State Rep. Pat Outman, of Six Lakes, 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.
“Too many Michigan residents simply cannot afford to wait any longer for assistance, nor should they have to,” Outman said. “The governor signed over 100 executive orders over the past year that put thousands out of work through no fault of their own. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone what a mess the state’s unemployment system has been. People are struggling and need help, which is why I was proud to vote yes on this common-sense plan.”
Highlights of the plan include:
- 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 department fees. The package also includes support for property tax relief and help for afflicted job providers who pay into the unemployment benefits system.
- 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. Our 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 haven’t been allowed to participate in winter sports until now – which is a step in the right direction, but just another obstacle kids had to face this year as they were just recently banned. 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 $125 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.
- 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 COVID testing. Other resources will be held in reserve for when they are needed.
The plan does not include money for other projects proposed by the governor that aren’t related to COVID.
“Our comprehensive plan invests funds where needed most and offers long-awaited assistance residents have been seeking,” Outman said. “It’s a huge step forward for the people of Michigan, so I hope Gov. Whitmer will keep that in mind and sign it into law if it gets to her desk.”
Rep. Outman talks about his testimony Thursday before the House Oversight Committee on his HB 4388, part of a larger package targeting broader use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which does not currently apply to the Legislature or governor’s office.