Whitmer Launches Major Initiative to End COVID-19 and Fix Michigan Economy


LANSING, Michigan (WJRT) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer is launching a major initiative to end the coronavirus pandemic in Michigan, get students back on track and grow the state’s economy.

The Whitmer administration plans to seek legislation authorizing $ 5.6 billion in spending to support the plan, which mainly includes one-time federal stimulus or relief programs, $ 275 million from Michigan’s general fund and $ 300 million. from the State Educational Aid Fund.

Michigan’s COVID stimulus plan begins by accelerating the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to end the pandemic. Whitmer said the economy could no longer reach full speed until the threat of the coronavirus subsides.

She is also concerned about the loss of learning due to distance learning and extended class breaks during the pandemic. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is pushing schools to open some level of in-person learning for all students by March 1.

The centerpiece of the plan is to help businesses recover from COVID-19 slowdowns and closures.

“To help grow and strengthen our economy, we need to provide critical support to our families, our small businesses and our frontline workers,” said Whitmer. “The MI COVID Stimulus Package will help small businesses get through the winter, help us put more shots and increase vaccine distribution, and get our kids back on track in school. “

State Treasurer Rebecca Eubanks said Michigan’s economy plunged rapidly last March when coronavirus restrictions began. But the economy has performed on par or better than other Midwestern states since then.

“Public health and the economy go hand in hand. We will not have a normal economy again until the public health situation is under control, ”Eubanks said.

Last week’s revenue estimate consensus conference determined Michigan will lose more than $ 1 billion in revenue this fiscal year from previous projections, but that’s far less serious than the anticipated losses l ‘last summer.

Eubanks said Michigan’s economy would take a year or two to fully rebound after the coronavirus pandemic.

“We expect a solid recovery once we get COVID under control, which this plan will help us do,” she said. “The pandemic has created a sharp plunge into recession. Even with healthy growth, we envision a multi-year recovery process.

NEW EXPENSES

Congress approved $ 90 million for Michigan in the new federal stimulus and relief bill, which Whitmer plans to spend on vaccine distribution. Its goal is to deliver 50,000 doses of vaccine per day statewide.

Michigan is also receiving $ 575 million in federal funds to expand COVID-19 testing, contract tracing and lab capacity. Whitmer is also demanding $ 225 million in spending from the state general fund to stimulate the economy with three new programs:

  • Michigan Mainstreet Initiative – to help stabilize restaurants and small businesses through grants.
  • Michigan Microenterprise Support Initiative – to provide more support to small businesses with nine or fewer employees.
  • Business Accelerator and Resiliency Initiative – to provide grants to high-tech start-ups.

“Small businesses are critical to the turnaround of our communities,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan. “As the upcoming reopens approach, the Main Street Initiative will target much-needed support to some of the hardest hit local businesses. “

The Michigan COVID Recovery Plan also calls for a permanent extension of unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, more food assistance for families, and rent assistance for families struggling to pay for housing or utilities. . Whitmer plans to create a new rural development office to coordinate assistance to small towns between all departments of the state.

Whitmer calls for more job training by connecting unemployed or underemployed Michiganders with resources to return to gainful employment. Residents of underserved communities or those in economic difficulty would be given priority.

She also wants to strengthen support for the 400 single parents participating in the Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners programs.

TUTORING

Schools would receive the largest financial support under Michigan’s COVID stimulus package. The federal elementary and secondary school emergency relief fund includes $ 1.7 billion for Michigan schools, and Whitmer is asking for an additional $ 300 million in spending from the state’s school assistance fund to reopen schools. safe schools.

Part of this funding would provide schools with the resources to re-offer in-person learning and support students who have suffered a learning loss during the coronavirus pandemic.

“In order to safely educate Michigan students, schools and educators must have the funding to implement and adhere to virus mitigation measures,” said Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association . “COVID-19 has impacted every district in the state and every district needs resources to continue educating Michigan students. “

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