by Scott McClallen
The Michigan House on Monday approved a $465 million supplemental budget bill to provide relief to Michiganders in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Bill 748 aims to provide $64 million in small business survival relief; $220 million to extend unemployment benefits through April 1, 2021; $75 million for hospitals and health care workers; $22 million for increased testing; and $57 million for vaccine distribution.
“This budget bill provides critical support to the workers and small, family businesses who have been left behind by their government and extends a lifeline right when they need it the most,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said.
“We are listening and looking for ways to help. Of course, the best way to help people is to follow the science and safely and securely reopen Michigan’s schools and small businesses. Until that happens, we will continue to fight for the people we represent, support working families with our votes and ensure everyone can continue to make ends meet,” Chatfield added.
The bill also aims to allocate $3.5 million to entertainment venues shuttered by the state.
Chatfield called the bill “an important spending plan to help families, but it is only a temporary solution. Moving forward, state government must provide better answers.”
“The coronavirus created an impossible situation, and many leaders did the best they can. But the simple truth is the state government’s uneven, inconsistent and often-politicized approach to this virus created hardship for far too many Michigan residents,” Chatfield said.
The bill would allocate $5 million to fund property tax deferral costs, while teachers would get $2.5 million in grants.
“The governor’s continued shuttering of certain sectors of our economy puts many of our local businesses in danger of permanent closure and forces people out of their jobs during the holidays. Senate Republicans have delivered much-needed relief to Michigan families,” Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, said in a statement.
“This important funding bill will send available state and federal dollars where they are needed most, to our workers and business owners struggling to stay afloat.”
The bill includes:
- $79.1 million to expand COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution, including funds to ramp up testing of teachers to ensure healthy school communities;
- $115.3 million to hospitals and nursing homes to address nursing shortages, including an extension of a pay increase for direct care workers;
- $45 million in Employee Assistance Grants to restaurant and other workers laid off or furloughed from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown orders; employees can get grants up to $1,650;
- $63.5 million in Small Business Survival Grants and other assistance to help small businesses shuttered by the governor’s orders avoid permanent closure.
Shuttered businesses can obtain grants up to $20,000, while partially closed companies can get up to $15,000.
Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, said the bill didn’t help enough small businesses slammed by COVID-19.
“What support is available for the countless small businesses who are now strapped with tens of thousands of dollars of debt who don’t qualify for any of the programming that we’re offering?,” Hammoud said.
Stamas encouraged Whitmer to sign the bill into law this year.
“The Senate passed this bill with bipartisan support, but we cannot do this alone,” Stamas said. “We look forward to the governor’s support and signature before the end of the year.”
Whitmer, who in November proposed a $100 million stimulus bill, also celebrated the bill’s passing.
“This bipartisan relief bill will provide families and businesses the support they need to stay afloat as we continue working to distribute the safe and effective vaccine and eradicate COVID-19 once and for all. There is still more work to do to beat this virus and grow our economy,” Whitmer said in a statement.
“All Michiganders have a personal responsibility to do their part and mask up, practice safe social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings where the virus can easily spread from person to person. And I urge everyone who is still doing last-minute holiday shopping to buy local to support your favorite businesses and restaurants.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org.