JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As lawmakers enter the final days of the legislative session, they’re also considering the budget impacts of the federal coronavirus relief dollars.
“We have in Mississippi received, whether you wanted it or not, about $5.7 billion,” said Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann.
Hosemann noted that a cash infusion this large could obviously be transformational. So, how will it be used?
Well, they don’t have all those answers yet.
But some of the money will go directly to schools, some is designated for broadband expansion and $1.8 billion of it will go directly to the state for allocation, which may include infrastructure or economic losses from the pandemic.
“All of this amount of money that specialty uses to it and what you do is you go to people with expertise and say, ‘We’ve got this part, advise us as a legislature on how to best spend it,’” noted Hosemann.
But, there are strings attached, said Hosemann.
“We can’t just go across our entire budget and allocate everybody $1.8 billion or whatever the number is,” he said. “We have to follow the federal guidelines.”
This week, the legislature passed a teacher pay raise of $1,000 for most teachers and $1,100 for newer teachers.
“It’s a step in the right direction, a small step,” said The Parents’ Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome.
You may be wondering if some of that federal money could be funneled into larger pay raises. As Hosemann noted, it has strings attached but it’s also not the kind of steady stream of money educators say they need.
“This is one-time money,” said Loome. “It’s a lot of one-time money. But it is one-time money and you cannot use or should not use one-time money to pay teacher salaries because it’s going to run out and then you’ll be in a situation where you would have to lay off teachers or reduced pay considerably or take some type of dramatic step that you wouldn’t want to take.”
Hosemann says that unlike the CARES Act money, the state will have three years to divvy up the relief funds. He’d like to see investments that could have longer range impacts.