News & Events

Mississippi COVID-19 Response Updates

May 14, 2020

Legislature Passes Legislation to Aid Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

The Mississippi Legislature convened this week to begin appropriating $1.25 billion that the state received from the CARES Act.  The first piece addressed by the legislature is relief and assistance for small businesses.  Yesterday, the House and Senate passed SB 2772, appropriating $300 million to create two programs to aid small businesses.

The first program sets aside $60 million for direct payments of $2,000 to qualifying businesses which shut down due to COVID-19.  This program will be administered by the Mississippi Department of Revenue and the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration. Any business that falls under a certain NAISC code and that filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and is still operating will receive a check under this program.

The second program includes $240 million for the “Back to Business Mississippi Grant Fund.” All small businesses with 50 or less employees that experienced interruption due to COVID-19 can apply for grants up to $25,000 through this program.  The Mississippi Development Authority will administer this grant program.  Priority will be given to businesses that did not receive funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance, other federal programs, or compensation from business interruption insurance.  For the first 60 days, $40 million from the grant program will be set aside for minority-owned businesses.

To qualify under either program, a business must:

  • Have registered with the Mississippi Department of Revenue on or before March 1, 2020;
  • Have filed state taxes for the 2018 or 2019 tax year, or plan to file state taxes for 2020 (only businesses which were created on or after January 1, 2020);
  • Not be a subsidiary of a business with 50 or less employees, or be part of or owned by a larger business enterprise with 50 or less employees; and
  • Be controlled by one or more Mississippi residents.

The programs are available to all small businesses, including sole proprietorships.

Another key section of the legislation clarifies that funds derived from SBA loans under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) are not taxable, however eligible expenses for which PPP funds are received may not be itemized as tax deductions.


May 8, 2020

Today, Governor Reeves announced that he will extend his “Safer at Home” executive order through May 25th.  Details of the original “Safer at Home” executive order can be found here.

Earlier this week, Governor Reeves released Executive Order 1478, amending his “Safer at Home” order to allow restaurants to re-open for dine-in eating when meeting certain social distancing and employee requirements.  That order also allows parks to re-open and outdoor recreation to resume.  Gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people for indoor activities and a maximum of 20 people for outside activities.

In his new Executive Order 1480 extending the Safer at Home order until 8:00 a.m. on May 25th, Governor Reeves made amendments allowing barber shops, salons, fitness facilities and gyms to reopen with certain social distancing, employee, and customer requirements to help ensure public safety.


May 4, 2020

Today, Governor Tate Reeves announced the next phase for Mississippi to begin slowly and safely reopening the state’s economy while continuing to flatten the curve. In a new executive order, Governor Reeves lays out the next steps of a measured, strategic plan following our state health officials recommendations to protect lives while restoring Mississippians’ livelihoods. This Executive Order amends his “Safer At Home” order which still remains in effect until Monday, May 11. The new guidelines go into effect at 8:00 AM on Thursday, May 7 until 8:00 AM on Monday, May 11, which is when the Safer At Home order ends as well.

“I don’t want to wait if there are steps that we believe we can safely take now to ease the burden on Mississippians fighting this virus. There are thousands around the state that are set to close their doors for good. They cannot hold on much longer. I hope that this will not only be some much-needed relief for those restaurant employees but also provide for some joy for the people of Mississippi,” said Governor Tate Reeves.

In this latest executive order, the Governor lays out strict social distancing guidelines to begin the process of slowly and safely reopening restaurants and allowing outdoor recreation, including:

RESTAURANTS:

  • Before in-house dining can resume, the entire restaurant and bar must be deep-cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized top to bottom.
  • All restaurants and bars are expected to take every step necessary to implement the regulations, orders, and guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • All employees will be screened daily at the beginning of their shifts, including asking whether they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and have they had a fever in the last 48 hours.
  • Cloth masks must be provided to all employees who come in direct contact with customers. Employees are required to wear that mask throughout their shift.
  • All employees must be provided training on how to limit the spread of COVID-19.
  • No more than 50% seating capacity in both indoor and outdoor dining areas, and floor plans must be updated to ensure at least 6 feet between each group. Party sizes will be limited to no more than 6 people per table.
  • Bars and bar areas that do no offer food services are to remain closed.
  • Minimizing person-to-person contact through technology, like mobile or online reservations and contact-less payment, is encouraged.
  • Customers will be screened upon entry. Restaurants and bars must post signage at each entrance stating no customer with a fever or COVID-19 symptoms are allowed in.
  • Cafeteria-style buffets and food stations that are manned by restaurant staff are allowed with appropriate barriers to limit contact. Self-service buffets, food stations, and drink stations are prohibited.
  • All restaurants and bars must place hand sanitizer at all entrances, hostess stations, in/near bathrooms, and at cashier stations.

