State Rep. Julie Calley and her colleagues recently detailed a comprehensive recovery plan to help the state bounce back from COVID-19.
The plan initially provides about $3.5 billion in federal and state funds to help struggling job providers and families. It also gets kids back in school, allowing them to participate in sports and brings accountability to the governor’s struggling vaccine distribution program.
“As we move further into 2021, it’s critically important to make sure that our response to the pandemic does not come at the expense of the educational, emotional and economic well-being of Michigan families,” said Calley, of Portland. “Our plan delivers relief and restores hope to people across our state who desperately need it. It helps struggling job providers and the families who depend on them, supports schools that have prioritized in-person options, and adds transparency and accountability to our state’s vaccination distribution program.”
Highlights of the plan include:
Helping struggling job providers and families: Restaurants and other businesses crippled by the governor’s shutdown orders would be supported by a $415 million grant program, $38.5 million to reimburse liquor license and health department fees, and investments to support the unemployment benefits trust fund. The plan also provides relief for afflicted job providers who pay into the system and includes rent and utility relief to ease pressure on family budgets, and property tax relief for job providers. Other assistance includes funding for meals for seniors, childcare and child development, mental health, and substance abuse prevention and treatment.
“The best strategy to support our small businesses is to allow them to safely reopen without abusive restrictions from the Department of Health and Human Services,” Calley said. “Until that happens, I am committed to finding additional support for our family owned businesses and the employees who rely on them.”
Getting kids back in school: Grant funding will help local school districts provide in-person K-8 summer school and before-and-after school programs – enabling kids to catch up on lost learning. The program is supported by stipends to help families cover costs, and financial incentives for participating teachers and staff. Federal Title I support also will be distributed, and more money will support benchmark assessments to figure out where kids stand academically after this tumultuous past year. The $2.1 billion education plan is contingent upon approval of a new law, clarifying that the power to close in-person learning and sports activities should be held by local health departments, instead of a one-size-fits-all, statewide approach.
“There are students around the state who haven’t had the option to be inside a classroom for close to a year and it’s taking a huge toll on them – both academically and emotionally,” Calley said. “Our plan restores local control, empowering schools and community health departments to make decisions that are best for their students in the classroom and the athletic field. It also supports teachers and others who are dedicated to helping our kids catch up in the areas where they have fallen behind over the past year.”
Distributing COVID vaccine more effectively and efficiently: Additional resources would be allocated periodically 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 goes beyond that with an additional initial investment of $22 million for vaccine distribution, and $144 million for COVID testing.
“The Legislature is asking for more efficiencies and transparency from the governor, in order to provide Michiganders with better communication and more expedient access to the vaccine,” Calley said.