State Rep. Julie Calley of Portland on Thursday voted to offer additional assistance to local businesses and their workers who are still dealing with the financial consequences of the mandated shutdowns.
The $184.6 million plan offers help for restaurants, movie theaters, fitness centers and other businesses hurt the most by the pandemic. The plan also helps health care professionals and other occupational license holders who weren’t allowed to work for part of the pandemic and makes more resources available for community development investments helping small businesses.
“Small businesses in every one of our communities are still facing the financial consequences of the last twenty-two months,” Calley said. “First, they were hit with the economic shutdown. That was followed by critical staff and supply shortages and now skyrocketing inflation. This assistance is needed before even more businesses are forced to close forever.”
Helping restaurants. An estimated 3,000 have closed permanently since the pandemic began, and those still in business are chronically short-staffed. The plan refunds certain state fees charged to restaurants even though they were shut down by the governor’s orders and adds $10 million to help restaurants train and certify staff to safely serve alcohol in accordance with certification guidelines.
Supporting tourism and entertainment. A $30 million grant will help local convention and visitor bureaus critical to local economies. Movie theaters, which were just beginning to revive before the latest COVID surge crippled attendance again, would receive $18 million. Live entertainment venues also would receive additional support.
Strengthening health and fitness centers. Roughly a third of the centers in Michigan have closed permanently after state-ordered shutdowns. A $53 million hardship grant program would benefit an industry dedicated to improving the health of Michigan residents.
Providing occupational fee relief. The state of Michigan requires licenses and charges fees to workers in several occupations – from health care to cosmetology to construction. People in many of these occupations were not allowed to work for portions of the pandemic, so the House plan would refund or prorate state fees accordingly.
“The governor told people they couldn’t work, but her state departments still made sure Michiganders paid all of their licensing fees,” Calley said. “It’s past time to reimburse hard-working residents who faithfully paid the fees for their occupational licenses, even though they were prohibited from using them.”
The House plan also provides $25 million for community development financial institutions to assist revitalization efforts and help small businesses.
House Bill 5524 advances to the Senate for consideration. The COVID relief would come in addition to a $409 million small business relief plan signed into law in December 2021. Gov. Whitmer had vetoed previous business relief efforts during the pandemic.
State Rep. Julie Calley recently led the House in approving a plan to allow judges who oversee Michigan’s treatment courts to discuss the use of medical marijuana with participants.