Lauwers approves senate COVID-19 relief plan

On Wednesday, the Michigan Senate approved more than $4.2 billion in additional COVID-19 relief to protect people from the virus, help Michigan students safely return to school and assist Michiganders struggling financially due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdowns.

This relief plan puts billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 funding toward responsibly and effectively meeting our state’s needs. The plan focuses on getting more people vaccines, increasing testing and supporting Michigan families and businesses.

This relief package will ensure we are taking care of our students as well. We’re directing $2 billion to students to see if any learning loss due to the pandemic has occurred and to help students who were affected catch up.

House Bill 4047 includes $2.3 billion in total funding to meet the goals of ensuring healthier families and communities and creating a stronger economy, such as:

  • $110 million in additional support for vaccine distribution.
  • $204 million for COVID-19 testing.
  • $370 million in contingent COVID-19 testing funds. This full-funding of testing is contingent on the governor signing Senate Bill 1, which would require the state health department to receive legislative approval of emergency orders beyond 28 days and to provide the science and data being used to make emergency public health declarations.
  • $150 million to increase pay for direct care workers on the front lines of fighting the virus in hospitals and nursing homes.
  • $33.4 million for mental health services and substance abuse prevention.
  • $300 million to assist workers and businesses facing financial ruin due to the governor’s shutdown orders. These grants will offset property tax payments for affected businesses.
  • $1.3 million to provide home-delivered meals to seniors, using organizations such as Meals on Wheels.
  • $150 million to repay the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund for fraudulent benefits paid out by the Unemployment Insurance Agency.
  • $283 million in emergency rental assistance to ensure Michiganders struggling financially due to the pandemic and Gov. Whitmer’s orders can remain in their homes.
  • $55 million for grants to help struggling businesses with unemployment taxes.
  • $50 million to reimburse Michigan businesses that were charged licensing and inspection fees by the state even when their businesses were closed through no fault of their own.

HB 4048 includes $2 billion in school funding to help build a healthier future, such as:

  • A minimum of $450 per pupil to tackle learning loss associated with school closures.
  • $189 million to support summer school to help students catch up.
  • $10 million to reimburse parents for costs associated with summer school.
  • $20 million for student mental health services.
  • $11.7 million for benchmark assessments in reading and math.
  • $87 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) grants for nonpublic schools.

Over $840 million in the school funding in HB 4048 is tied to the governor signing HB 4049, which would prevent the Department of Health and Human Services director from issuing an emergency public health order that closes a school to in-person instruction or prohibits a qualified sporting event during a coronavirus epidemic. Sporting events would include certain events and team practices of schools, colleges and universities, and local organizations.

The COVID-19 relief bills were approved by the Senate on Tuesday and  passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The bills will go to the governor to be signed.