LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed off on at least $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding.
The legislation supports Whitmer’s COVID-19 recovery plan, including a $2.25 per hour wage increase for direct care workers, $283 million in federal emergency rental assistance, up to $110 million for vaccine administration and up to $555 million for testing and tracing, state officials said.
“I think it’s great news that we’ve been able to get some of the federal funding available to us appropriated, including passing two of my key proposals to provide a wage increase for direct care workers and increased funding to help expand vaccinations for Michiganders who are 50 years old or older,” Whitmer said. “However, the reality is that there is more work to be done and there are still billions of dollars in federal funding that we need to get out the door to help businesses and families across the state.”
The $2.25 hourly wage increase for direct care workers will be in effect through September, according to the Associated Press. A $2 increase expired at the end of February.
Whitmer’s administration wants to get the remaining $2 billion in federal funding appropriated.
The governor is also vetoing House Bill 4049. The bill would have required her to give up the state health department’s power to close schools and sports and instead leave the decision to local health departments.
“The bills I received were not negotiated with me or my administration, and I continue to call on the legislature to ensure that we work together to ensure we maximize every penny that is available,” Whitmer said. “There were problems in the bills that I had to veto, and I expect the legislature to step up to fix the bill to allocate all of the money so we can get back to normal as soon as possible.”
As part of her recovery plan, Whitmer proposed $665 million to expand the state’s vaccine and testing programs, and $2.1 billion for schools. She’s asking the Legislature to return to the table to fully appropriate the unused federal funds.
“We are on a good path to recovery and our key metrics and numbers are improving, but we need to put the rest of the available federal funding to work, much of it aimed at helping businesses and aiding their recovery,” Whitmer said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and I thank every Michigander who has done their part in the response to the pandemic.”
She also proposed fully allocating $622 million for rent and utility assistance. The legislature provided $283 million.
Whitmer also proposed fully allocating $2.7 billion to help residents feed their families. The legislature provided $600 million. Michiganders can apply for food assistance by going online to www.michigan.gov/MIBridges.
“The legislature tried to prohibit expenditure of funds for vaccine distribution and the return to school unless the governor signs legislation stripping powers from the executive branch,” State Budget Director David Massaron said. “Rather than these political games, we need to focus instead on how to best help businesses and individuals most impacted by the pandemic. Vetoes were necessary and now we need to collectively refocus efforts on the best way to get resources out the door to speed our recovery from the pandemic.”
Whitmer and the Republican Legislature have sparred over the federal relief money for months, with the governor calling on lawmakers to negotiate during weekly press briefings.
The state has seen its COVID-19 numbers plateau over the past week after they declined steadily throughout the winter. Michigan’s metrics have reached a point that allowed several segments of the economy to be re-engaged.