The health & safety of our MEC members and the Mississippi business community is of paramount importance. As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States, it is important that Mississippi is prepared to handle the issue. This is a rapidly-changing situation that is continually being monitored by the CDC and the Mississippi State Department of Health as more cases in the U.S. are expected.

Below are resources we have pulled together to help educate employers on the coronavirus:

COVID-19 News

Mississippi Banks Provide Over $3 Billion to Small Businesses in State

More than 40,000 Mississippi businesses have received Payroll Protection Program loans, totaling more than $3 billion. According to information provided by the Mississippi Bankers Association, Mississippi ranks as one of the top states in assisting small businesses. According to the latest numbers, there have been 40,362 loans approved for a total of $3.1 billion in the two rounds of combined PPP funding. This represents 87 percent of the state’s payroll, according to Bloomberg News.

These successes reflect a strong and dedicated banking industry in Mississippi, but they also reflect hours of preparation from determined bankers around the state.

“In my 40 years of community banking, the last few weeks have been the most challenging and the most rewarding,” said Dan Rollins, chairman and CEO of BancorpSouth, and Past Chair of MEC.

The Mississippi legislature agreed on Wednesday to create a grant program for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This program allocates $300 million of the federally allocated $1.25 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to be split into two programs:
 
  • $60 million to provide $2,000 grants to small businesses that were forced to close in response to the pandemic.
  • $240 million will be appropriated for aid to small businesses. Companies that have not received aid from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will have first priority. Eligible businesses could receive grants ranging from $1,500 to $25,000.
 
Under the program, overseen by the Mississippi Development Authority, any business that existed prior to March 1 and has 50 or fewer employees is eligible to apply. The proposal has been sent to Governor Tate Reeves for approval.
 
Governor Tate Reeves recently announced efforts to extend the unemployment benefits provided to help Mississippi workers and their families hard-hit by COVID-19.
 
Working to support Mississippi’s dedicated workforce, Governor Reeves signed a new executive order updating instructions to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) to further relieve undue burdens caused by the pandemic. This new executive order replaces the Governor’s initial unemployment order, Executive Order No. 1462, which began the process of expediting payments to unemployed Mississippians.
 
Updates under Executive Order No. 1481 to support Mississippi’s employers and workforce include:
 
For employers:
  • Any charges related to COVID-19 and associated charges to both rated and reimbursable employers’ accounts are waived from March 8, 2020, to June 27, 2020. Interest will not be accrued during this period.
  • The First Quarter 2020 pay date imposed for contributions of both rated and reimbursable employers has been suspended and moved to July 31, 2020.
  • Penalties for late reporting and contribution payments from March 8, 2020 to July 31, 2020, are suspended.
For workers:
 
  • Those unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because they have contracted the virus, have been under quarantine, or have had their movements restricted, will be interpreted as such for claims filed between March 8, 2020, to June 27, 2020.
  • Work registration requirements from March 8, 2020, to June 27, 2020, are suspended, and individuals are not required to report in-person to help limit transmission.

 

Learn More

Read Executive Order 1481

Mississippi is among the top states in implementing the Payroll Protection loan program. About 95 percent of eligible small businesses have qualified for the PPP loans and received the assistance, according to a Bloomberg analysis. The state also leads the nation with the highest ratio of PPP funds approved relative to total small employer business payroll, an Economic Innovation Group report shows. Mississippi banks and financial institutions are continuing to assist small businesses with the program.  
 
“The broad market penetration of PPP loans in our state is directly attributable to the commitment that Mississippi bankers make every day to serve their local communities,” said Gordon Fellows, President and CEO of the Mississippi Bankers Association. “Our banks are an integral part of their local economies, and they’ve all been intensely focused on helping as many local businesses as possible with PPP loans since the beginning of the program. Our members are proud of their work in deploying PPP loans and will continue to do whatever they can to continue supporting Mississippi’s employers as we all work together to overcome the economic challenges created by COVID-19.”
 
