Rep. Mark Huizenga of Walker today voted in favor of a comprehensive COVID-19 recovery plan to improve the state’s vaccination rollout while benefitting the economy and helping students catch up on lost learning.
The $3.5 billion plan – consisting of federal relief and state funds – advances to the Senate for further consideration.
“This past year has been devastating to our state in many ways, and this plan is a critically important step in our recovery from COVID and the governor’s response,” Huizenga said. “Kent County can’t fully bounce back until the vaccination program is expanded and improved, and these resources will give our local health department the tools it needs to do the job. At the same time, this plan provides a way to help students who have fallen behind academically and socially because of the disruption in their education. Add in the assistance for struggling families and job providers, and this comprehensive plan truly will help put Michigan on the path to better days ahead.”
Highlights of the House plan include:
Fighting the virus: Additional resources for vaccine distribution and COVID testing would be allocated quarterly as needed – rather than all at once — to a more targeted vaccination plan that is able to meet capacity as needed. 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 which will be immediately distributed when needed.
Helping kids. Nearly all the schools in Kent County have returned to in-person learning. The House plan provides $363 million statewide for districts like those in the Kent ISD that have committed to in-person instruction by Feb. 15. This plan will provide 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.
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 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.
The plan does not include money for items the governor proposed – such as Capitol metal detectors and corporate giveaways for new job creation – because those issues aren’t related to COVID.
“This is not a time to play politics – and I hope the governor gets that message,” Huizenga said. “It’s time to come together and do what is best for Kent County and the entire state of Michigan.”