Whitmer Signs $106 Million State Relief Bill

Businesses waiting on relief from the adverse economic effects of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic should see it coming.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday signed the $106 million bipartisan relief bill that the Michigan legislature passed last week. The relief bill includes $55 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Grants of up to $20,000 will be made available to small businesses across the state that need support this winter.

The relief bill also includes $3.5 million for grants of up to $40,000 each for live music and entertainment venues, and includes $45 million in direct payments to workers who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the virus. 

“I proposed this stimulus plan because I know how much our families, frontline workers, and small businesses need relief,”Whitmer said Tueday. “This bipartisan bill will provide families and businesses the support they need to stay afloat as we continue working to distribute the safe and effective vaccine and eliminate COVID-19 once and for all.

“There is still more work to do to eliminate this virus and grow our economy,” she added. “All Michiganders have a personal responsibility to do their part and mask up, practice safe social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings where the virus can easily spread from person to person. We will beat this virus together.” 

“After zooming a few weeks ago with Governor Whitmer, we are thrilled that she heard our cry for help,” said Chef Jenna Arcidiacono, owner of Amore Trattoria in Comstock Park. “Many restaurants will not survive without financial support. This gives us hope after the devastating year we have endured.”

Xavier Verna, executive director of the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, lauded Whitmer’s signing of the bill.

“Live entertainment venues are vital to communities across Michigan, they are community gathering spaces and vibrant hubs for culture and arts,”  Verna said. “These funds will provide critical support to help them get through until we can all gather safely and enjoy entertainment together again.” 

Scott Hammontree, president of the Michigan Independent Venue and Promoter Association, said he was “grateful” for the bill, which he said “provides some much-needed support” for entertainment venues and stages.

“Our number one priority is keeping our staff, patrons, and their families safe, and we encourage everyone in communities across Michigan to do your part to end this virus once and for all,” Hammontree said. 

The governor also signed bipartisan Senate Bill 604 extending unemployment benefits for Michiganders who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from 20 to 26 weeks until the end of March 2021. Senate Bill 604 was sponsored by Senator Curtis Hertel. 

“No Michigander should have to worry about how to put food on the table or pay their bills, especially during a global pandemic,” Whitmer said. “These bipartisan bills are an important step in providing immediate relief for working families, but there is more work to do. I urge the legislature to take further action to make this permanent. Forty states, including all of our neighbors, automatically provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment relief. Michiganders deserve better than a short-term extension that expires in March. It’s time to work together on a bipartisan, long-term solution for working families.” 

When she signed the bipartisan relief bill, Whitmer line item vetoed any items not subject to negotiated agreement. That includes a $220 million giveaway of taxpayer money to the employer-owned Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund – a pool of funds designed to help businesses fund benefits for laid off workers.

Whitmer said the veto will not affect the benefits received by any individual workers.

“General fund dollars must be used to fund essential services like vaccines and PPE, not to give tax breaks to big businesses,” she said.

On Sunday, President Trump signed a COVID relief bill that provides some support for Michigan’s unemployed workers. This bill extends benefits to self-employed and gig workers and provides all unemployment recipients with an additional $300 per week.

Whitmer said this extension will “bring relief to nearly 700,000 Michigan workers” who are currently receiving benefits under the federal UI programs.

“The continuation of these benefits coupled with the additional $300 per week for all claimants will provide our workers with the emergency financial assistance to buy essential items like groceries and prescription drugs,” Whitmer said.