Michigan Republicans close to $4.2 billion COVID-19 spending plan with executive branch limits

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: Mar. 2, 2021 at 7:39 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Republicans leading the Michigan House and Senate say they are close to approving a $4.2 billion COVID-19 relief plan, which would impose limits on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

State Sen. Jim Stamas of Midland and State Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowell, both Republicans who chair appropriations committees, say the Legislature is working toward final approval of the plan to spend Michigan’s share of COVID-19 relief funds on schools, testing, vaccinations and struggling residents.

The State House approved a $3.5 billion spending plan in February and the State Senate followed with a $2 billion plan. Both plans propose holding some of Michigan’s $5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief while increasing scrutiny of how the Whitmer administration spends the money.

Whitmer proposed the $5.6 billion MI COVID Recovery plan in January that calls for spending all of Michigan’s federal COVID-19 funds right away, along with over $500 million in additional state funds.

The Senate approved a set of compromise spending bills on Tuesday and the House is planning to vote on them Wednesday. If lawmakers give final approval Wednesday, the $4.2 billion plan would go to Whitmer for her signature.

“This plan responsibly and effectively puts billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 funding to use meeting our state’s most critical needs — getting more people the lifesaving vaccines, increasing testing and supporting our struggling families and job providers,” said Stamas.

House Bill 4047 calls for spending nearly $2.3 billion on continued COVID-19 vaccination efforts, increased diagnostic testing, help for for direct health care workers, expanded mental health services, support for struggling businesses, a contribution to the Unemployment Trust Fund and emergency rental housing assistance.

The bill would provide $204 million for COVID-19 testing up front and an additional $370 million later if Whitmer signs Senate Bill 1 into law, which would require the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to seek legislative approval for emergency orders longer than 28 days.

“COVID-19 has been devastating on its own and the governor’s restrictions — among the harshest in the nation — have made things even harder,” Albert said. “We’re providing another chance for the governor to stop focusing on her own power and start helping Michigan families, children and job providers.”

House Bill 4048 would provide an additional $2 billion for schools, including a $450 per-pupil increase to support programs helping students overcome learning loss, $189 million to support summer school, $10 million to reimburse parents for summer school expenses, $20 million for mental health services and $11.7 million to assess students’ learning levels.

Republicans also are offering $87 million for Governor’s Emergency Education Relief grants to help nonpublic schools.

“While providing vital rental assistance, supporting our front-line workers and maintaining oversight over this important funding, this plan focuses heavily on educating our students,” Stamas said. “We’re directing $2 billion to help determine any learning loss due to the pandemic and help our affected students catch up.”

Over $840 million of the $2 billion in proposed school financial assistance is contingent on Whitmer signing House Bill 4049, which would prevent the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from closing schools or postponing athletic events due to COVID-19.

The bill would shift control over school and athletic restrictions to local health departments, which would have to show the following four criteria are met before canceling classes or events:

  • Confirmed local coronavirus cases rise above 55 per million people every day within a 14-day period.
  • The local percentage of local positive coronavirus diagnostic tests exceeds 10% within a 14-day period.
  • Each local health facility reports a surge capacity below 20% in admissions or patient transfers.
  • Local coronavirus hospitalizations increase by 25% or more within a 14-day period.

Whitmer did not comment on the new Republican proposal on Tuesday. In the past, she has promised to veto any legislation that limits the emergency powers for the executive branch in her administration or for any future Michigan governor.

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