State Rep. Ryan Berman, of Commerce Township, yesterday joined his colleagues in voting to advance a comprehensive COVID-19 recovery plan – which works to get kids back in classrooms, help struggling families and job providers, and improve the state’s flawed vaccine distribution program.
The $3.5 billion plan now advances to the Senate for further consideration.
“This finely tuned plan will address all facets of COVID-19 in our state,” Berman said. “It looks out for our children. It helps hardworking people and small business owners, and it addresses the COVID-19 threat facing us in an efficient and effective fashion. The governor simply wanted to shut our state down through executive orders and health directives, but this is the common ground we desperately need for a healthy population and a healthy economy.”
Berman laid out the following highlights of the House plan:
Help for families: Families have been pushed to the brink by the governor’s COVID restrictions, which continue to be among the harshest in the nation. The House plan provides $510 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding, while other investments support meals for seniors, mental health, and substance abuse prevention and treatment. Families also are eligible for rent and utility assistance, and a deposit into the unemployment benefits trust fund helps ensure those laid off because of COVID restrictions will continue to receive the benefits they’ve been promised.
Support for our kids: Many students in Michigan haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in nearly a year. They’re not being allowed to participate in winter sports. The House plan provides $363 million statewide for districts committing to in-person instruction by Feb. 15, provides support through federal Title I dollars, and funds benchmark assessments to help determine where students stand after this tumultuous year. A voluntary K-8 summer school program would be funded with $135 million – plus $1,000 incentives for participating teachers, $250 incentives for participating staff, and up to $250 to help families cover associated costs such as transportation and tutoring. A high school credit recovery program would also be available.
Help for job providers: Restaurants and other small businesses – along with the workers who depend on them – are fighting for economic survival. The House plan supports businesses restricted by the governor’s COVID orders with a $415 million grant program, support for property tax relief, and help for afflicted job providers who pay into the unemployment benefits system.
Resources to properly combat the virus: Additional resources for vaccine distribution and COVID testing would be allocated quarterly as needed – rather than all at once – to allow more legislative review of the process and ensure funds aren’t squandered. The Legislature approved more than $50 million for vaccine distribution in December. This new plan provides an additional initial investment of $22 million for vaccine distribution, and $144 million for COVID testing. Other resources will be held in reserve for when they are needed.
The recovery plan is included in House Bills 4019 and 4047-49.
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