Senate Republicans announce $2B relief plan to address effects of COVID-19 and Whitmer shutdowns

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Republicans on Tuesday announced a supplemental relief package that provides another $2 billion in funding needed for the fight against the virus and to assist Michigan families, workers and job providers struggling financially due to Gov. Whitmer’s shutdowns.

The plan builds on the over $4 billion previously dedicated by Senate Republicans over the last 10 months to fight the effects of the virus.

“With this latest effort, we will have invested over $6 billion in COVID-19 relief to increase testing, distribute lifesaving vaccines, educate our students, and support our front-line workers, our small businesses and those who are out of work,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland. “This plan is responsive and responsible. It helps meet the dire needs facing our state and our people while also being smart in how we spend federal assistance dollars.

“Instead of issuing a blank check for the governor to use without a detailed plan, our plan funds our state’s most pressing needs and saves additional resources so we can continue to assess the situation and have the ability to respond to problems as they arise.”

Stamas said the Senate Republican plan is guided by the caucus’s 2021 priorities released last month, which focus on making Michigan healthier both physically and economically.

To help ensure Healthier Families and Communities, the plan includes:
• $110 million in additional support for vaccine distribution. One-third of the funding is dedicated to improving the governor’s poor vaccine rollout. The rest of the funds will be held in reserve until the governor’s plan is completed.
• $170 million to increase pay for direct care workers on the front lines of fighting the virus in hospitals and nursing homes.
• $220 million in emergency rental assistance to ensure Michiganders struggling financially due to the pandemic and Gov. Whitmer’s orders can remain in their homes.
• $25 million for mental health services and substance abuse prevention.

To help create A Healthier Economy, the plan includes:
• $300 million to assist Michigan workers and businesses facing financial ruin due to Gov. Whitmer’s shutdown orders. These grants will offset property tax payments for businesses affected by the governor’s shutdowns.
• $150 million to help ensure the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund remains solvent after a year in which one in four Michiganders were out of work.
• $50 million to reimburse Michigan businesses who were charged licensing and inspection fees by the state even when their businesses were closed through no fault of their own.

To help build A Healthier Future, the plan includes:
• $450 per pupil — nearly $1 billion — to tackle learning loss associated with school closures, including funds to support summer school, mental health services and assessments.
• $75 million to increase virus testing for students, teachers and staff in order to help in-person learning resume statewide as soon as possible. An additional $110 million in testing funds will be appropriated when the Whitmer Administration finalizes their plan.

The general fund portion of the plan is included in Senate Bill 114, and the School Aid section will be inserted into SB 29. Both bills are sponsored by Stamas and have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.