Michigan House passes $3.5 billion COVID-19 relief and education package

The Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan as seen during the winter.
The Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan as seen during the winter.(WILX)
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 3:50 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The Republican-led Michigan House approved a $3.5 billion spending package aimed at reopening schools, helping struggling families and businesses and improving the state’s COVID-19 vaccine program.

Republicans announced the plan last week after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a separate $5.6 billion MI COVID Recovery Plan.

Republican State Rep. Thomas Albert, who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said Whitmer’s administration needs more oversight with COVID-19 spending, which the GOP plan would provide. The House plan ties school funding to Whitmer giving up authority to close schools to local health departments.

“This is the best plan out there to help our state bounce back from COVID-19, and it provides accountability on what is spent in response to the administration’s past mismanagement of funds,” he said.

The Republican plan calls for:

  • $510 million in additional SNAP food assistance benefits, along with additional funding for senior meal programs, mental health services, substance abuse prevention and treatment.
  • $200 million to deposit into the Michigan Unemployment Trust Fund.
  • $363 million in Title I funding for schools to reopen for in-person learning by Feb. 15 and test students’ learning levels.
  • $135 million for voluntary summer school programs to help students catch up on learning loss. Teachers taking part in summer school would receive a $1,000 incentive, families would receive $250 to help with costs and support staff would receive $250.
  • $415 million for a grant program to support small businesses affected by coronavirus restrictions, including property tax relief and reimbursement of liquor license or health inspection fees.
  • $144 million in additional funding for COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
  • $22 million in additional funding for distributing the COVID-19 vaccines.

“The governor’s plan focuses on giveaways to big corporations, while ours is laser-focused on helping families and small family businesses survive,” Albert said. “Her plan grows government – ours makes smart investments. Let’s come together, get this done, and provide the people of Michigan with some much-needed hope for a brighter future.”

The House plan, which includes federal and state funding, will be sent to the Michigan Senate for consideration. It would have to receive approval there before it would go to Whitmer for her consideration.

“The people of Michigan are suffering – and this is a continuation of the Legislature’s efforts to get real help to real people as they continue to navigate this devastating pandemic,” said Republican State Rep. Annette Glenn of Midland.

Republican State Rep. David Martin of Davison helped pass a high school course credit recovery program as part of the Republican plan. He said the legislation will help reduce stress, anxiety and depression that students are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Parents and our local school districts know what is best for their families, and they’re sounding the alarm because they’re concerned,” Martin said. “They see their kids falling behind in school.”

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