When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state Legislature began building the budget back in February, COVID-19 had yet to rear its ugly head in Michigan.
Michigan’s response to the pandemic, which has now infected nearly 119,000 Michiganders and caused nearly 7,000 deaths, threw the budget — and talks about how to fix it — into turmoil.
But the sides have finally agreed, and Whitmer is poised to sign her second budget into law. The budget includes funding for business, education, healthcare and other of Whitmer’s priorities.
“When we started the budget process in early February, nobody had an idea of how challenging the coming months would be, no knowledge of the devastating impacts that COVID-19 would have, including the impact to our state budget,” Whitmer said. “But Michigan is strong, and by working collaboratively with our partners in the Legislature we now have a budget I will soon be signing, a budget that funds shared priorities that will move Michigan forward.”
The 2021 budget will include critical funding for programs within the Department of Labor and Economic Development and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, including $100 million for business attraction efforts.
- A total of $28.7 million will be provided for the Going Pro program to support job training grants to businesses to support training for current and new employees in high-demand, skilled trades industries.
- New funding of $3 million is provided for a statewide pre-apprenticeship program with the goal of developing qualified candidates for building trades apprenticeships in the construction industry.
- Funding for the popular Pure Michigan campaign will be set at $15 million.
Whitmer’s office said the budget will protect schools, colleges, universities, and local governments from any state funding reductions below their original 2020 funding levels. The budget will also include new education investments focused on providing students, teachers, and adults across Michigan with needed resources, including:
- $161 million in flexible per pupil spending to help districts address the increased costs of educating students in the midst of a pandemic.
- $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect program to provide a tuition-free pathway for adults looking to upskill and earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree. Implementing Reconnect will help close the skills gap and move the state closer to reaching 60% postsecondary educational attainment by 2030.
- $5.6 million for mental health counselors to assist children in schools across Michigan with mental health needs.
- $5 million in incentives to attract and retain first-year teachers in districts across Michigan.
- An increase of $3 million to continue to fund literacy coaches and expand resources to improve training for other educators in best practices of literacy learning.
- $2 million in additional supports to assist vulnerable students who are learning remotely, including special education students, students who are chronically absent, and children in need of childcare while their parents are working.
- $2 million for Detroit Public TV to foster early childhood initiatives to enhance learning and early education.
- Implementation of previously announced teacher hazard payments of up to $500 per teacher, along with the addition of payments of up to $250 for school support staff.
- $1 million for school meal debt forgiveness.
“This has been a budget cycle unlike any other, but in the end we have been able to work collaboratively and put together a budget that reflects many of the governor’s key priorities and values,” said State Budget Director Chris Kolb. “I am pleased that we will soon have a budget in place for the new fiscal year … but I still have concerns about projected revenues loses for Fiscal Year 2022 and we still need Congress to provide states with new federal funding.”
When it comes to budget priorities for the health of families across Michigan, the budget will include:
- $12.6 million for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to ensure women are given the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy and to expand support for interventions that are proven to improve outcomes.
- $26 million to expand access to childcare for families by increasing the income limit from 130% to 150% of the federal poverty level, expanding childcare services to nearly 6,000 children.
- $135 million to extend the $2.00/hour wage increase for direct care workers assisting the elderly and other vulnerable individuals during this especially difficult time.
- $20 million in additional support for nursing homes for COVID-19-related cost increases.
- $20 million to support the state’s psychiatric hospitals so that Michiganders in need of mental health services have improved access and care.
- $2 million for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund to protect Michigan families from lead in their homes.
- $10 million to implement policies to keep more children with families rather than entering congregate care.
- $2.5 million to provide first responders with the mental health services they need, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the challenges and disparities that have prevented far too many Michiganders from realizing their fullest potential,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist. “The budget that we’ve put forth is an opportunity to take a proactive, deliberate approach toward investing in the health, education, and economic well-being of those who need it the most. This budget sets a foundation to make expand access to opportunity for all of the people who call this state home.”
The budget will also provide funding for critical initiatives directed at the environment, including $5 million that will draw down significantly more in federal funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to reduce runoff of contaminants into Lake Erie and other watersheds. The budget will also add $1 million to Michigan Saves to help Michigan families make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.
A total of $4.2 million will be provided to begin implementing the pre-trial incarceration task force recommendation for crisis intervention and de-escalation training through the Michigan Coalition on Law Enforcement Standards, helping ensure law enforcement officers have the training and education they need to intervene successfully. The budget will include $7 million to increase the number of troopers within the Michigan State Police.
The budget will also include $14.3 million in broadband funding to help expand Internet access across the state which is more important than ever to Michiganders relying on telework, telehealth, and virtual learning.
Michigan League for Public Policy President/CEO Gilda Jacobs welcomed the budget, which she said includes investments in several MLPP priorities.
“Michigan kids, workers and parents continue to face unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19, especially families with lower incomes or those struggling with unemployment,” Jacobs said. “But during these tough times, the governor and the Republican-led Legislature rose to the occasion and found a way to invest in some major policy improvements, including many programs and proposals that the Michigan League for Public Policy has been advocating for for years.”