Gov. Whitmer announces comprehensive MI COVID Recovery Plan, allocates funds toward vaccine distribution

Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 4:30pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the new Michigan COVID Recovery Plan Tuesday afternoon.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the new Michigan COVID Recovery Plan Tuesday afternoon. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Michigan Executive Office

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the new Michigan COVID Recovery Plan Tuesday afternoon aimed at helping Michigan’s economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan has a strong emphasis on distributing vaccines, supporting small businesses and reinstating in-person learning. 

In a press release Tuesday, Whitmer said she was ready to implement these new policies. 

“To help grow and strengthen our economy, we must provide crucial support for our families, small businesses, and frontline workers,” Whitmer said. “The MI COVID Recovery Plan will help small businesses get through the winter, help us put more shots in arms and ramp up vaccine distribution, and get our kids back on track in school. It’s the right thing to do to protect public health and jumpstart our economy, and I’m ready to work with the legislature to get it done.”

The plan includes using $90 million of federal funds allocated to Michigan through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed last month to expedite vaccine distribution. Michigan hopes to ultimately administer 50,000 shots per day. Vaccine distribution rates in Michigan lagged at the beginning of the month as health departments reported a low supply, though vaccination rates are beginning to ramp up.

The COVID Recovery Plan also includes major relief for small businesses, with $225 million going towards new programs from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a public-private partnership agency tasked with bringing business to the state. These include the Michigan Mainstreet Initiative, focused on procuring grants for restaurants and other businesses to keep small communities thriving; the Michigan Microenterprise Support Initiative, which helps businesses with less than nine employees survive the shutdowns; and the Business Accelerator and Resiliency Initiative, which secures grants for tech startups.

Small business owners in Ann Arbor have hoped for another round of relief money following the shutdowns in November that will continue until at least Jan. 31, per the most recent epidemic order. Since March, many Ann Arbor businesses have struggled to remain in business or have shut down completely due to the economic downturn created by the pandemic.

Whitmer signed a $106 million relief bill in December that provided support for unemployed individuals, small businesses and live music and entertainment venues. However, she vetoed large parts of the bill created by the majority-Republican Michigan House of Representatives and the Senate, saying allocations of tax revenue to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund were “giveaway(s)” for employers. Whitmer vetoed $220 million of the money reserved for the UITF, which holds the money used to pay unemployment benefits. Republicans argued the UITF money was necessary to assist those harmed by the state's pandemic-induced business shutdowns.

The new Michigan COVID Recovery plan includes support for a greater number of people, from elementary school students to small business owners, compared to the December bill.

Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan and former lieutenant governor under Gov. Rick Snyder, said in Tuesday’s press release the order comes as a relief to many and will provide essential support for those most affected by the pandemic. 

“Small businesses are critical to the recovery of our communities,” Calley said. “As we approach upcoming reopenings, the Main Street Initiative will target much needed support for some of the hardest hit local businesses.”

State Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, expressed his support for relief funds directed towards high-tech startups in the press release, emphasizing the need for innovation in order to allow communities to prosper.

“The future of Michigan’s economy begins with ensuring our communities foster environments allowing high-tech startups to thrive,” Irwin said. “I applaud Gov. Whitmer’s consideration of these entrepreneurs, whose innovative ideas can better our quality of life, our environment, our businesses, and more.”

The plan also includes funding for current social service programs, including unemployment benefits, food and rental assistance and targeted employment and training services. 

Additionally, Whitmer’s plan  announced the state’s intention to provide every student with an in-person learning opportunity by March 1. To help achieve this goal, the state was allocated $1.7 billion in federal funds through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Michigan will also use an additional $300 million in state funds to bring students back to schools. The press release stated that the distribution of the money will be conscious of the fact that educating some students — like students from low-income families and those with special education needs — requires additional funds.

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan, said in the press release he supports this distribution of funding, noting that some students are disproportionately affected by the switch to online learning.

“We have to embrace that some students need more funding in order to equitably meet their education needs, and this plan is an important step in doing so,” Hecker said. “This includes, but is not limited to, the federal government’s investment in Title 1 funding that is putting significant resources into helping at-risk students whose learning is being disproportionately harmed amidst this pandemic.”

Daily Staff Reporter Brooke Van Horne can be reached at brookevh@umich.edu.  

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