Oxford businesses to receive assistance from State Legislature

Published 2:16 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Local small businesses will soon be able to get some assistance from the state.

Last week, Mississippi lawmakers passed a bill to distribute $300 million in relief aid due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The money is part of the $1.25 billion that was awarded to Mississippi as part of the federal CARES Act.

The aid comes at a time when small businesses are beginning to reopen their doors and begin to recoup what they lost while being closed. Some local stores in Oxford and Lafayette County were able to still provide curbside service, but still lost much of they would have made under normal operating circumstances this spring.

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From tax collections for March reported earlier this month, the City of Oxford took in $706,637 in sales tax. Compared to March 2019, the city took in over $137,000 less. Oxford was open most of March, which means the true effect COVID-19 had on local small businesses will not be fully known until April’s tax numbers are reported in June.

“When Mississippi’s economy is thriving, it is because our small businesses are thriving,” Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said last week. “This is crisis has hit our small businesses hard. We need to support them now by pushing the money the federal government provided to the State down to them as quickly as possible.”

The “Back to Business Mississippi Grant Fund” will be distributed as grants, not loans. $60 million will be placed in the Mississippi COVID-19 Relief Payment Fund, which will be the immediate funds sent to businesses.

The COVID Small Business Relief Fund will provide a $2,000 direct and automatic payment to small businesses with under 50 employees who filed tax returns in 2019 or 2018 and were required to close by the State, Oxford’s Board of Aldermen or Lafayette County’s Board of Supervisors’ orders.

The $2,000 automatic payment to businesses is not part of the application program. The following small business taxpayers having 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees that were registered with the Department of Revenue (DOR) before March 1, 2020, had an Employer Identification Number or a Social Security Number before March 1, 2020 and/or had an active DOR withholding account established before March 1, 2020 that were shut down or had their operations restricted via executive or municipal orders will receive the automatic $2,000 payment:

  • Restaurants
  • Personal Care – salons and barbers
  • Amusement and Recreation
  • Schools and Instruction – dance and gym
  • Performing Arts Companies – dance companies
  • Spectator sports
  • Amusement parks and arcades
  • Motion picture and video industries
  • Furniture stores
  • Home furnishings
  • Clothing stores
  • Shoe stores
  • Jewelry, luggage and leather goods
  • Sporting goods, hobby and musical instrument
  • Book stores and news dealers
  • Florists
  • Office supplies and gift stores
  • Used merchandise stores
  • Other miscellaneous retail stores
  • Child care businesses (other than home-based child care)

There are other businesses that can begin the application grant process for $1,500 minimum, with an additional $500. This process allows businesses to apply for up to $25,000 in grants through the Back to Business Grant Fund. Mississippi businesses in good standing with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees that suffered a business interruption due to COVID-19 will be eligible to apply for the grant.

To be eligible, businesses must have filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, or for a business formed between Jan. 1, 2020 and March 1, 2020 that intends to file taxes for tax year 2020. The amount of the grant will be a base amount of $1,500 plus the greater of $500 per full time employee or the amount of itemized “eligible expenses” the applicant demonstrates in their sworn application. The grant for each business cannot exceed $25,000.

Up to 50 percent of the grant will be reduced by the amount of any federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds, Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds and business interruption insurance proceeds received by the grant recipient. For the first 21 days of the application process, applications will only be taken for applicants that have not received PPP or EIDL funds or any federal funds reimbursing COVID-19-related business expenses.

The Mississippi Development Authority is tasked with setting up the application process. The MDA is getting $900,000 to develop the application system or to bid out the project and a time frame of when that will be completed is unknown at this time.