This week at your Senate, we continued to remain recessed in the face of the COVID-19 state of emergency. Originally, the Senate was set to reconvene on April 1st but due to the continued increase in cases, the date has not been determined.
As of Sunday, March 29th, our state faces 758 reported cases with 7 in Scott County, 1 in Newton County and 15 in Lauderdale County. It is crucial for everyone to continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC including limiting social contact as much as possible.
This past week, the Governor entered an executive order that is aimed at reinforcing the current recommendations of the CDC. Many have questioned the decision to not place the entire state under a “shelter in place” order. Each local government has the authority to enter into local orders to protect the citizens therein. Many municipalities have taken the step to enact curfews and other actions.
As this virus continues to move through our state, I encourage you to pay attention to the news announcements regarding additional measures.
In other news, I continue to commend our medical professionals, our first responders, our pharmacies and our essential businesses as they continue to work to serve the community.
For those employees that have been laid off due to the closures, I understand that it has been difficult to get through to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security for unemployment benefits. MDES has experienced an over 500% increase in applications for unemployment benefits and an increase in calls from 600 per week to over 6,000.
To battle this, the agency has expanded hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and has hired over 70 temporary employees. To find out more information or to file online, go to www.mdes.ms.gov or contact the call center at 1-888-844-3577.
Lastly, I’d like to briefly touch on the action taken by President Trump and Congress this week. They passed into law the CARES Act which is aimed at providing some relief to our nation. Provisions of this Act include:
Assistance for the healthcare industry by providing funds for healthcare providers, for developing preventative measures, and for Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund to empower agencies to respond effectively.
This act provides support for families by providing tax free payments beginning at $1,200 per person, by providing states with additional unemployment benefits, by providing protection from foreclosures and evictions on federally insured mortgages, and to provide emergency funding for child care providers.
This act attempts to bolster the economy by providing SBA loans for struggling businesses, to provided payroll tax credits for small businesses, and to strengthen small business by other tax incentives.
As we all continue to fight this together, we are all faced with questions of uncertainty. The one thing to remember is that we are a resilient state with hard working citizens, and we must bind together to support each other. As always, thank you for letting me serve you.