Like hundreds of others, Oxford small enterprise proprietor Kate Rosson is making an attempt to maintain afloat amid the pandemic whereas ready on a Mississippi Again to Enterprise grant.
“This complete Again to Enterprise identify is a joke if there aren’t any companies to get again to,” Rosson stated on Monday. Seven weeks after making use of, Rosson stated she has obtained scant information about her utility, and she or he offers with quite a few different small companies in the identical boat.
“These companies — I’m seeing them shut, seeing loads of them shut each week,” Rosson stated. “… I don’t run the chamber of commerce or something, however I’d enterprise conservatively we may see 20-30% shut in Oxford if we don’t see one thing occur.”
Mississippi, like most different states, is making an attempt to make use of a few of its federal COVID-19 help cash to assist small companies. The Legislature in Might handed measures to offer emergency small enterprise grants, and this system commenced June 11.
However getting that cash out to the companies has been a gradual course of. As of Aug. 28, lower than eight% of the $240 million allotted to the Again to Enterprise program had been authorized for grants, and that’s after a significant spike in approvals late final week. As of early August, solely about 1% of the cash had been distributed.
A Hope Coverage Institute evaluation in mid-August discovered that Mississippi was lagging behind most different Southern states in deploying CARES Act funds to small companies, regardless of having one other program designed to quickly present $2,000 emergency grants robotically to companies shuttered throughout mandated shutdowns early within the pandemic. And Mississippi’s common aid quantity on the time — $1,884 — was beneath the opposite states, equivalent to Alabama at a median of $12,184.
Lawmakers in mid-August returned to Jackson and made modifications to this system, enjoyable and rising potential funds in efforts to hurry up the method and assist extra companies amid the pandemic.
The Mississippi Growth Authority, charged with working the Again to Enterprise grant program — utilizing a personal contractor — vows to maneuver extra quickly.
“Whereas the overview course of is time-consuming, we’re at the moment reviewing roughly 600 purposes per day and issuing funds as quickly as attainable,” stated MDA Director John Rounsaville. “In truth (Friday) we’ve processed 1,076 funds. MDA is dedicated to closing out the Again to Enterprise grants by the top of September, and we’re on observe to perform that.”
Gov. Tate Reeves on Monday stated administration of the grants “has been considerably constrained by U.S. Treasury pointers and considerably by language the Legislature handed.” He stated tweaks the Legislature made at MDA’s request ought to assist and, “I feel we’ll begin seeing extra progress.”
Rosson worries this system will transfer too slowly to assist companies in most dire want.
Rosson’s firm, 662 Advertising and marketing, advertises and direct-markets faculty city small companies’ companies to folks of scholars, together with in Oxford and Starkville. She’s depending on universities and on fellow small companies, each hit exhausting by the pandemic.
Rosson utilized for a Again to Enterprise grant on July 9. Weeks later, making an attempt to get an replace on her standing, the one response she received was that it was “beneath overview.”
Then on Friday, seven weeks after she utilized, she received a “robo-email” telling her the state couldn’t find information of her submitting and paying taxes — a prerequisite for the grant.
“I’ve paid all my taxes, on time,” Rosson stated. “I’m sending them the attachments. I’ve received them digital and printed. I don’t know why they might not discover them.”
Rosson stated she has been compelled to put off two of her six workers.
“If this cash doesn’t come we’re going to must make extra modifications,” Rosson stated, “and I’ve received to stare down what does 4 months from now appear like.”
Grant applications transferring slowly
The Legislature in Might authorized $300 million in CARES Act funding for two Mississippi small business programs.
One, funded at $60 million, was to robotically and rapidly present $2,000 grants — no utility obligatory — to greater than 29,000 outlets shuttered briefly throughout a statewide shutdown mandated early within the pandemic. The state Division of Income was to ship out the checks to a protracted record of small companies together with eating places, barber outlets and clothes shops.
However as of Aug. 28, DOR reported that it had issued solely 14,106 grants totaling $28.2 million.
One caveat of receiving the $2,000 emergency grants was that companies needed to have filed their 2018 or 2019 state earnings tax returns. About 25% of the initial list, DOR reported, had not and were disqualified.
Lawmakers in mid-August expanded the record of companies eligible for the $2,000 emergency grants. However as of final week, lower than half of that cash been distributed.
The second program the Legislature funded, at $240 million, was the Again to Enterprise grants. It permits for grants of up to $25,000 each to companies with lower than 50 workers for bills — however not misplaced income — in the course of the pandemic.
