Stamas supports Return to Learn Plan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas is applauding the newly announced Return to Learn Plan to ensure the safety of Michigan students as learning resumes in the fall.

The plan was unveiled on Tuesday by the chairs of the House and Senate education committees and would invest $1.3 billion in restricted federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to ensure schools can reopen safely with both in-classroom and remote learning options.

“To protect children from COVID-19, teachers and students across Michigan transitioned from going to school to learning from home, and I commend them for their resilience and hard work,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Before our students return to school, we must do everything we can to provide them as safe a learning environment as possible.

“I strongly support the bicameral plan to invest federal CARES Act funds to help all Michigan students continue to learn safely by ensuring our schools have the necessary resources to improve health standards in the classroom and enhance remote learning options.”

The plan would provide schools $800 per student to implement coronavirus-related health measures, such as reducing class sizes, adopting a robust distance learning plan, enhancing sanitation procedures, purchasing personal protective equipment, and making building enhancements to improve safety. Resources would be available for all efforts undertaken after the statewide closure of classrooms on March 16.

The Return to Learn plan would also redefine “attendance” to mean “engaged in instruction” rather than “physically present” to give students the opportunity to learn remotely, have school districts work with local health departments to establish safety requirements for extracurricular activities and sports in addition to regular school safety measures, and provide $80 million to intermediate school districts to assist schools with distance learning plans and safety measures.

“This plan protects students, educators and local control,” Stamas said. “It also provides our teachers with $500 in hazard pay in appreciation of the tremendous time and effort they made to ensure their students continued to learn after school buildings were suddenly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

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Stamas bill authorizing federal funding to support people affected by COVID-19 sent to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature on Wednesday approved Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas’ legislation to use $880 million in available federal CARES Act funding to help Michigan families, workers and schools affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. The bill now heads to the governor to be signed.

“This measure will put nearly a billion dollars in critical federal CARES Act resources to good use to support Michigan families, students, workers, small businesses and local communities hit hard by the coronavirus,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “We’re only using federal COVID-19 funds — no state dollars. Although we’re facing a tremendous challenge to balance an unprecedented state budget deficit, we can invest these restricted federal dollars to reduce the cost of child care for working families, provide hazard pay for our front-line workers and first responders facing the virus head on, offer small businesses restart grants to help safely reopen our state, and increase Unemployment Insurance Agency staff to get needed benefits to struggling families.”

Senate Bill 690 would invest $100 million for small business restart grants, $100 million in hazard pay for local first responders, $125 million to reduce child care costs by 30%, $29 million for additional temporary workers to handle unemployment claims, and $117 million to temporarily increase pay by $2 per hour for direct care workers — including those caring for seniors in nursing facilities.

“This funding will also support local government public health and safety efforts, invest in COVID-19 testing supplies and personal protective equipment, support at-home learning and instructional recovery for our students and ensure our food supply remains safe and operational,” Stamas said. “This is about thanking those who risk their lives and health to protect the public and care for the sick and doing what we can to reduce the financial impact and mental strain on the Michigan people caused by this global pandemic.”

SB 690 would also invest $200 million for local governments for public health and safety costs related to the pandemic, $25 million for testing supplies and personal protective equipment for workers like those at nursing and home health care facilities, $15 million to support farms and maintain a safe food supply, $2.5 million in assistance to hospitality workers who may not be eligible for full unemployment benefits, and $43 million to make learn-from-home devices and connectivity more affordable and cover COVID-19 costs for schools.

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Budget chairmen urge Whitmer to share details on balancing deficit

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Shane Hernandez on Thursday called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to begin working with legislative leaders to balance the current state budget.

“The presence of COVID-19 in Michigan and the governor’s stay-at-home order have had a dramatic negative impact on revenues for our current budget and fiscal year 2021,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Waiting on a Hail Mary from Congress is not a plan. We now know the full scope of the budget problem, and we need the governor to start working with the Legislature to solve it. With each day that goes by without action, the state continues to spend money we don’t have — making it more difficult to balance the budget.”

On Thursday, Whitmer asked the federal government for more money and requested greater flexibility in how the state can use the COVID-19 funds it has received. She also outlined some savings the state has achieved and a few new spending priorities, such as free college tuition for certain workers.

“Talking about free college while facing a massive $3.2 billion deficit in the current budget shows a lack of seriousness in addressing this situation. Instead of hoping for federal relief, we need details from the governor on how she wants to resolve this crisis,” said Hernandez, R-Port Huron. “The shutdown has affected our economy and state revenues, but it’s our responsibility to limit its impact on Michigan families, businesses, schools and communities. We continue to stand ready to work with the governor to meet this challenge.”

Last week, the chairmen sent a letter to Whitmer asking her to submit proposed remedial actions and a proposed executive order to begin addressing the current fiscal year deficit, or to have the budget director or treasurer do so, as required by state law (MCL 18.1388 and 18.1391).

The May 20 letter followed one on May 15 after the May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference in which the chairmen requested a new fiscal year 2021 budget recommendation and quick work with the Legislature to address the current FY 2020 deficit.