OUTDOOR RECREATION:

  • Gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people for indoor activities and a maximum of 20 people for outside activities.
  • Parks can open to the public from 9:00AM – 7:00PM for outdoor recreation under guidance from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and local authorities, with people following social distancing guidelines such as 6 feet separation. Outdoor recreation activities, such as swimming, are also allowed within those same hours.

You can view the text version of Executive Order No. 1478 here.


April 10, 2020

Governor Tate Reeves signed two new executive orders to protect healthcare professionals from transmission and liability as they aid in Mississippi’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following the recommendations issued by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), Executive Order No. 1470 defines elective surgeries and restricts all non-essential elective surgeries and medical and surgical procedures.

Governor Reeves issued this order to ensure that PPE and medical supplies would not be depleted by medically unnecessary surgeries, as well as protect the health and safety of healthcare professionals needed to help in the COVID-19 response. The Executive Order will be in effect from today, April 10, 2020, at 5:00 PM until April 27, 2020 at 8:00 AM. State, county, and local law enforcement are authorized to enforce it.

In preparation for the projected surge in Mississippi, Executive Order No. 1471 creates additional protections from civil liability for healthcare workers and facilities assisting outside their normal operations in the response to COVID-19. This order is in effect until May 15, 2020 at 11:59 PM.

Because of the urgent need to maintain a robust response supported by all available healthcare professionals, Governor Reeves has also authorized MSDH, the Mississippi State Board of Nursing, and the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure to make, amend, and rescind any orders, rules, or regulations deemed necessary for our state’s healthcare professionals to help with the response efforts.

View both orders here: Executive Order No. 1470, Executive Order No. 1471.


April 7, 2020

After listening to concerns brought forth by the Secretary of State’s Office, Governor Tate Reeves ordered to waive the in-person requirement for notarizing documents in Mississippi for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, subject to guidance provided by Secretary of State Michael Watson. Executive Order 1467, effective April 7, 2020, authorizes remote notarizations and the Secretary of State’s temporary guidance.

The requirements for remote notarization and remote online notarization are as followed:

  • Notaries must be a currently commissioned notary in Mississippi, in good standing.
  • Before utilizing remote notarization, notaries must give notice to the Secretary of State by emailing the Remote Notary Notification to remotenotary@sos.ms.gov. A fillable Remote Notary Notification form can be found on the SOS website https://www.sos.ms.gov/Content/documents/Business/notaries/FillableRemoteNotaryNotificationForm.pdf.
  • Using the Remove Notary Notification form, notaries must identify the communications technology vendor they will use and confirm that the vendor allows them to, (1) view and hear the remotely-located principal in real-time; (2) verify the principal’s identity through one or more of the methods set forth in the Order; and (3) record the entire notary transaction.
  • For each notarial act conducted remotely, notaries must create and retain an audio-video recording of the entire notarial act. They must keep this electronic record just as you would your notary journal or log book.
  • For each notarial act conducted remotely, notaries must note in their notary journal or logbook details about the notarial act, including that the notarial act was conducted for a remotely-located principal using communications technology.
  • Notaries may charge your standard $5 fee, plus the cost of using the communications technology, not to exceed $25.

Additional Information:

  1. Executive Order 1467 is only a temporary waiver of the in-person requirement of the Mississippi Notary Statute and Rules.
  2. Executive Order 1467 requires a notary to use a communications technology vendor designed for the purpose of facilitating remote notarizations, as opposed to services that primarily offer video-conferencing ability. Such purpose-designed services include the ability to both see and hear and a remotely located individual. It is your responsibility to choose the vendor.
  3. Before utilizing remote notarization, you must give notice to the Secretary of State by emailing the Remote Notary Notification form to remotenotary@sos.ms.gov. A fillable Remote Notary Notification form can be found on their website https://www.sos.ms.gov/Content/documents/Business/notaries/FillableRemoteNotaryNotificationForm.pdf.