Companies may both apply for a minimal grant of $1,500, subsequently elevated by the Legislature to $three,500, or they might itemize workers and/or prices to obtain as much as $25,000.
For the primary 60 days of this system, $40 million was to be reserved for companies owned by minorities and girls. However the gradual tempo of this system, with lower than eight% of the cash out the door to date, has raised issues that this precedence is not going to be fulfilled as deliberate.
MDA late final week reported:
- 36,550 companies registered for this system
- 21,066 have utilized for grants
- 6,497 grants had been authorized as of Aug. 28, for a complete of $18.6 million
- three,335 minority or women-owned grants had been authorized, for a complete of $9.5 million
- three,162 non-minority grants had been authorized, for a complete of $9.1 million
- 1,578 companies have been deemed non-eligible
- 70% of candidates, 14,802, requested the bottom cost of $three,500
‘It’s simply been a trouble’
Some lawmakers have obtained calls and complaints from struggling companies making an attempt to get grants.
Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, stated folks contacting him report, “It’s simply been a trouble.” He stated he’s notably involved that the precedence of serving to minority-owned companies is throwing in the towel due to delays.
“I’m listening to there has simply been no communication after the applying is made,” Simmons stated. “… time is ticking and there are such a lot of companies harm by the pandemic. Small companies are the heartbeat of our neighborhood and the intent of the Legislature was for this for use rapidly to assist. These companies began being harm in March.”
Home Methods and Means Chairman Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, stated MDA has assured him and different lawmakers that latest legislative modifications will pace this system, and he stated lawmakers would possibly make subsequent modifications if wanted.
Lamar stated he believes the grants may have been used to cowl lack of income or income for companies, however he was unsuccessful in convincing his colleagues that federal laws didn’t stop that.
Senate Finance Chairman Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, in mid-August helped go modifications to the small enterprise applications to hurry them up and assist extra folks. He stated he’s hopeful issues will pace up, however stated this system, just like the pandemic, is uncharted waters for the state and federal governments. Harkins additionally stated the state has to rigorously account for the spending, lest it must repay the cash to the federal authorities.
“I do know folks need it now, however it’s important to be real looking with the dimensions and scope of this,” Harkins stated. “There’s probably not a playbook for what we’ve gone by way of, and I feel we’ve tried to do a fast turnaround to face this program up. However it’s important to have accountability, too, and we’re on the hook for this if the inspector basic is available in and finds one thing incorrect … and Mississippi doesn’t have that cash laying round to pay it again to the federal authorities if one thing is completed incorrect.”
One change that MDA requested to enhance the grant program was denied by lawmakers. The company requested to be allowed to extend administrative spending on this system from $900,000 to $three.6 million. This may enable MDA to “scale the decision heart” to extra rapidly assist candidates, and to cowl correct auditing of this system, Rounsaville stated in a letter to legislative leaders.
Harkins stated: “All people notoriously wants X quantity to function a program, however when it will get all the way down to the lick log, not as a lot is required. Let’s take a look at the precise prices. We will take a look at it later. The governor’s received some funds he can make the most of if wanted, and we will observe up with them if extra is required.”
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in a press release final week stated he had met with MDA.
“They said to me they’d end the allocation to each individual or entity who utilized throughout the subsequent 30 days,” Hosemann stated, including that a problem of concern for him is “the shortage of purposes and the small measurement of the requests from employers.”
“I hope extra employers will apply as quickly as attainable,” Hosemann stated.
Retaining folks employed
The grant applications for small companies are set to run by way of Nov. 1, with any unspent cash then going into the state’s unemployment belief fund.
Matty Bengloff, proprietor of Delta Dairy, an ice cream store in Cleveland, utilized for a Again to Enterprise grant in mid-June and stated his inquiries for months had principally been met with “radio silence.”
“Each time I’ve known as, they’ve been extremely type and gracious on the opposite line, however simply no solutions or timeframe — simply, ‘it’s beneath overview,’” Bengloff stated.
However on Thursday, Bengloff stated, he obtained an electronic mail with a hyperlink for him to observe and reply a couple of remaining questions and supply a couple of additional particulars.
“Then it principally stated one thing alongside the strains of thanks, you’ve been authorized,” Bengloff stated. “That’s nice. Companies want this assist proper now, and the state is offering us help so we will preserve folks employed and preserve bringing in native tax .”