Bill Spends $800 Million in COVID-19 Relief Funds

Senate Bill 690, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, which provides for the appropriation of some $800 million in federal COVID-19 money for a variety of things, including things like aid to small businesses, rental assistance and school grants, was adopted by the Legislature last month.

And on Wednesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed it.

The supplemental budget includes a number of provisions that allow assist Michigan in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, help small business weather the difficult economic conditions created by COVID-19, and ensure that workers who put themselves at risk on the frontlines are fairly compensated, including: 

  • $2/hour increase for direct care workers; 
  • $125 million in grant funding to reduce the cost of child care for families; 
  • $100 million for hazard pay for local first responders and $200 million for local units of government; 
  • $100 million in small business restart grants; 
  • $60 million in rental assistance and eviction diversion; 
  • $25 million for wireless hotspots and enhanced connectivity; 
  • $18 million for health and safety grants for schools; 
  • $10 million in MIOSHA grants for protections to keep workers safe on the job; 
  • and $14 million for food banks and domestic violence shelters.

While noting how “pleased” she was to sign the bill, Whitmer also urged Congress to pass another coronavirus relief package. 

“Between the signing of this bill today and the recent agreement on the 2020 budget announced earlier this week, we have now put the full amount of the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to use so that Michiganders can reap the full benefit of our federal funding,” Whitmer said. “Now, we need Congress to act later this month and provide additional aid to the states so that we can begin to address the budget shortfall in 2021.”

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The budget funds a $60 million eviction diversion program developed jointly by Whitmer and the Supreme Court Administrative Office. That program keeps renters in their homes by ensuring that landlords receive quick lump sum payments for back rent, while renters get a fresh start, and will be implemented in collaboration with local stakeholders and aid organizations. 

“We applaud our governor and legislators for working together to secure funding and create programming for what we believe is crucial to the health and safety of our state – keeping vulnerable Michiganders in their homes,” said Eric Hufnagel, Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness Executive Director. “With this support, our communities will keep thousands of families that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 from the painful experience of eviction and homelessness.”  

Mark Docherty, president of the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union, applauded the governor and the Legislature for a bill he said “recognizes the challenging work of first responders” during the pandemic.

“Our job is to serve and protect our communities knowing that we risk our lives every time we go to work, the hazard pay included in this legislation is a reminder that our elected officials have our back when we do,” Docherty said.

Dawne Bell, CEO of the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, said the bill sends an important message.

“Before this pandemic, child care was one of the biggest expenses families in Michigan face,” Bell said. “This legislation does more than provide an additional investment in the early years, it sends a critical message: child care is an essential part of our economy, preparing children for the future and supporting the needs of working families.” 

Sarah Prout Rennie, executive director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the group is “grateful” for the help contained in the bill.  “While the global health crisis has been difficult on us all, it has also provided additional challenges to those in domestic violence situations,” Rennie said. “We’re proud of how domestic and sexual violence organizations have stepped up across the state, and we’re grateful that our elected officials are providing much-needed funding to help support shelters that have worked hard to keep their doors open and continue to provide essential services for victims and survivors.”