by Scott McClallen
The Michigan House on Thursday approved a $3.5 billion bill that would make $2.1 billion in federal education funding contingent on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer relinquishing her power to shut down schools to local health departments.
The Republican’s COVID-19 recovery plan includes $33 million for vaccine distribution and $144 million for COVID-19 testing, allocated quarterly.
The $3.5 billion plan is $2.1 billion less than Whitmer’s proposed plan, and 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 to ensure 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. However, lawmakers would set COVID-19 benchmarks that would limit the power of health departments.
The plan would fund with $135 million a voluntary K-8 summer school program with $1,000-incentives for participating teachers, $250 incentives for participating staff, and up to $250 to help families cover associated costs.
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 staff helping students during summer school
- $5.8 million to help families participating in summer school offset transportation, tutoring, and other costs
House Democrats called for a vote Thursday on Whitmer’s plan that would allocate all $5 billion in federal funds allocated to the state but was blocked.
Democrats argued all federal money should be released. If the money is not spent during a specified time frame, it reverts back to the federal government.
Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, dismissed the argument, saying that fund dispersal will be monitored by the legislature.
“This recovery plan must be done now, and it must be done right – because this is the most important issue currently facing Michigan,” Albert said in a statement.
“House Republicans are taking decisive action to get kids back in school, help struggling families and job providers, and get vaccine distributed more quickly and efficiently. This is the best plan out there to help our state bounce back from COVID-19, and it provides accountability on what is spent in response to the administration’s past mismanagement of funds.”
The plan does not include money for Capitol metal detectors or the Good Jobs Michigan program.
The plan advances to the Senate.
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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.