State Rep. Brad Paquette, of Niles, detailed a comprehensive recovery plan he helped introduced in the Michigan House on Wednesday to help the state bounce back from COVID-19.
The plan provides about $3.5 billion in federal and state funds to get kids back in school and allow them to participate in sports, help struggling families and job providers, and bring accountability to the governor’s floundering vaccine distribution program.
“This plan focuses on getting kids caught up who have fallen behind in the current learning situation,” said Paquette, a former public school teacher. “We must trust those who know best how to help them, and that is our educators.”
Paquette, who chairs the School Aid and Michigan Department of Education Appropriations Subcommittee and serves as vice chair of the House Education Committee, delivered testimony on his portion of the House Republican plan during yesterday’s House Appropriations Committee meeting.
Highlights of the plan include:
Getting kids back in school: Paquette’s bill provides grant funding, which 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 per-child 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.
“We all want what’s best for our kids,” Paquette said. “This financial support is vital to ensure schools have the resources they need to provide the best education possible for Michigan students.”
Helping struggling families and job providers: 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. Restaurants and other businesses crippled by the governor’s 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.
Distributing COVID vaccine more effectively and efficiently: Additional resources would be allocated quarterly, 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 adds an additional 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. The legislator said the recovery plan must require transparency and accountability, forcing the governor’s administration to finally start delivering real and measurable results.
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