Michigan House Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert today detailed a comprehensive recovery plan to help the state bounce back from COVID-19.
The plan initially provides about $3.5 billion in federal and state funds to help struggling job providers and families, get kids back in school and allow them to participate in sports, and bring accountability to the governor’s floundering vaccine distribution program.
“People across Michigan are struggling mightily because of COVID restrictions, and this plan is laser-focused on getting them the help they need,” said Albert, of Lowell. “The goal here is to provide much-needed hope for job providers in danger of closing their doors forever, families struggling to stay above water, and school kids suffering academically and emotionally.”
Albert said the approval process for the House Republican plan will begin with a discussion in today’s House Appropriations Committee. Highlights include:
Helping struggling job providers and families: Restaurants and other businesses crippled by the governor’s economic shutdown orders would be supported by a $415 million grant program, $38.5 million to reimburse liquor license and health department fees, and investments to support the unemployment benefits trust fund while providing relief for afflicted job providers who pay into the system. Families forced to the brink will benefit from federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program support. Other assistance includes funding for meals for seniors, child care and development, mental health, and substance abuse prevention and treatment. The plan also includes rent and utility relief to ease pressure on family budgets, and property tax relief for job providers.
Getting kids back in school: Grant funding will help local school districts provide in-person K-8 summer school and before-and-after school programs – enabling kids to catch up on lost learning. The program is supported by stipends to help families cover costs, and financial incentives for participating teachers and staff. Additional assistance of up to $250 per student will help districts committing to reopen in-person instruction by Feb. 15. Federal Title I support also will be distributed, and more money will support benchmark assessments to figure out where kids stand academically after this tumultuous past year. The $2.1 billion education plan is contingent upon approval of a law moving power to close in-person learning and sports activities away from the governor’s administration to local health departments, which would have that authority following health metrics.
“Some Michigan school districts haven’t had in-person classes since March – that’s hurting kids in ways we can’t even imagine, and not just academically,” Albert said. “The disruption of sports and other extracurricular activities also takes a major toll. It’s going to take years for some of these students to recover academically. I will do everything possible to get kids safely in the classroom now.”
Distributing COVID vaccine more effectively and efficiently: Additional resources would be allocated periodically as needed – rather than all at once — to allow more legislative review of the process and ensure funds aren’t squandered. The Legislature approved more than $50 million for vaccine distribution in December. This new plan goes beyond that with an additional initial investment of $22 million for vaccine distribution, and $144 million for COVID testing. Other resources will be held in reserve for when they are needed.
The plan does not include money for items the governor proposed – such as Capitol metal detectors and corporate giveaways for new job creation – because those issues aren’t related to COVID.
“I have reviewed the governor’s budget request and it is off the mark by a wide margin,” Albert said. “The governor’s plan is focused on corporate giveaways and growing government. Our plan will provide hope that people might still have a livelihood. Her plan has talking points about supporting summer school – our plan actually puts forth funding to help schools make it a reality.
“The governor simply wants a blank check to continue a broken vaccine rollout strategy. Our plan requires transparency and accountability, forcing the administration to start delivering results. It’s in everyone’s best interests for the Legislature to be heavily involved in the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan – and we’re getting involved.”
House Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert, of Lowell, today said a budget approved by the Michigan Legislature assists several Kent County communities and projects – including infrastructure upgrades, business parks and county fairs.
The state House today gave final legislative approval to a record K-12 school aid budget with equal per-student foundation funding across Michigan – a critical step to help students make up for learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.