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Senate Republicans unveil Michigan’s fourth billion-dollar COVID-19 relief plan

Like House Republicans, the Senate GOP caucus wants to take a slow and measured approach to spending
Mid-Michigan lawmakers react to open-carry ban at Michigan Capitol
Mid-Michigan lawmakers react to open-carry ban at Michigan Capitol(Michael Nafso/WJRT)
Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 2:12 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A fourth billion-dollar plan has emerged to help Michigan end the coronavirus pandemic and boost the state economy.

Michigan Senate Republicans released a $2 billion plan on Tuesday to provide continued funding of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine program, provide financial assistance for families and help workers affected by the pandemic. Most of plan allows the state to spend federal funds earmarked for Michigan with strong oversight of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

Republican State Sen. Jim Stamas of Midland, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the Senate GOP plan builds on $4 billion already approved for COVID-19 purposes over the past 10 months.

“With this latest effort, we will have invested over $6 billion in COVID-19 relief to increase testing, distribute lifesaving vaccines, educate our students, and support our front-line workers, our small businesses and those who are out of work,” Stamas said. “This plan is responsive and responsible. It helps meet the dire needs facing our state and our people while also being smart in how we spend federal assistance dollars.”

Like House Republicans, the Senate Republican caucus also wants to avoid “issuing a blank check for the governor to use without a detailed plan” with spending Michigan’s share of federal funding, Stamas said.

Highlights of the Senate Republican plan include:

  • $110 million in additional support for vaccine distribution. One-third of that would boost Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s vaccine plan and two-thirds would be held in reserve until that plan is completed.
  • $170 million to increase pay for direct care workers in hospitals and nursing homes.
  • $220 million in emergency rental assistance to ensure Michiganders can remain in their homes.
  • $25 million for mental health services and substance abuse prevention.
  • $300 million to assist Michigan workers and businesses by offsetting property tax payments for businesses.
  • $150 million for the Michigan Unemployment Trust Fund.
  • $50 million to reimburse Michigan businesses for state licensing and inspection fees.
  • $450 per pupil — or nearly $1 billion — to tackle learning loss with funds for summer school, mental health services and educational assessments.
  • $75 million to increase virus testing for students, teachers and staff in order to help in-person learning resume statewide as soon as possible.

Of the four plans released so far, Whitmer’s is the largest at $5.6 billion. She wants to spend all of the federal money as soon as possible and add $500 million of state funds -- $200 million from the general fund and $300 million from the School Aid Fund.

House Republicans announced and passed a $3.5 billion plan last week. Their plan would require Whitmer to give up her authority to close schools for COVID-19 and pass that to local health departments.

House Democrats also released a $5 billion plan last week, which mirror’s Whitmer’s plan and calls for spending Michigan’s share of federal funding right away.

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