State Rep. Matt Hall, of Marshall, recently voted in favor of a comprehensive plan to protect public health and help Michigan bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan, which has received final legislative approval, helps struggling families and job providers, gets students back in classrooms and protects people from the virus with more resources for vaccination and testing.
“This balanced approach is how we should be addressing this emergency,” Hall said. “Small business owners have been put out of work through no fault of their own by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and still need help in their road to recovery. Families and kids have had their lives disrupted by burdensome executive orders. We also must work to get needed vaccine to people as we combat the virus.
“This plan provides real relief across the state as we begin to return to normalcy.”
Highlights of the estimated $4.25 billion plan including state and federal resources:
Helping families: The plan provides $600 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding, while other investments support meals for seniors, mental health, and substance abuse prevention and treatment. Families also are eligible for rent and utility assistance, and a deposit into the unemployment benefits trust fund helps ensure those laid off because of COVID-19 restrictions will continue to receive the benefits they’ve been promised.
Helping kids: The plan provides additional funding for districts committing to restore in-person instruction by March 22 – the equivalent of about $450 per student – and funds benchmark assessments to help determine where students stand after this tumultuous year. A voluntary K-8 summer school program and a credit recovery program for high school students would be funded with $135 million. The summer school plan additionally provides $1,000 incentives for participating teachers, $250 incentives for participating staff, and up to $250 to help families cover associated costs such as transportation and tutoring.
Helping job providers: The plan supports small businesses such as local restaurants and bars restricted by the governor’s COVID-19 orders with a $426 million grant program. The program includes help with reimbursement of liquor, health inspection and other fees. The package also includes support for property tax relief, and help for afflicted job providers who pay into the unemployment benefits system.
Fighting the virus: The plan immediately provides more support for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, in addition to the funds that were previously approved by the Legislature in December. Direct care workers on the front lines of fighting the virus would receive an additional $2.25 per hour through September.
The plan does not include money for some items the governor proposed – such as corporate giveaways for new job creation – because those issues aren’t related to COVID-19. Hall said the comprehensive plan approved by the Legislature also keeps some federal resources in reserve to ensure they are available when needed and not wasted.
“This oversight is crucial to holding Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration accountable and making sure money is spent responsibly,” Hall said. “This is always a function of the Legislature, and it’s immensely important when we find ourselves in a crisis. Targeted spending will lead to a balanced, thought-out approach as we work to support people across Michigan.”
The plan also provides an opportunity for the governor to allow local health departments to make their own science-based decisions about whether their local schools should be open in the future – rather than leaving the entire state vulnerable to the governor’s unilateral decisions.
House Bills 4047-9 will now advance to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her consideration.
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