State Rep. Bronna Kahle today helped the House approve a comprehensive COVID-19 recovery plan to get kids back in classrooms, help struggling families and job providers, and improve the state’s flawed vaccine distribution program.
The $3.5 billion plan advances to the Senate for further consideration.
“I’ve listened to people across Lenawee County who are struggling to make ends meet. I understand their growing needs and concerns. This plan will deliver much needed relief to those who need it most,” said Kahle, of Adrian. “It will help kids in school recover socially, emotionally and academically. It offers help for small businesses across our communities who are struggling to stay afloat, and it provides funds to improve COVID-19 vaccine distribution in our area to help keep people healthy and restore normalcy.”
Highlights of the House plan include:
Helping families: Families have been pushed to the brink by the governor’s COVID restrictions, which continue to be among the harshest in the nation. The plan provides $510 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding, while other investments support meals for seniors, mental health, and substance abuse prevention and treatment. Families also are eligible for rent and utility assistance, and a deposit into the unemployment benefits trust fund helps ensure those laid off because of COVID restrictions will continue to receive the benefits they’ve been promised.
Helping kids: Many students in Michigan haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in nearly a year. They’re not being allowed to participate in winter sports. The House plan provides $363 million statewide for districts committing to in-person instruction by Feb. 15, provides support through federal Title I dollars, and funds benchmark assessments to help determine where students stand after this tumultuous year. A voluntary K-8 summer school program would be funded with $135 million – plus $1,000 incentives for participating teachers, $250 incentives for participating staff, and up to $250 to help families cover associated costs such as transportation and tutoring. A high school credit recovery program would also be available.
Helping job providers: Restaurants and other small businesses – along with the workers who depend on them – are fighting for economic survival. The House plan supports businesses restricted by the governor’s COVID orders with a $415 million grant program, including reimbursement of liquor and health inspection fees. The package also includes support for property tax relief and help for afflicted job providers who pay into the unemployment benefits system.
Fighting the virus: Additional resources for vaccine distribution and COVID testing would be allocated quarterly 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 provides 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.
Kahle said the plan does not include money for items the governor proposed that are unrelated to COVID.
“The virus doesn’t care about politics and it doesn’t care if someone is a Democrat or a Republican,” Kahle said. “I hope the governor will work together with the legislature, sign this budget and do the right thing. The people of our state are in desperate need of this relief and it’s time to stop the political games. People are suffering and we need to get this done.”
State Rep. Bronna Kahle, chair of the House Health Policy Committee, has introduced bipartisan legislation that will develop creative solutions to allow more visitation options for residents and their families that can be conducted safely and sensibly.