The conference reduced state revenue estimates by $3.2 billion for FY 2020 and $3 billion for FY 2021.

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Sen. Stamas thanks communities for flood response, urges governor to reopen restaurants in affected areas

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to praise first responders and members of the communities impacted by historic flooding and thank the governor for quickly declaring states of emergency in affected counties.

“A week after unimaginable flooding devastated thousands of people in my hometown and many surrounding communities, it’s still difficult to comprehend what has happened,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “I want to thank all the first responders, volunteers and residents for stepping forward to help one another. A special thank you goes to the local emergency operations managers, those who are working at the centers, and the local elected officials for their coordination of so much work in response to this disaster.

“Only through God’s grace have we not lost a single life throughout this event, which is an amazing testament to the spirit of our communities and the dedication of those who face danger themselves.”

Stamas listed some of the many organizations and businesses that have helped affected residents and recognized the people from throughout the state and country who have offered support. He also encouraged anyone who wishes to help to visit the United Way of Midland County at UnitedWayMidland.org/.

The senator mentioned some of the devastation, from seeing a destroyed restaurant in Sanford to tearing out walls and carrying out family possessions in homes. Stamas also said that the area will need state assistance to recover, some of which is already happening.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency in Arenac, Gladwin, Iosco and Midland counties in Stamas’ district as well as Saginaw County in the 32nd District.

“There are investigations that need to happen, but right now, the first priority is of the residents in the communities to make sure that we provide all of those things that they need at this time,” Stamas said. “I am asking the governor to please allow restaurants in these four counties to reopen so that the displaced families have a place to go for a safe meal until they can return to their homes.”

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Editor’s note: Video of Stamas’ floor remarks is available at www.SenatorJimStamas.com/video.

The above photograph is available by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Stamas issues statement on flooding in Midland and surrounding communities

LANSING, Mich. — After heavy rainfall caused the breach of two dams leading to historic flooding near Midland on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, issued the following statement:

“I am brokenhearted to see what is happening in my hometown of Midland and to communities in my Senate district. My prayers go out to the thousands impacted by this tragedy. And my appreciation goes out to the many first responders guiding people to safety and shelter. Without question, their actions have saved lives.

“I am in regular contact with emergency officials in Midland County and from the state, and I have spoken to the White House asking for assistance from FEMA. I will do whatever is necessary to ensure our communities have what they need to respond to this emergency and recover from this disaster.

“Once the people of our communities are safe and the water has receded, there must be a full, transparent accounting of how this tragedy occurred.

“To the people of Midland County, I say this: Together, we will rebuild.”

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Budget chairmen call on Whitmer to issue new FY21 budget plan, expedite discussions balancing budget deficit

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Shane Hernandez on Friday called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to issue a new executive budget recommendation for fiscal year 2021 and to sit down with legislative leaders to begin state spending reductions immediately to balance the current state budget.

“The combination of coronavirus and the governor’s stay-at-home lockdown have caused a reduction of over $3 billion in state revenues this year, and it continues to get worse,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “While the governor has time for regular press conferences and appearances on national news shows, it’s time to put a priority on resolving this budget crisis. I stand ready to work with the governor to enact a budget correction plan as soon as possible that puts Michigan families first. Every day she waits leaves us with fewer options and less money.”

The legislative budget chairmen on Friday sent a letter to the governor with their request after the state fiscal and economic leaders at the annual May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference projected reductions in state revenues of $3.2 billion in FY2020 and $3 billion in FY2021, which starts on Oct. 1.

“Today’s CREC report confirmed the budget-impact numbers we have been hearing for weeks,” said Hernandez, R-Port Huron. “We have a massive revenue shortfall brought on by this economic shutdown that will affect our families, schools, local governments and vulnerable citizens. The people need to hear from the governor what her priorities are that reflect this new reality facing our state. Time is of the essence and we look forward to resolving this challenge.”

Stamas said that a $3 billion revenue reduction represents over 30% of the remaining resources in the General Fund and School Aid Fund for the current fiscal year.

“The challenge is extremely daunting,” Stamas said. “For example, if we cut state employees by 30%, cut the remaining payments to public universities, community colleges and local governments, and cut Medicaid coverage in our state, it would cover just over half of the shortfall. Again, those are just examples to illustrate the gravity of the problem we’re facing.”

Hernandez said, “This budget hole will continue to get bigger if we cannot come together and protect our citizens while reopening our economy. We are ready to do the work necessary to move Michigan forward.”

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Senate approves funding for front-line workers, others affected by COVID-19

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas’ legislation to use $524 million in available federal funding to help Michigan families, workers and schools affected by the COVID-19 health crisis.

“The coronavirus has tremendously impacted our state and our people while also putting a huge strain on our economy and critical workers,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Although the state budget will face severe impacts caused by declining revenue and the governor’s response, we can put available federal relief dollars to work to better support our front-line workers, first responders, teachers and families — while also conserving our limited state resources.”

Senate Bill 690 would provide $100 million in bonus pay for local first responders; $50 million for additional testing supplies and personal protective equipment for workers at nursing, home health and daycare facilities; $125 million to reduce child care costs for essential workers; $12 million in grants for testing, equipment and supplies at food processors; and $178 million to temporarily increase pay by $3 per hour for direct care workers — including those caring for seniors in nursing facilities.