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Treasury provided clarification that recipients of loans for less than $2 million are automatically considered in compliance with the good faith certification the borrower must make to justify receiving the loan. All PPP loans in excess of $2 million, and other PPP loans as appropriate, will be subject to review by SBA for compliance with program requirements.

Financial worries, uncertainty about COVID-19 recurrence, employee resources and consumer confidence top the list of concerns reported by more than 1,000 business decision-makers surveyed across the state.

The joint survey was conducted by the Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Manufacturers Association and Mississippi Economic Development Council to gain insight from business leaders and owners. More than 1,000 respondents representing a wide cross-section of sectors and all geographic regions of the state answered questions regarding COVID-19 and its impact.

Nearly 88 percent of Mississippi business leaders report their operations have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 64 percent reporting revenue drops of up to 60 percent.

Sixty percent of the organizations were considered essential, and 60 percent also were small businesses. The research was conducted by Godwin, a Jackson-based communications and research firm, in late April.

When asked about concerns regarding COVID-19, nearly 45 percent of the respondents voiced business and financial trepidations, including financial impact on operations and capital, decreased consumer confidence and spending, lower productivity and even going out of business. Twenty-two percent surveyed expressed anxiety over the quarantine period and uncertainty of COVID-19 outbreaks in the future.

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • 47 percent of the total respondents reported current employment decreases, with a further 42 percent stating no impact on staffing to date (not yet making staff adjustments, either number or hours or both)
  • 70 percent expect additional revenue losses over the next 30 to 60 days and 46 percent anticipate staff reductions in the next 30 to 60 days
  • 71 percent have placed restrictions on employees entering workplace, and 84 percent are restricting non-employees entering the workplace
  • 49 percent said none of their employees can work remotely
  • 37 percent of the organizations reported receiving benefits from the stimulus program

Learn More

Click Here to View Survey Results

Governor Tate Reeves recently announced that he has asked leaders of Mississippi’s business community to chart a course for economic recovery and re-opening Mississippi’s economy.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi has seen a nearly 9,000% increase in unemployment claims. Small businesses and their employees are struggling to stay afloat. The Governor’s Commission for Economic Recovery will look at the impact on every industry, geographical region, and community and help the Governor transform our state’s economy under these new conditions through tailored solutions.

The Mississippi Economic Council is part of this group, assisting with data, research, and general strategy.

“We need Mississippians helping Mississippians. I have asked a trusted group of our state’s top business minds to do just that. Under the ‘Restart Mississippi’ umbrella, they are going to develop a series of recommendations and goals for our new economy. They will study the impact of COVID-19 on our workforce and small businesses. And they will help us recover—day by day,” said Governor Tate Reeves.

The Governor has asked Joe Sanderson of Sanderson Farms, a longtime business leader in our state, to serve as the chairman of the effort. Joining Joe Sanderson, this commission will be comprised of leaders representing Mississippi’s different regions and industries.

Bringing together large economic drivers and small business leaders, this private-sector group will develop recommendations for state leaders on economic recovery to help Mississippi businesses and employees navigate our new economy. The commission will study the economic impact of COVID-19 on different industries, communities, and regions with one goal: to develop a path forward to Restart Mississippi.

The full list of members with biographies can be found at restartms.ms.

Governor Tate Reeves signed a new executive order establishing a statewide Safer at Home order for Mississippi to continue protecting public health while beginning the process to safely reopen the state's economy.

In his new executive order, Governor Reeves lays out a measured and strategic plan to reopen Mississippi while continuing to flatten the curve and conserve healthcare resources. Consulting with our state health experts, the Executive Order sets out guidelines for certain business operations and healthcare activities to safely resume.

Certain businesses previously closed under the shelter-in-place are allowed to reopen, while following health and safety mandates recommended by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH).

Places of amusement or entertainment, like movie theaters and museums, and businesses that cannot avoid sustained person-to-person contact, like salons or gyms, will remain closed, other than curbside pick-up, drive-thru, or delivery for retail sale of their products but not services.

Learn More

Click Here to Read the Executive Order

Click Here to Read FAQs

Individuals residing in Mississippi who were unable to work because of the COVID-19 public health emergency may apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) announced recently.