It is important to note the difference between remote notarization and remote online notarization. Remote notarization means that the notary and principal are in different locations, but the documents will be exchanged by mail. The principal will physically sign an original, witnessed by the notary through the technology platform, but then mail the original to the notary for the notary to physically affix his or her seal.  In such a case, the date of notarization will be the date that the transaction is witnessed online, not the date the notary’s stamp is affixed to the document. However, the original will be the document with the principal’s physical signature and the notary’s physical stamp.

Remote online notarization means that the notary and principal are in different locations. Still, the principal signs electronically, the notary affixes his or her stamp electronically, and the original document is an electronic document. The electronic document can be electronically filed in courthouses that accept online filings.  For courthouses that do not accept online filings, Executive Order 1467 provides a way for the notary to certify the electronic document into an original that can be filed by paper.

Notaries public can still perform notarial acts in person during the state of emergency. However, notaries public should use their best judgment on whether the notarial act is considered essential and abide by social distancing, CDC, and MSDH guidance in the conduct of any essential notarial services.  No Mississippi notary can be forced to perform notary services by remote notarization.

For additional information, email remotenotary@sos.ms.gov or call the Secretary of State Business Services Division at 601-359-1633.


April 2, 2020

On April 2, 2020, Chris Wells, the Interim Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, issued guidance to the regulated community regarding compliance with regulatory requirements during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Read the guidance here.


April 1, 2020

Today, Governor Tate Reeves signed Executive Order 1466 establishing a statewide shelter-in-place for Mississippi to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of all who call our state home. The Mississippi Department of Health determined that our state has now reached a critical point in the cycle of the outbreak, and Governor Reeves announced his decision to issue the shelter-in-place order for Mississippi at a press conference this afternoon. Mississippi is rapidly increasing testing and strictly enforcing quarantines for anyone that investigators believe has been exposed to the virus. The shelter-in-place will begin this Friday, April 3, 2020 at 5:00 PM and be in effect until Monday, April 20, 2020 at 8:00 AM.

In this latest executive order, the Governor lays out the guidelines of the statewide shelter-in-place to slow the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Individuals are to stay at home except for the limited allowances in the executive order.
  • When outside of their homes, people must follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoid groups of 10 or more.
  • Evictions are suspended, though people are still required to pay any rent or make any mortgage payments.
  • All nonessential businesses are to stop all activities other than those necessary for minimum operations (e.g. payroll, health insurance, security) and enabling employees to work from home.
  • Social and other non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people must be cancelled or rescheduled.
  • Restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery service.
  • People may leave their homes only to perform essential activities, such as caring for someone in the vulnerable population, getting food or necessary supplies, and working for an essential business.
  • Individual outdoor recreation is encouraged, but not group recreation or activities such as soccer or basketball games

March 31, 2020

Today, Governor Tate Reeves signed a new executive order establishing a shelter-in-place for Lauderdale County to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of all Mississippians. Read the order in its entirety here.

The Mississippi Department of Health identified Lauderdale County as the first localized region for additional restrictions, and Governor Reeves announced the shelter-in-place order for Lauderdale County at a press conference this morning. This follows the “Identify and Isolate” strategy that the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, laid out at a press conference last week.

Mississippi is rapidly increasing testing and strictly enforcing quarantines for anyone that investigators believe has been exposed to the virus. Two-week shelter-in-place orders are a tool to allow health officials to flex resources to areas that carry special risk. The shelter-in-place will begin at 10:00 PM and be in effect through April 14, 2020.

