Local leaders press Michigan lawmakers for COVID financial relief measures

Legislative session ends Dec. 17

Local leaders press Michigan lawmakers for COVID financial relief measures

LANSING, Mich. – A day ahead of Michigan lawmakers returning to work in Lansing, mayors and business leaders on Monday called on the federal and state governments for coronavirus pandemic relief as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest request of legislative leadership hangs over the upcoming session.

“I think 2021 and 2022 are going to be some of the toughest times facing municipal governments certainly since the Great Recession, perhaps even worse,” said Michigan State University professor Eric Scorsone during a Monday press conference. Scorsone has done work with Michigan municipalities like Lansing, Flint and Detroit.

The legislature has just nine days scheduled for work before the session ends for the year. The session officially ends on Dec. 17 before restarting the second week of January.

Ahead of this week’s continued session, Whitmer is asking leadership to approve $100 million for a state backed stimulus, an extension to unemployment benefits and expanded public health measures, namely a mask mandate to be made state law.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s office said in a statement that Shirkey is “glad to see the governor reverse her position that there is nothing she can do for the workers and businesses” but added that “we are not able to endorse the governor’s plan without having access to the details, specifically a funding source.”

Whitmer has not yet outlined where the stimulus funding would come from, especially as projections show Michigan could be facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall next year.

Democrats said time is running out and something must be done.

“I don’t think the legislature has a choice,” House Minority Leader Rep. Christine Greig said on Monday. “I’m really hopeful and I’m going to be working really hard to make sure we’re dealing with the unemployment benefits extension in particular and that we continue to have discussions about mask mandates and anything else we can do for economic relief as we head into the holidays and possibly a harsh winter.”

Michigan Democrats and Whitmer have asked Congress and White House for federal aid to fight the effects of the pandemic. Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in an interview on Fox News that he hand delivered a letter to President Donald Trump during a GOP Leadership visit to the White House. Democrats said they have not seen the letter. A copy of the letter was not provided to Local 4 after several requests were made.

READ: Michigan governor, state legislature far apart on COVID-19 response

Also on the table for discussion is the state’s election. Hearings will start in the Senate Oversight Committee Tuesday regarding the count at Detroit’s TCF Center. There has been no evidence of fraud in Michigan’s election and the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified the 2020 election results last week.

Greig said she plans to continue the push to ban firearms inside the Capitol. Talks of a ban stalled before the Thanksgiving break. Democrats are hoping to persuade enough Republicans to implement a ban, especially with the fear of more COVID restrictions on the horizon and a continued onslaught of divisive rhetoric aimed at elected officials over both the election and pandemic mitigation.

About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.