Meeting unprecedented challenges

Last year was one filled with unimaginable struggles. Still, I am confident about the future and proud of the way we have come together to meet these unprecedented challenges.

We started 2020 by addressing shoreline erosion due to historically high water levels in the Great Lakes and restoring more of the governor’s budget cuts, such as support for local hospitals, people with disabilities and job training.

Then COVID-19 came to Michigan in March. Its effect on our state is hard to fully comprehend. The virus has infected over 460,000 people in Michigan and more than 11,000 deaths have been attributed to it. Beyond that, the governor’s unilateral actions unnecessarily compounded the situation — endangering lives, shutting down our economy and costing thousands of people their livelihoods.

We acted immediately to pass critical funding to help fight the virus. We also stood up for our students, teachers, nursing home residents, struggling small businesses, and the workers who lost their jobs due to the shutdowns.

We’ve now approved nearly $4 billion in funding for this fight and sent the governor a $465 million COVID-19 relief measure in December to help health care workers combating the virus, increase testing capacity, ensure safe distribution of the vaccine, help hospitals and nursing homes address nursing shortages, and support small businesses shuttered by the governor’s orders avoid permanent closure.

Unfortunately, the governor vetoed our $220 million in critical funding to extend unemployment benefits for Michigan workers until April.

Our previous funding efforts reduced the cost of child care for working families, supported local public health and safety efforts, invested in personal protective equipment, supported remote learning and fixed a broken unemployment system that failed to ensure that workers who lost their jobs due to the governor’s shutdowns received assistance to support their families.

We are in this together, and I was proud to stand up for our system of government and the voice of the people when the governor repeatedly chose unilateral action. Unfortunately, even after the Supreme Court ruled against her abuse of power, the governor continues to go it alone instead of working with us.

In the middle of the pandemic, the counties of Midland, Gladwin and Arenac were devastated by historic flooding that washed out two dams and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Although it was heartbreaking to see the aftermath, it was equally heartwarming to see the outpouring of support from the community. We were able to pass emergency funding to help support cleanup efforts, and I remain dedicated to helping affected families recover from this disaster.

As Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, I was proud to lead the effort to balance historic budget deficits in both the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years while increasing investments in important areas like K-12 education and public safety — without raising taxes.

We increased state aid payments for all schools by $65 per student and invested over $57 million for early childhood literacy programs and $25 million to help schools and families with distance learning connectivity.

We also fully funded the 2015 plan to help fix the state’s roads and increased revenue sharing funding to support local responders who have protected us during this difficult year.

As we look forward to better things in 2021, I remain committed to doing everything I can to help defeat this virus, help businesses and workers recover and improve the lives of all Michigan families.