People who live or work in Mississippi and could not work as a “direct result” of the pandemic that occurred on February 2, 2020 and ongoing, are entitled to apply and may be eligible to receive PUA.

Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, persons employed by a church or religious entity, employees of non-profit organizations, gig economy workers, those who do not have sufficient wages in covered employment during the last 18 months to establish a claim under regular unemployment compensation, and those who became unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of the pandemic, may be eligible for PUA.

Persons eligible to apply for PUA are individuals who: (1) have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or, are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis; (2) became the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19; (3) quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19; (4) their place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; (5) have a member of their household that has been diagnosed with COVID-19; (6) is providing care for a family member or a member of their household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; (7) has a child or other person in the household for which they have primary caregiving responsibility that is unable to attend school or another facility closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work; (8) is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; (9) was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and; (10) is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

Individuals in Mississippi can apply online 24 hours a day at www.mdes.ms.gov or by calling toll-free 1-833-919-0334 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus that causes flu-like illness ranging from mild to severe, with symptoms of fever, coughing, fatigue and difficulty breathing. The CDC and MSDH are working to detect, contain and limit the spread of cases in the U.S. and Mississippi should they occur. MSDH is actively preparing doctors and hospitals on how to respond safely and effectively to COVID-19 in Mississippi.

Like the flu, COVID-19 is thought to be spread person-to-person by close contact (within 6 feet) and by coughing or sneezing. Other possible routes of transmission, such as touching surfaces contaminated by the virus, are also being investigated.

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

The Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC Community Recommendations Through March 31, 2020:

  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • Restrict visitation to long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
  • Discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in restaurants, bars, and food courts. Use drive-through, pickup and delivery options.
  • If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home.

Even with these new guidelines in place, it is still essential that everyone continues to practice basic preventative measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean surfaces and objects that are touched regularly
  • Stay home if you do become sick

Employer Resources

It is important for employers to maintain open lines of communication with their employees. To that end, employers should update contact information for employees if necessary and stay informed of the latest news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease.” The CDC recommends that employers begin implementing the following steps now:

  • Encourage employees with acute respiratory illnesses to stay home;
  • Separate sick employees;
  • Emphasize cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene;
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning;
  • Advise employees about the risks prior to travel to countries that have had a significant outbreak; and
  • Consider informing employees in the case of possible exposure in the workplace.

The Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC Community Recommendations Through March 31, 2020:

  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • Restrict visitation to long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
  • Discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in restaurants, bars, and food courts. Use drive-through, pickup and delivery options.
  • If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home.

Even with these new guidelines in place, it is still essential that everyone continues to practice basic preventative measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean surfaces and objects that are touched regularly
  • Stay home if you do become sick

The CDC also recommends that employers create response plans now that the outbreak has reached the United States.

Employers should create response plans that would:

  • Provide flexibility and input from employees
  • Reduce transmission among staff
  • Protect people at higher risk for adverse health complications
  • Maintain business operations
  • Minimize adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains
  • Share best practices

Can your business allow short-term telecommuting? Flexible hours? The cancellation of some or all business travel? Fewer in-person meetings? There is no single answer to these questions for every business.

Can employers require employees to undergo medical examinations?

As noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its guidance, “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” employers may not require medical examinations under the ADA unless the medical exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Whether a medical exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity depends upon the facts presented (e.g., what are the employee’s symptoms, where has the employee been, etc.) and the latest CDC guidance on coronavirus.

What actions can employers take in the case of a pandemic?

In the case of a pandemic, employers can send employees home if they show coronavirus-like symptoms at work. Furthermore, employers may ask employees if they are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms as long as they are mindful of confidentiality obligations. Finally, if an employee returns from traveling during a pandemic, an employer may ask the employee whether they are returning from a location where that individual may have been exposed to the virus.

Obviously, this is an evolving issue. The businesses that plan for it will be in a better position to deal with it if it becomes a crisis in the United States.

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