Senate approves COVID-19 relief funding

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved nearly $2 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to protect people from the virus and help Michigan students safely return to school.

“These measures responsibly invest billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 funding to meet the most critical needs facing Michigan families right now — more people getting vaccines, more testing and getting more students safely back in their classrooms,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland. “The Senate has now approved roughly $6 billion in COVID-19 relief to improve access to lifesaving vaccines while also supporting our front-line workers, students, small businesses and people trying to make ends meet.

“We must be smart in how we use this federal assistance to maximize the benefits to everyone in our state. To ensure we effectively use this vital relief throughout the pandemic, we are sending out nearly $2 billion in relief immediately and setting aside additional resources to be accessed as funding needs come up.”

Stamas said the funding in the reserve fund for vaccine distribution can be spent quickly with a simple transfer by the Senate and House Appropriations committees, instead of needing the Legislature to vote on another bill.

Senate Bill 114 includes funding to meet the goals of ensuring healthier families and communities, such as:
• $110 million in additional support for vaccine distribution. $36.7 million is dedicated to improving the governor’s poor vaccine rollout. The rest of the funds will be held in reserve until vaccine doses are available and the governor’s plan is completed.
• $150 million to increase pay for direct care workers on the front lines of fighting the virus in hospitals and nursing homes.
• $185 million for COVID-19 testing, including $75 million to increase virus testing for students, teachers and staff in order to help in-person learning resume statewide as soon as possible. The funding also includes $25 million for nursing home testing.
• $283 million in emergency rental assistance to ensure Michiganders struggling financially due to the pandemic and Gov. Whitmer’s orders can remain in their homes.

SB 29 includes $1.2 billion to help build a healthier future and includes:
• A minimum of $450 per pupil to tackle learning loss associated with school closures.
• $179 million to support summer school to help students catch up.
• $5.9 million to reimburse parents for costs associated with summer school.
• $20 million for student mental health services.
• $11.7 million for benchmark assessments in reading and math.
• $87 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) grants for nonpublic schools.

The Senate is continuing to work on House Bill 4047, which includes over $590 million in funding to help create a healthier economy, including funding to assist workers and businesses facing financial ruin due to the governor’s shutdown orders, repay the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund for fraudulent benefits paid out by the Unemployment Insurance Agency, help struggling businesses with unemployment taxes, and reimburse Michigan businesses that were charged licensing and inspection fees by the state even when their businesses were closed through no fault of their own.

SBs 29 and 114 now head to the House of Representatives, and HB 4047 has been reported from the Senate Appropriations Committee and sent to the full Senate for consideration.