By: April Carson
Mississippi's senators are taking the initial steps toward spending some of $1.8 billion in federal government pandemic aid that the state will receive.
$104.6 million will be spent on the Department of Mental Health, $59.1 million on the Department of Child Protection Services, $10.4 million in the Mississippi National Guard, and $3.2 million for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency when all is said and done, according to bills passed Monday by both houses of Congress.
The bills will now be sent to the House for further consideration. Other measures are expected to come before the Legislature during the following several weeks.
In the fall, a Senate committee had hearings to discuss wish lists from a long list of state agencies. GOP Sen. John Polk of Hattiesburg said they asked for $8.3 billion — more than four times what was available.
Briggs Hopson, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a Republican from Vicksburg, said Monday that legislative leaders want “generational, paradigm-shifting” projects out of the $13.4 billion in funds authorized by last year's Legislature.
In March, when Mississippi lawmakers were still in session, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan. More than a month after the Mississippi session concluded, the Treasury Department released instructions for how to utilize the funds.
States have until the end of 2024 to allocate the funds and 2026 to spend them.
“That's a very tight, tight deadline set by the federal government,” Polk added Monday.
The Mississippi Senate proposed spending $750 million on water and sewer projects as the biggest portion of funding. That measure has not yet been voted on.
Mississippi has been involved in several long-running foster care and mental health complaints.
Polk explained that the funds for Child Protection Services would take the agency "very, very close" to being able to pay for court-mandated improvements for foster care by allowing it to hire more personnel.
The county received $18.6 million in mental health funds, half of which will be used to fund community mental health centers. It also includes funding for a federally mandated 988 hotline for mental health crisis calls, according to Polk.
With the $3 million in block grant funds, which come with fewer restrictions than other federal funding, county officials will be able to use the money for virtually any purpose that would benefit the community.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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