In this latest executive order, the Governor lays out the guidelines of the shelter-in-place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Lauderdale County, including:

  • Individuals are to stay at home except for the limited allowances in the executive order.
  • When outside of their homes, people must follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoid groups of 10 or more.
  • Evictions are suspended, though people are still required to pay any rent or make any mortgage payments.
  • All nonessential businesses are to stop all activities other than those necessary for minimum operations (e.g. payroll, health insurance, security) and enabling employees to work from home.
  • Social and other non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people must be cancelled or rescheduled.
  • Restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery service.
  • People may leave their homes only to perform essential activities, such as caring for someone in the vulnerable population, getting food or necessary supplies, and working for an essential business.
  • Individual outdoor recreation is encouraged, but not group recreation or activities such as soccer or basketball games.

March 27, 2020

Last evening, Governor Tate Reeves issued a supplement to Executive Order 1463 to clarify and provide direction for leaders across the state to protect the health and well-being of Mississippians during the outbreak of COVID-19. See the full supplement here. 

“Consulting with our state’s health experts, we have established a statewide standard of social distancing and defining essential businesses to slow the spread. There should be no confusion about my intent and commitment to protecting public health. We must come together as leaders, as a state, to ensure the health of all who call Mississippi home. We are all in this fight together,” said Governor Tate Reeves.

In this supplement to Executive Order No. 1463, Governor Reeves provides clarity to ensure uniform statewide parameters to slow the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • No measures can be adopted that are less restrictive than the executive order.
  • Any existing local measures can remain in effect under the executive order, as long as they provide the same minimum standards established in the executive order and do not impose restrictions that would prevent essential services from operating.

March 25, 2020

Gov. Reeves has issued several Executive Orders (EO), and perhaps the most significant one was issued yesterday evening with EO 1463. See the full EO here. Gov. Reeves has resisted the calls to issue a shelter-in-place order as some states have done, and we expect this could be as close as we get to such an order. In summary:

  • Mississippians must avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 people or more until April 17th (This excludes airports, medical facilities, grocery/department stores, factories/manufacturing facilities)
  • Suspends dine-in services at restaurants and bars across the state, instructing them to use drive-thru, take-out, or delivery services until April 17th
  • Restricts visitation to hospitals, nursing homes, or long-term care facilities until April 17th (exception for end of life circumstances)
  • Directs businesses to allow every employee possible to work from home
  • Defines essential businesses to give clear guidance to partners at the local level and ensure no essential services are closed. Essential businesses are defined as public safety and first responders, all essential healthcare operations, essential infrastructure (i.e. power, transportation, communications, etc.), manufacturing, agriculture, essential retail, media, education (including meals), financial services, professional services, construction, military personnel, childcare, religious entities, etc.

In addition to this order, Governor Reeves has also issued several other orders dealing with various measures related to education, unemployment, and testing. These can all be found on the Secretary of State’s website. Additionally, the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, under the purview of Governor Reeves, has requested and been granted waivers that will allow the division more flexibility to combat and respond to COVID-19 and the needs of Mississippi Medicaid beneficiaries.  You can read details of the waivers here.


Mississippi Legislature Suspends Session

The Mississippi Legislature has adjourned until Wednesday, April 1st at 2:00 p.m. in response to growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.  HCR 65 was passed to suspend the session and allow the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House authority to reconvene at an agreed upon time with the advice of State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. The legislature also pushed the legislative dates back at least 30-days which may be a better indication of when they plan to reconvene. The new sine die date is June 9th, and all deadlines will be pushed back accordingly. Before adjourning, the legislature also approved SCR 561, which allowed for the adoption of HB 1647, which authorizes leave with pay for local government employees during a declared state of emergency.


Governor Reeves Issues Emergency Proclamation and Executive Orders

In addition, Governor Reeves issued a state of emergency proclamation for Mississippi on March 14th and has since issued several emergency orders in response to COVID-19.

  • Executive Order 1458 allows state agencies to determine which state employees are essential and send others home. It also ensures state employees receive paid leave due to absences related to coronavirus.  Additionally, the order instructs school districts to work with the Mississippi Department of Education on distance learning initiatives and asks districts to maintain access to free and reduced lunches for students.
  • Executive Order 1459 activates the Mississippi National Guard to support COVID-19 testing efforts.
  • Executive Order 1460 orders schools to remain closed through April 17th.  The Governor also granted flexibility to the State Board of Education to provide waivers and flexibility for end of year testing and accountability measures.