Plan gets students back in school, sports
The Michigan House of Representatives has approved a comprehensive COVID-19 recovery plan introduced in part by state Rep. Pamela Hornberger 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 was approved by the House and advances to the Senate for further consideration.
“This package helps undo the damage that big government has had on our students, families and local job providers,” said Hornberger, who chairs the House Education Committee. “It will help kids in school recover emotionally and academically while providing funds to improve COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Michigan.”
Highlights of the House plan include:
Helping 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.
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 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, including reimbursement of liquor and health inspection fees. The package also includes support for property tax relief and help for afflicted job providers who pay into the unemployment benefits system.
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.
Hornberger, of Chesterfield Township, said the plan does not include money for items the governor proposed that are unrelated to COVID.
The House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee has advanced state Rep. Pamela Hornberger’s plan prohibiting local governments from enacting or enforcing policies that prevent local officials and police from communicating with federal officials regarding a person’s immigration status.