On May 20, 2020, the State of Mississippi established the Back to Business Mississippi Grant Program, made possible with CARES Act funding. These grants will be used to help businesses in Mississippi with 50 or fewer employees recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, including operating expenses and salaries. $300 million bill is comprised of two programs:
• $60 million will be automatically distributed to about 29,000 small businesses in certain industries that were temporarily closed by the governor’s stay-at-home order; those businesses will receive $2,000 each.
• $240 million will be distributed through grants of up to $25,000 that small businesses must apply for; there are special considerations for minority-owned businesses and businesses that did not receive money through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPE).
The Mississippi Development Authority is now accepting applications from small businesses, and the City of Tupelo wants to assist our Tupelo businesses through the application process. There will be a Back to Business Resource & Help Center to assist our small businesses held at the BancorpSouth Arena on June 23, 24 and 25 starting at 9 a.m. Responsible for this resource opportunity for our area businesses are the Tupelo Economic Recovery Task Force, Lee County Supervisors, Community Development Foundation, Three Rivers Planning & Development, United Way of Northeast Mississippi, CREATE Foundation, and Itawamba Community College.
This collaborative public event is designed to help our small businesses navigate through the online application process as easily as possible with assistance in filling out the applications. The application process is lengthy and requires uploading of businesses documents. Computers and scanners will be available for use. There will also be knowledgeable volunteers with accounting, finance and banking backgrounds to assist. Although the volunteers are unable to financially advise, they can help navigate through the application process. I encourage all business owners who plan to attend the workshop to visit www.backtobusinessms.org to familiarize themselves with the application and ensure that they bring all required documentation.
Which businesses are eligible? In order to qualify for the Back to Business Grant, a business must employ 50 or less, be controlled by a Mississippi resident, have been registered with the Mississippi Department of Revenue before March 1, and have filed state taxes in either 2018 or 2019. If the business was formed after Jan. 1, the business must plan to file taxes in 2020. Small businesses can apply for up to $25,000 worth of costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 virus. For the first 21 days of the grant program, the state will be considering applications exclusively from businesses that did not receive coronavirus relief funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. For the first 60 days of the program, $40 million will be specifically reserved for businesses owned by people of color and women.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating economic impact on our city, region and country. This program will help our small business owners in their recovery. The Back to Business Resource and Help Center is our way to help our citizens and neighbors, improve our local economy and assist those trying to recover during these unprecedented circumstances. This will be the Tupelo Economic Task Force’s first opportunity to reach out and assist our businesses. We are committed to each of our businesses in their effort to come back.