Stamas’ bill would also provide $11 million for the Unemployment Insurance Agency to immediately hire more staff to help unemployed Michigan workers; $2.5 million in assistance to hospitality workers who may not be eligible for full unemployment benefits; and $45 million for at-home learning, summer education and assessment support for schools.

“The funding would help ensure unemployed Michigan workers receive the assistance they need and our front-line workers get the supplies and equipment necessary to enable them to safely care for patients,” Stamas said. “This will also ensure that the people who keep us safe, educate our children, provide our food, and care for our most vulnerable all have the support to continue their efforts as we fight against COVID-19 and slowly begin to safely reopen our state.”

SB 690 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Senate approves Stamas’ income tax flexibility bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas’ legislation to extend state and local income tax filing and payment deadlines to match the extension provided by the federal government for the 2019 tax year.

“This will ensure Michigan families have needed flexibility on filing and paying their income taxes, especially those who are hurting due to the impact of the coronavirus and the governor’s lockdown orders,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “By putting these extensions into law and mirroring them to the federal deadlines, we can help struggling workers — who will owe taxes instead of getting a refund — continue to support their families during this tough time.”

Senate Bills 887 and 889 would extend the state and local income tax filing and payment deadlines for tax year 2019 from April 15 to July 15 for most individuals and businesses and from April 30 to July 31 for other businesses.

SB 888 would waive all interest and penalties for filing or paying income tax late for tax year 2019 until after the deadlines set in SBs 887 and 889 are reached. Under the bill, penalties and interest would start to accrue beginning July 16 for most individuals and businesses and from Aug. 1 for other businesses.

“In addition to allowing taxpayers to keep their money through this crisis, this would also give more time to people and small businesses whose ability to complete their taxes continue to be impacted by the governor’s executive orders on accounting firms and local government offices,” Stamas said.

SBs 887-889 now head to the House of Representative for consideration.

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Senate approves Stamas resolution to defend Legislature’s role in states of emergency

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved a resolution sponsored by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas to allow the Senate to challenge in court any executive actions taken by the governor after the Legislature’s state of emergency extension expires on May 1.

“The Legislature is the people’s most direct representation in state government, yet the governor continues to dismiss and ignore this co-equal branch,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “The governor has repeatedly chosen absolute power over working together with the people’s representatives. She believes she can unilaterally grab total power over every Michigan family and hold onto that power for as long as she wants.

“The people have a voice, and protecting their voices and protecting their lives are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, the governor has decided to go it alone once again and the people of Michigan deserve better.”

Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-4 on March 10 declaring a state of emergency across Michigan to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and she issued EO 2020-33 on April 1 to include a state of disaster related to the pandemic. On April 7, the Legislature adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 24 to extend the states of emergency and disaster through April 30.

Senate Resolution 114 says that without an additional legislative extension, Gov. Whitmer has a statutory obligation to “issue an executive order or proclamation declaring” the states of emergency and disaster terminated on May 1.

“This resolution authorizes the Senate to defend the Legislature’s role and the people’s rights by bringing legal action if the governor attempts to extend her emergency powers without legislative approval,” Stamas said. “We’re all facing uncertain and stressful times. My hope is that our governor will change course and work with us to responsibly and effectively end this public health crisis, and that this resolution will not be necessary. In case that does not happen, we need to be able to stand up for our constituents, the people of Michigan, and our system of government.”

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Editor’s note: Video of Stamas’ floor remarks on the resolution will be available at www.SenatorJimStamas.com/video.

The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Stamas supports increased legislative input during states of emergency

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Friday supported measures to increase legislative oversight of the governor’s extraordinary powers during a state of emergency and create a new bipartisan COVID-19 panel.

The actions came on the same day the governor announced a new executive order extending her stay-at-home order until May 15 while lifting some restrictions on outdoor activities, allowing some workers to go back to work, and ordering people to wear masks in public enclosed places.

“I continue to be frustrated with the governor’s unwillingness to consider more commonsense changes to her over-reaching lockdown,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “While this new order is less restrictive than her last one, it remains more invasive than the federal guidelines and still forces many Michigan workers — who could return to work safely — to stay home.”

Senate Bill 857 would repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, which does not require legislative input on executive actions, and SB 858 would amend the Emergency Management Act of 1976 to only allow declarations of disaster or emergency to last 14 days before requiring legislative approval, instead of 28 days.

“No governor should have unlimited, unilateral power to restrict the lives and freedoms of Michigan families for as long as he or she sees fit,” Stamas said. “We are a republic and sooner rather than later, the people — through their elected representatives — deserve a voice in how the government’s actions impact in their lives. These responsible reforms will ensure the people’s voices are heard.”

The Legislature also approved House Concurrent Resolution 20 to create the bicameral, bipartisan Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“This panel will review our state’s preparation for the virus and response to the outbreak to ensure Michigan lives and livelihoods are better protected in the event of any future health emergency,” Stamas said.

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