By Sen. Angela Turner Ford,
Chair, MLBC,

Ford

Ford

Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus is asking for $457 million from Coronavirus monies and $100 million endowment for HBCUs – Alcorn, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Tougaloo, Rust, Coahoma and Utica Branch of Hinds. The caucus proposes CARES Act funds be used to help minority institutions of higher learning meet Coronavirus challenges, to assist businesses of color and to provide African-American communities with needed resources.

Referred to as the “Black Empowerment RESTART Initiative” the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus proposes CARES Act Funds and other monies be used to address structural barriers highlighted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The caucus proposes programs be implemented and funded as follows:

1. Assistance for small businesses via Community Development Corporation programs have been proposed in the amount of $10,000,000. This program would provide training, technical assistance and grant funding to strengthen and expand financial relationships between lending institutions and businesses of color.

2. $50,000,000 for broadband infrastructure and laptops to ensure all Mississippi students and their families have access to connectivity for tele-health, virtual and distance learning programs.

3. Hazard pay and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the amount of $100,000,000 for employees who could not maintain social distancing in the scope of their employment with priority given to state employees.

4. Existing black owned business COVID-19 recovery funds in the amount of $50,000,000.

5. HBCUs COVID-19 assistance in the amount of $100,000,000 for Jackson State University, Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Rust College, Tougaloo College, Coahoma and Utica Branch of Hinds Community Colleges to assist in their response to the public health issues created by the Coronavirus pandemic. The caucus proposes a $100,000,000 self-sustaining endowment be created from any future Coronavirus relief funds and that earned interest be distributed annually in equal amounts to each HBCU.

6. Federally Qualified Health Centers in the amount of $50,000,000 for testing, contact tracing and increased access to healthcare in under-served areas.

7. Endowment Scholarship Fund for medical doctors and pharmacists in the amount of $30,000,000 to provide incentives for health professionals to reside, start businesses and practice in rural areas and/or African-American communities – areas heavily impacted by
COVID-19.

8. Leadership Academy with an investment of $ 2,000,000 to train community leaders and health activists in the African-American community.

9. Funding to Alcorn State University in the amount of $10,000,000 to fund programs for small farmers to grow produce in food deserts.

10. Jackson State University to develop a Seamless STEM Program pilot with an initial investment of $10,000,000.

11. Mississippi Valley State University in the amount of $10,000,000 to implement a Broadband and Distance Learning Program.

12. Local Grocery Store and Pharmacy Program to combat food deserts and promote health and nutrition throughout the state in the amount of $10,000,000.

13. Housing Assistance Pilot Program to address and mitigate COVID-19 housing issues and promote financial stability in the amount of $25,000,000.

The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus’s Black Empowerment Reset Initiative represents an initial ask of $457,000,000 and includes all funds that have been made available for appropriation purposes.

Other concerns consist of mandatory testing in nursing homes, convalescent homes and all correctional facilities for the protection of employees and their families, in addition to facility residents/inmates. Expansion of SNAP and EBT programs have also been proposed to assist families in need.

The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many of the public health, socio-economic and education disparities that have been impacting the African-American community for many years. The manner in which our families, communities and businesses will recover in the wake of COVID-19 will be unknown for months to come.

The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus calls upon the Mississippi Legislature to make conscious and deliberate efforts to address known barriers to opportunity and progress in the African-American community.

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