State Rep. John Roth, of Traverse City, on Wednesday voted in favor of a comprehensive plan to protect public health, help Michigan bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and provide people a say in how future emergencies are handled by the state.
The plan advancing through the Legislature offers significant relief – helping struggling families and job providers, getting students back in classrooms so they can learn and develop, and protecting people from the virus with more resources for vaccination and testing.
“Our families, friends, children and neighbors are hurting because of shutdowns to our state’s economy to combat COVID-19,” Roth said. “These shutdowns have disrupted lives, taken livelihoods away and feature some of the most severe restrictions in the country. This plan provides real relief to help struggling people and businesses survive the financial, emotional and physical fallout of what we have seen in Michigan.
“We need to get back on our feet – and this plan works towards that.”
Highlights of the estimated $4.25 billion plan including state and federal resources:
Helping families: The plan provides $600 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: The plan provides additional funding for districts committing to restore in-person instruction by March 22 – the equivalent of about $450 per student — and funds benchmark assessments to help determine where students stand after this tumultuous year. A voluntary K-8 summer school program and a credit recovery program for high school students would be funded with $135 million. The summer school plan additionally provides $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.
Helping job providers: The plan supports businesses restricted by the governor’s COVID orders with a $426 million grant program, including help with reimbursement of liquor, health inspection and other 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: The plan immediately provides more support for vaccines and COVID testing, in addition to the funds that were previously approved by the Legislature in December. Direct care workers on the front lines of fighting the virus would receive an additional $2.25 per hour through September.
A provision similar to a plan developed by Roth within the legislation would give the people of Michigan – through their elected representatives in the Legislature – a voice in how long emergency health orders last beyond their original 28-day length. Roth said while the Michigan Supreme Court was clear in determining the governor overstepped her bounds in extending emergency declarations without legislative approval, the Department of Health and Human Services has since issued health orders that closely follow or mirror the original emergency orders from the governor. Roth noted this action goes around the court’s decision and continues to shortchange people from having their voices heard through their elected representation.
House Bills 4047-9 will advance to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her consideration.
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