By Gail Brown,

Contributing Writer,

1 MLBC logo or sealNearly 200 business owners and others woke up Saturday morning, May 16, to join an important virtual town hall hosted by the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC). 

Rep. Cheikh A. Taylor (Dem. Dist. 38) welcomed the eager participants. He stated the purpose of the meeting was to share information about the $300 million package from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that “has been diverted to small [Mississippi] businesses.”

Town hall moderator, MLBC Vice Chair Rep. Kabir Karriem (Dem, Dist. 41), said the meeting was also to “provide information about the plight of small businesses, particularly in the African-American community in the midst of this Corona pandemic in real time.”

Vicksburg nail salon business owner Shonna Horton shared her plight. “I’ve pretty much depleted my savings in order to stay afloat,” Horton said. She has been in business over 21 years. “I don’t want to lose my business. I didn’t get in my business to get out,” she stressed.

Other small business owners shared similar troubles. “This COVID19 has us at a very, very bad stand-still,” said Columbus, Miss. native Bobby Jordan. He runs a barbering business that has been in his family for 50 years. “We have a lot of overhead,” he said. Jordan also plans to press forward with his business and take advantage of any available financial relief.

On the topic of relief, Sen. John Horhn, considered a legislative lion, presented the details of the recently passed relief package, Senate Bill 2772. It includes the COVID19 Relief Payment Fund and the Back-to-Business Mississippi Grant Fund, both totaling the aforementioned $300 million.

The grant fund totaling $240 million will be administered by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) which will also develop its grant guidelines. Forty million will go toward minority-owned businesses.

Horhn said businesses with certain NAIC codes under the COVID19 Relief Payment Fund will receive a $2,000 check out of the $60 million allocated. He said owners should call the Mississippi Department of Revenue if they are not sure of their NAIC code. 

All businesses must have been in operation, registered with the Mississippi Department of Revenue, and had an EIN number before March 1, 2020,” Horhn pointed out. 

“This program will move fast; time is of the essence,” Horhn urged. “Get your documents ready; don’t wait. Any unspent money by Nov. 1, 2020 will revert back to the control of the Governor.” 

Also participating in the virtual town hall were Hope Policy Institute of Jackson, Miss. (http://hopepolicy.org/) and Higher Purpose Co. of Clarksdale, Miss. Their representatives provided resources to help black and minority-owned businesses in Mississippi. 

Higher Purpose has a link online to apply for COVID19 Business Relief Funding (https://higherpurposeco.org/), or contact angela@higherpurposeco.org.

Note: The entire recording of the MLBC May 16, 2020 virtual small business COVID19 relief town hall can be heard on its Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/mlbcofficial/ or on its website 

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