State Rep. Ken Borton, of Gaylord, today 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.
“It’s a large plan to address a large undertaking,” said Borton, who oversaw the proposal on the House Appropriations Committee before it moved to the House floor. “People and families in northern Michigan and across the state have struggled enough. They’ve experienced burdensome executive orders and health directives that have brought their livelihoods to a standstill. It’s time to come together and get this done to give people some real relief, while also working to address the public health situation that our state is facing.”
Highlights of the House plan include:
Helping 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.
Helping 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.
Helping kids: Many students in Michigan haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in nearly a year. They haven’t been 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.
Fighting 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.
“As a member of the Legislature and a representative of people throughout northern Michigan, I look forward to reviewing the governor’s recommended budget in detail. I will take concerns I hear to the table and I am optimistic that we can craft the best way forward for Michigan workers and families.
State Rep. Ken Borton, of Gaylord, today issued the following statement calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to immediately readdress her administration’s ongoing 25-percent capacity limit for indoor dining.