State Rep. Pauline Wendzel today voted in favor of funding to help Michigan distribute COVID-19 vaccine and boost testing while helping those whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the virus and economic shutdowns.
Rep. Wendzel helped lead efforts as the House approved a $465 million overall plan that also temporarily extends unemployment benefits while supporting the restaurant industry, small businesses and the families who depend on them. “While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, our fight against COVID isn’t over yet,” Rep. Wendzel said. Thanks to the brilliant work of Pfizer, a Southwest Michigan company, we have a safe vaccine that is here in record time. The funding we allocated today will help us distribute it more quickly and efficiently. In the meantime, I continue to fight for our small businesses who through no fault of their own have had their livelihoods disrupted by the virus and the governor’s shutdown orders. While this package will help, the best stimulus would be giving small businesses a fighting chance, allowing them to open and comply with health and safety procedures.”
Highlights of the measure include:
- The measure includes $220 million to temporarily extend unemployment benefits for those who have been forced out of work by Director Gordon & Governor Whitmer’s most recent shutdown orders. The measure extends benefits by six weeks through March, meaning laid-off workers are temporarily eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits. Employers are held harmless for the change. In addition, $45 million would be set aside for an employee assistance fund providing grants of up to $1,650 to replace lost wages for those employed by a business impacted by the current orders.
- Restaurant and small business relief. The measure adds to grant programs for small businesses whose operations have been shut down or restricted by the governor’s latest orders. Rep. Wendzel said the small business survival program – supported by $55 million in this measure alone — could provide a lifeline for many job providers and families on the brink of economic collapse.
- Vaccine distribution and support for health care workers. The measure includes more than $50 million to support vaccine distribution efforts, and $22.5 million to boost virus testing efforts – with a special focus on nursing homes. Another $42 million will support temporary staffing needs and wage increases for direct care workers who are the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.
This measure builds on the Legislature’s commitment to fight COVID-19 and its repercussions – which includes approving more than $3 billion earlier this year from state budgets, plus allocation of federal unemployment funding to surpass $6 billion overall.
Senate Bill 748 is expected to soon be headed to Gov. Whitmer for her consideration.
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