COVID relief funds battle: Why Republicans won’t budge on Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s $5.5B request

COVID relief battle: Why Republicans won't budge on Gov. Whitmer's $5.5B request

LANSING, Mich.Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking state Legislature for $5.5 billion to battle COVID.

The House and Senate have offered less, wanting more oversight on Whitmer’s spending.

The Legislature approved of millions of dollars in December. Since then, they have asked the State Budget Office for information on where the money is going.

“We don’t to give a blank check here,” said Republican House Leader Ben Frederick.

READ: Whitmer on COVID battle with state GOP: ‘I will be judged by the voters when I’m up for reelection’

READ: Michigan Republicans unveil $2B COVID relief plan for residents struggling due to shutdowns

Frederick believes Whitmer’s COVID response has come with a high cost -- $150 million in unemployment fraud. Now, roughly $50 million approved in December sits unspent as the governor asks for more.

Numbers from a budget office report to the Legislature show that $40 million for local governments and health departments remains, $4 million meant for health care organizations still in the bank along with $7 million with no purpose listed.

“I would say there is an absolute need for oversight and I would say the governor has failed to meet the charge of a lot of this funding that was sent forward in good faith up to this point,” Frederick said.

In a statement, the office said “There is $40 million in the pipeline for release to local public health departments. Grant agreements have been released. Local health departments may need to take some actions to accept the funding, but money should be very close to being released.”

However, Frederick said that that is not enough.

“We will not hold up the vaccination of Michigan residents but we will seek to ensure that that system is sound, that it is measurable, that it honors the partners on the front lines actually delivering the service,” he said.

READ: Whitmer seeks boost in tuition, child care, bridge spending in Michigan budget

READ: Gov. Whitmer proposes $67 billion state budget that prioritizes pandemic recovery

READ: Michigan Gov. Whitmer, GOP lawmakers at odds over COVID relief funds

About the Author:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.