by Scott McClallen
A week after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pitched a $5.6 billion COVID-19 recovery plan, House Republicans countered with their own plan — with a significantly smaller price tag.
House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, announced the $3.5 billion plan that would use federal and state funds to help struggling job providers and families, return kids to school and sports, and boost the vaccine distribution program.
More than a dozen school districts haven’t had in-person classes in nearly a year, Albert said.
“The goal here is to provide much-needed hope for job providers in danger of closing their doors forever, families struggling to stay above water, and school kids suffering academically and emotionally,” Albert said in a statement.
The $3.5 billion, $2.1 billion less than the governor’s proposed plan, is divided as follows:
$415 million would flow to restaurants and other businesses targeted by Whitmer’s shutdown orders
- $38.5 million would reimburse liquor license and health department fees
- $150 million deposit into the unemployment trust fund ensures benefits for unemployed workers
- $55 million to help Michigan job providers currently facing higher unemployment
- $22 million to assist job providers facing penalties and interest on 2020 summer or winter property taxes
- $165 million to help families with rent and utility relief
- $510 million for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits
A $2.1 billion education plan is contingent upon Whitmer enacting a law upon which authority to close in-person learning and sports activities is transferred from Whitmer’s administration to local health departments.
That plan includes:
- $363 million would be granted to districts that commit to reopening in-person instruction by Feb. 15.
- All $1.65 billion in federal Title I funds would be allocated to schools, along with $12 million to cover benchmark assessments.
- $135 million for a voluntary, in-person summer semester for K-8 students. Another $15 million would help districts launch before-and-after school programs.
- $21 million for teachers and support staff helping students catch up on learning over the summer.
- $5.8 million to help families participating in summer school offset transportation, tutoring, and other costs.
About $22 million would fund a vaccine distribution plan, and $144 million would be funneled to testing, allocated quarterly.
Albert said he reviewed Whitmer’s budget plan, and it is “focused on corporate giveaways and growing government.”
“The governor simply wants a blank check to continue a broken vaccine rollout strategy,” Albert said. “Our plan requires transparency and accountability, forcing the administration to start delivering results. It’s in everyone’s best interests for the Legislature to be heavily involved in the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan – and we’re getting involved.”
Whitmer’s Communications Director Tiffany Brown welcomed the announcement.
“We are pleased to see that House Republicans are embracing the key elements of Governor Whitmer’s MI COVID Recovery Plan that prioritizes vaccine distribution, support for small businesses, and getting our kids back in the classroom,” Brown said in a statement.
“Governor Whitmer is ready and eager to work with Republicans in the legislature to pass a bipartisan economic recovery plan that supports our small businesses and helps get families back on their feet. It is also crucial that we pass a plan that helps vaccinate our educators and puts more dollars into classrooms so we can get our kids back in school safely while staying focused on protecting public health. This is not the time for partisan games. It’s time to get to work.”
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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. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.