Mississippi Advocacy Network for Change: Use American Rescue Plan to Help Mississippians in Need

Jackson, Miss. ‒ The Mississippi Advocacy Network for Change (MAN-C), a coalition of statewide Mississippi organizations dedicated to social justice and improving the lives of all Mississippians, has highlighted four bills that use provisions in the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act to address pressing concerns facing communities in the state.

The bills introduced this week by Mississippi Senate Minority Leader Derrick Simmons (D-Greenville) and Mississippi House Minority Leader Representative Robert Johnson (D-Natchez) before the Mississippi legislature will expand Mississippians’ access to broadband (SB 2535); provide hazard pay to frontline workers (SB 2902); ensure American Rescue Plan Act funds are spent appropriately (SB 2805); and extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for new mothers (HB 998).

“The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed in Congress last spring, provides states help in speeding up the country’s recovery from economic and health effects related to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession,” said Oleta Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office. “The Mississippi legislature received $1.8 billion in ARPA funding for allocations from now through December 2024. To shield critical, low wage Mississippi healthcare workers from another round of financial despair and improve the lives and livelihoods for Mississippi’s most vulnerable and impacted families, especially mothers and children, the Mississippi Advocacy Network for Change supports these bills.”

The Helping Mississippians Afford Broadband Act will alleviate one barrier to broadband access by providing direct broadband subsidy to those in need. Access to broadband is a necessity, not a luxury. Every day, Americans rely on broadband to work, play, live, and learn. However, over 40 million Americans lack access to broadband, and almost one in four Mississippians lack access to home broadband. This digital divide particularly harms persons of color, rural residents, and socioeconomically disadvantaged Americans. Lack of access compounds the many challenges these groups already face.

Another bill addresses pay for pandemic workers, including social workers. “As a licensed professional social worker, it is very humbling to help and advocate for families on the front lines during a time of the COVID -19 pandemic and to walk away from each client knowing that you have met one of your NASW ethical principles of service. With support and resources, we can truly serve far beyond the pandemic as a profession,” said Dr. Gwen Bouie-Haynes, Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers Mississippi Chapter. “These workers put their lives on the line every day so others can continue their lives, and they deserve compensation for their sacrifices.”

Senator Derrick Simmons (D-Greenville) has introduced SB 2902, which will justly compensate these workers by providing them a one-time bonus of $1,500 in hazard pay.

“By nearly any metric, America trails its developed counterparts in caring for mothers and babies, particularly women of color and their children,” said Vangela Wade, President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice. “For over six decades, Black women have died from child birth at three to four times the rate of their white counterparts. This is an injustice that must be made just. Mississippi must invest in its human infrastructure.”

Representative Robert Johnson (D-Natchez) has introduced HB 998, which will expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from 3 months to 12 months which will help all Mississippi mothers, especially those with heightened health disparities due to the pandemic.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center is proud to partner with the Mississippi Advocacy Network for Change on addressing issues affecting millions of vulnerable Mississippians through these bills before the Mississippi legislature,” said Waikinya Clanton, State Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The bills allow for us to close the gaps of inequity by providing common sense solutions to looming issues faced by Mississippians daily. Passage of these bills will assist in ensuring more fair and equitable life experience for all of us.”

 These four bills address important issues facing Mississippians. While the Mississippi Advocacy Network for Change stresses that more work needs to be done, especially in the realm of voting rights and equal pay, it fully supports these bills that will swiftly make a positive impact on the lives of many Mississippians.

To view the full bills, please go to:

SB 2902 – (“Hazard Pay for Essential Health Care Workers” Grant Program”)

HB 998 – (“Medicaid; extend coverage for eligible women for 12 months postpartum”)

SB 2535 – (“Helping Mississippians Afford Broadband Act”)

SB 2805 – (“American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Ombudsman”)