Senate Republicans lead with COVID-19 relief plan

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Friday sponsored the Senate Republican COVID-19 relief funding package to help deliver dollars to struggling workers and businesses facing financial ruin as a result of Gov. Whitmer’s repeated shutdowns.

The Senate COVID-19 relief bill, Senate Bill 748, provides $465 million in state and federal funding for Michigan health care workers combating the virus, increases testing capacity, makes the investments necessary to ensure vaccine distribution, and extends unemployment benefits through April 1, 2021. If signed into law, it will bring the total approved by the Senate to combat the virus to nearly $4 billion.

“The governor’s continued shuttering of certain sectors of our economy puts many of our local businesses in danger of permanent closure and forces people out of their jobs during the holidays. Senate Republicans have delivered much-needed relief to Michigan families,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This important funding bill will send available state and federal dollars where they are needed most, to our workers and business owners struggling to stay afloat.”

SB 748 features resources to expand testing, including funds to ramp up testing of teachers to help ensure healthy school communities and keep school buildings open. Funding for vaccines will be used to ensure appropriate storage and distribution. The bill uses available state and federal dollars and includes a provision that federal funds will be utilized instead of state funds if Congress approves a relief bill that directs more dollars to the states.

The Senate Republican relief plan includes:
• $220 million to extend unemployment benefits until April 1, 2021;
• $79.1 million to expand virus testing and vaccine distribution, including funds to ramp up testing of teachers to ensure healthy school communities;
• $115.3 million to hospitals and nursing homes to address nursing shortages, including an extension of the pay increase for direct care workers;
• $45 million in Employee Assistance Grants to restaurant and other workers laid off or furloughed due to Gov. Whitmer’s shutdown orders; and
• $63.5 million in Small Business Survival Grants and other assistance to help small businesses shuttered by the governor’s orders avoid permanent closure.

“The Senate passed this bill with bipartisan support, but we cannot do this alone. We look forward to the governor’s support and signature before the end of the year,” Stamas said.

The Senate passed SB 748 by a vote of 35-2.