Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 27 into law Monday afternoon at the Ypsilanti Senior Center, while a few dozen community members and Democratic lawmakers looked on from wooden rocking chairs in the warmly lit space adorned with quilts and potted plants.
The bipartisan bill will allocate more than $384 million toward child care assistance, long-term care facilities, hospital COVID-19 grants, Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act fund, Michigan State Police’s Secondary Road Patrol and regional disaster response efforts stemming from severe flooding in June 2021.
Almost 96% of the funding is sourced from COVID-19 recovery funds allocated by the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in March 2020. The remainder will be drawn from the state’s general fund. Senate Bill 27 passed 326-35 and 88-20 in Michigan House and Senate roll call votes, respectively.
The bill is a sign of hope for Washtenaw County residents Frankie Jones and Eric Mohamed, whose basements flooded due to severe rainfall in late June that prompted a county-wide state of emergency and a disaster declaration from President Joe Biden.
“I lost all my utilities down there, from my washer, dryer, my hot water tank, to my furnace, two freezers full of food, numerous other items I won’t even discuss,” Jones said. “We were unable to get help from sanitation companies, because they were overbooked … so we’re stuck with a basement that’s collecting mold.”
Jones also thanked County Commissioner Ricky Jefferson, D-District 6, who she said has helped connect community members to resources from organizations like the Red Cross and FEMA.
“As of today, one month to the day after my sewer backed up about three feet into my finished basement, I’ve spent $35,000,” Mohamed said. “I think of myself as a fiscally responsible individual. (I) pay my bills, save money, work hard, do the right things, and that doesn’t put me in a position to be able to absorb 60 or 70 thousand dollars of out-of-pocket expenses.”
Whitmer emphasized the need to focus on tackling climate change by minimizing environmental impact and building infrastructure that can better withstand severe weather. Extreme weather events fueled by climate change are becoming increasingly common across the globe.
“We’ve seen (extreme weather) since I took office. Three weeks in, we had the polar vortex. Last year we had the Midland flooding, and now three major flooding events here in Southeast Michigan in the past few weeks,” Whitmer said. “That is the reality of climate change, and it is impacting us right now.”
Whitmer touted the Michigan Clean Water Plan as a success for drinking water infrastructure and called for a $40 million investment in climate change infrastructure, in reference to her 2022 budget recommendation.
“The bill that I’m signing today is the result of Democrats and Republicans in the legislature coming together in good faith to get things done,” Whitmer said. “I have also proposed $40 million to help communities across the state prepare for climate change. The legislature supports this point and I’m confident we can work together to put Michiganders first and get this done for families who are in need right now.”
The legislation’s $105 million for COVID-19 child care assistance will increase the rate of reimbursement for child care providers by 40%, retroactive to October 2020. The payments will now also be determined based on enrollment instead of attendance numbers.
The $2.7 million dedicated to Michigan State Police’s Secondary Road Patrol will be allocated to county sheriffs’ offices to monitor local roadways and provide emergency assistance. This comes amid a 12% increase in fatal crashes across the state in 2020 that has continued through this year.
COVID-19 grants for hospitals totaling $160 million will be used to “help cover increased hospital costs and reduced hospital revenue related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the bill. Long-term care facilities will be granted a “$23.00 per Medicaid day increase” from the designated $100 million if they have had a decline in enrollment of 5% or more for the last three quarters of the 2021 fiscal year.
Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act fund will receive a $7 million infusion to help pay the claims of wrongfully convicted, formerly incarcerated individuals. The fund has been going into the red, as claims have been coming due while lawmakers negotiated spending priorities.
The bill doesn’t explain in detail how the $10 million in June 2021 disaster aid will be allocated.
Ypsilanti Mayor Lois Richardson, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Khadija Wallace, president of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Black Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in support of the legislation at the event.
“Public safety is about the quality of life, the community members’ experience, the water we drink, the food we eat and the level and the kind of governmental services, including police services, we receive,” Clayton said. “While this investment doesn’t solve all the problems resulting in the lack of historical investment in our most underserved communities … this is definitely a step in the right direction, and we should celebrate this step toward the future.”
Washtenaw County residents and business owners who sustained damage during the storms can find more information at washtenaw.org/1807/Flooded-Homes and apply for federal assistance at disasterassistance.gov.
Daily Staff Reporter Dominick Sokotoff can be reached at email@example.com.