State Rep. Sue Allor, of Wolverine, today joined her 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 a heavily flawed vaccine distribution program.
The $3.5 billion plan now advances to the Senate for further consideration. Allor specifically took aim at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide rollout of the vaccine during a speech on the House floor, saying a lack of communication and poor planning has caused confusion and delay.
“The excitement, eagerness and anticipation of being able to register for the vaccine was overwhelming. And the attempts to register were continuous,” Allor said to colleagues on the House floor while supporting the legislation. “People had been waiting for the vaccine for months. They had been cooped up in their homes for months. They had not seen family members or friends for months. They had not traveled for months. And they weren’t going to miss this opportunity to get the vaccine.
“The governor should not have made the announcement to open up vaccine administration to a wider group until she was absolutely certain health departments were ready and vaccines were available. The plan was rolled out poorly and it was the people who suffered emotionally on a roller-coaster of uncertainties.”
After speaking to many people encountering trouble with vaccine accessibility as well as local health department officials, Allor said the House’s plan to address the rollout was sorely needed. On top of the $50 million that was put into distribution efforts in December, the new measure provides an additional initial investment of $22 million to improve resources – while also allocating $144 million for COVID testing. Other resources will be held in reserve for when they are needed. Allocation will occur quarterly as needed – rather than all at once – to allow for state government to be nimble in addressing particular needs. The added oversight will also ensure funds are getting to where they need to be.
The House plan also provides:
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 were also not allowed to participate in winter sports for months. 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.
The recovery plan is included in House Bills 4019 and 4047-49.