Gov. Whitmer outlines plan to jumpstart Michigan’s economy, end COVID-19 pandemic

Gretchen Whitmer unveils ‘MI COVID Recovery Plan’

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a Jan. 13, 2021, COVID-19 press briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined her plan Tuesday to jumpstart the state’s economy and help end the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: Here are all 11 parts of Whitmer’s plan to jumpstart Michigan economy, end COVID pandemic

“To help grow and strengthen our economy, we must provide crucial support for our families, small businesses, and frontline workers,” Whitmer said. “The MI COVID Recovery Plan will help small businesses get through the winter, help us put more shots in arms and ramp up vaccine distribution, and get our kids back on track in school. It’s the right thing to do to protect public health and jumpstart our economy, and I’m ready to work with the legislature to get it done.”

“The governor’s MI COVID Recovery Plan includes crucial support for our small businesses, our educators, students, and support staff, and our overall public health,” state Budget Director Dave Massaron said. “This is a plan to help our economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and help Michigan compete. To make these investments even more valuable, the immediate action by the legislature to renew Good Jobs for Michigan is vitally important to drive more opportunity for our residents.”

“While still down more than $1 billion compared to projections before the pandemic, the state’s fiscal year 2021 revenues were raised upwards primarily due to impacts from the federal stimulus along with Governor Whitmer’s strong leadership,” state Treasurer Rachael Eubanks said. “Our economic recovery is highly dependent on getting the public health situation under control, and her actions to address the COVID-19 pandemic have improved our fiscal outlook. The MI COVID Recovery Plan will help us jumpstart our economy. Our economic recovery this year will continue to depend on the course of the pandemic and additional economic relief coming from Washington D.C. This plan will direct dollars where they are needed most and will help us achieve the economic recovery we are all eagerly waiting for.”

Here are more details about the plan:

Vaccine distribution

Congress appropriated $90 million in additional resources for vaccine distribution in Michigan last month.

Whitmer’s plan is to use that federal funding to ramp up distribution in the state and climb closer to the goal of administering 50,000 vaccinations per day.

The funding will also provide financial support to local health departments for costs associated with administering vaccinations, including staffing, equipment and supplies.

Michigan will also receive $575 million to expand COVID-19 testing, tracing and lab capacity.

Small business support

The plan includes $225 million for three new programs from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The Michigan Mainstreet Initiative is designed to help stabilize the small business community by securing grants for restaurants and other place-based businesses.

The Michigan Microenterprise Support Initiative is designed to help put small businesses with less than nine employees on the path to recovery by creating greater access to support.

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The Business Accelerator and Resiliency Initiative is designed to provide grants to high-tech startups that can help the community thrive.

“Small businesses are critical to the recovery of our communities,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan. “As we approach upcoming re-openings, the Main Street Initiative will target much-needed support for some of the hardest-hit local businesses.”

“This plan addresses some of the major issues that must be overcome to win Michigan’s COVID-19 recovery: mitigating learning loss, rebuilding small businesses, attracting new jobs and up-skilling our workforce,” said Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “We’re encouraged by the proposed one-time investments for each of these priorities and look forward to working with the governor and our state’s leaders to recover and get back on the path to becoming a top 10 state.”

Jobs

The governor called on Michigan legislators to pass Good Jobs for Michigan, saying it would help the state retain and grow its businesses and create jobs.

The Good Jobs for Michigan Program is designed to help businesses create jobs and thrive. Pfizer was the first business to utilize Good Jobs for Michigan, and did so to build its sterile drug manufacturing plant and create 450 well-paying jobs in Portage.

That Portage plant is where the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine shipped from at the end of last year.

Unemployment

Whitmer is again calling on legislators to permanently extend unemployment benefits from 20 to 26 weeks.

“This would bring Michigan in line with 40 other states and provide hard-hit Michigan workers with the financial security and peace of mind they need and deserve,” Whitmer said in a release.

Food assistance

Whitmer said her plan will give more support to families who need help putting food on the table during the pandemic.

“On behalf of Michigan families, seniors and children faced with the toxic stress of food insecurity, the Food Bank Council of Michigan welcomes the relief in the current federal legislation,” said Dr. Phillip Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “It is right, moral and beyond necessary. The pandemic has skyrocketed demand for food by 50%, a staggering statistic the places a huge demand on our regional food banks.”

Rental assistance

The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, will provide the state with funding to help people who can’t pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer said her plan will allocate this federal funding to help more Michiganders stay in their homes.

“Keeping people safe and healthy in their homes is one of the most important things we can do right now to slow the spread of the coronavirus while we vaccinate,” said Eric Hufnagel, executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. “This rental assistance funding will help Michiganders who are struggling to stay timely with payments to their landlords -- the very same business owners who also often depend on this source of income to pay their own bills.”

Office of Rural Development

Whitmer is creating an Office of Rural Development, which will be tasked with coordinating work across state government to address issues facing rural communities, including broadband, talent, infrastructure and more.

Her plan will also include grants to provide infrastructure and capacity support in rural communities and support for land-based industries.

Property tax assistance

The governor’s plan includes funding to waive penalties and interest for certain property owners who did not pay their summer 2020 property taxes on time as a result of economic hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talent

Whitmer said her plan will provide targeted employment and training services through the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. That will connect unemployed and underemployed Michigan residents with training and resources necessary for gainful employment, she said.

The program will prioritize residents from underserved or economically distressed communities to give them the skills they need for entry into registered apprenticeships in the energy sector to help drive Michigan’s energy transition, according to the state.

Futures for Frontliners

This plan includes pilot providing wrap-around support for up to 400 single parents who participate in the Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners programs, Whitmer said.

Participants will receive on-campus childcare, intensive personalized advisement, educational supports including tutoring, career counseling and assistance in transitioning to a 4-year school, according to Whitmer.

Education

Michigan was recently allocated nearly $1.7 billion from the federal government through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

The MI COVID Recovery Plan will allocate that federal funding, along with an additional $300 million in state money to try to help schools meet the goal of providing every student with an in-person learning opportunity by March 1, and to help address the learning loss that has occurred due to the pandemic.

These one-time, flexible dollars will be distributed through a formula that recognizes the additional costs associated with supporting students in poverty and students with special education needs, Whitmer revealed.

“In order to safely educate Michigan students, schools and educators must have the funding necessary to put virus mitigation measures in place and adhere to them,” Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart said. “COVID-19 has impacted every district in the state and every district needs resources to continue educating Michigan students. That’s why the additional per-pupil funding proposed by the governor is so critical, in addition to providing extra support for the individual needs of Michigan at-risk and special education students.”

“We have to embrace that some students need more funding in order to equitably meet their education needs, and this plan is an important step in doing so,” AFT Michigan President David Hecker said. “This includes, but is not limited to, the federal government’s investment in Title 1 funding that is putting significant resources into helping at-risk students whose learning is being disproportionately harmed amidst this pandemic.”


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