesses in the state are still waiting on coronavirus relief from the government. In May, the legislature set aside $240 million for the Back to Business program, but only about 8% of that has been approved for grants as of Aug. 28. The Hope Policy Institute found that Mississippi was far behind other Southern states in sending out CARES Act funds to businesses hurt by the pandemic. In mid-August, lawmakers worked on the program again to help speed up the process. The Mississippi Development Authority, which is using a private contractor to run the business program, said it would try to work faster.
"While the review process is time-consuming, we are currently reviewing approximately 600 applications per day and issuing payments as soon as possible," MDA Director John Rounsaville told Mississippi Today on Sept. 1. "In fact [on Aug. 28] we've processed 1,076 payments. MDA is committed to closing out the Back to Business grants by the end of September, and we are on track to accomplish that." Gov. Tate Reeves said the grants were "somewhat constrained" by U.S. Treasury rules and the original language of the state legislature's law. He said there should be "more progress" after they made changes last month.