Massive State COVID Recovery Plan Includes Millions for Jobs, Education

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has often said the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit small businesses the hardest, and that the best way to get the state’s economy on the road to recovery is to beat the virus.

On Tuesday, she announced a multi-pronged plan – the Michigan COVID Recovery Plan – she believes will grow Michigan’s economy and help end the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s three-pronged plan – which addresses protecting public health, getting students back on track and jump-starting the state’s economy — includes a strong focus on vaccine distribution, economic recovery, schools, and more.

“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.”

State budget director Dave Massaron said the plan includes “crucial support” for small businesses, educators, students and support staff and the state’s overall public health.

“This is a plan to help our economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and help Michigan compete,” Massaron said. “To make these investments even more valuable, the immediate action by the legislature to renew Good Jobs for Michigan is vitally important to drive more opportunity for our residents.”

State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks said the state is “still down more than $1 billion” compared to projections before the pandemic. But the state’s fiscal 2021 revenues, she pointed out, were raised upward primarily due to the impact of the federal stimulus.

“Our economic recovery is highly dependent on getting the public health situation under control, and her actions to address the COVID-19 pandemic have improved our fiscal outlook,” Eubanks said. “The MI COVID Recovery Plan will help us jumpstart our economy. Our economic recovery this year will continue to depend on the course of the pandemic and additional economic relief coming from Washington D.C. This plan will direct dollars where they are needed most and will help us achieve the economic recovery we are all eagerly waiting for.”

In a discussion Tuesday that included Whitmer, Massaron and Eubanks, Whitmer laid out some key points to the plan, including:

Protecting public health
Whitmer said Michigan is “ready to ramp up vaccination distribution,” which will help Michigan get back to normal as quickly as possible. Last month, Congress appropriated $90 million in additional resources for vaccine distribution in Michigan through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

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More: Economic Survey: State Economy Depends on Health, Vaccines to Recover

The Michigan plan will use this federal funding to ramp up vaccine distribution in Michigan and bring us closer to our goal of 50,000 shots in arms per day. This funding will help provide financial support to local health departments for vaccine administration costs, including staff augmentation, as well as provide equipment and supplies. Michigan will also receive $575 million to expand COVID testing, tracing, and lab capacity in Michigan.

Jump-starting the economy
The plan includes help for small businesses. As part of the governor’s plan, the governor’s plan provides $225 million for three new programs from the MEDC:

  • The Michigan Mainstreet Initiative will help stabilize our small business community by securing grants for restaurants and other place-based businesses to keep our Main Streets vibrant and our communities resilient.
  • The Michigan Microenterprise Support Initiative will help us put small businesses with less than nine employees on the path to recovery by creating greater access to much needed support.
  • And the Business Accelerator and Resiliency Initiative will provide grants to high-tech startups that can help our communities thrive.

Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, said the plan “addresses some of the major issues that must be overcome to win Michigan’s COVID-19 recovery,” including mitigating learning loss, rebuilding small businesses, attracting new jobs and upskilling our workforce.

“We’re encouraged by the proposed one-time investments for each of these priorities, and look forward to working with the governor and our state’s leaders to recover and get back on the path to becoming a Top Ten state,” Donofrio said.

Whitmer called on the Michigan Legislature to pass Good Jobs for Michigan to help Michigan retain and grow businesses and create jobs. The Good Jobs for Michigan Program provides Michigan businesses with a crucial tool to create jobs and thrive in our state.

Whitmer pointed out that Pfizer was the first business to utilize Good Jobs for Michigan, and did so to build their sterile drug manufacturing plant and create 450 good-paying jobs in Portage, the same Portage plant that the first doses of the safe and effective COVID vaccine shipped from at the end of last year.

“It’s time for the legislature to pass this bill and send it to the governor’s desk,” Whitmer said.

She also called on the Legislature to permanently extend unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. This would bring Michigan in line with 40 other states and provide hard-hit Michigan workers with the financial security and peace of mind they need and deserve,” she pointed out.

Education aspect
As part of the recent actions from the federal government, Michigan was allocated nearly $1.7 billion through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The governor’s MI COVID Recovery Plan will allocate this federal funding, along with an additional $300M in state dollars, to help schools meet the Governor’s goal of providing every student with an in-person learning opportunity by March 1, and to help address the learning loss that has occurred due to the pandemic.

These one-time, flexible dollars will be distributed through a formula that recognizes the additional costs associated with supporting students in poverty and students with special education needs.   

“In order to safely educate Michigan students, schools and educators must have the funding necessary to put virus mitigation measures in place and adhere to them,” Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart said. “COVID-19 has impacted every district in the state and every district needs resources to continue educating Michigan students. That’s why the additional per-pupil funding proposed by the governor is so critical, in addition to providing extra support for the individual needs of Michigan at-risk and special education students.”

AFT Michigan President David Hecker said the state needs to “embrace that some students need more funding” in order to equitably meet their education needs.

“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.”

Rental assistance
The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2201, will provide the State of Michigan with funding to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s plan will allocate this federal funding to help more Michiganders stay in their homes.

“Keeping people safe and healthy in their homes is one of the most important things we can do right now to slow the spread of the coronavirus while we vaccinate,” said Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness Executive Director Eric Hufnagel said. “This rental assistance funding will help Michiganders who are struggling to stay timely with payments to their landlords – the very same business owners who also often depend on this source of income to pay their own bills.”

Property tax assistance The governor’s plan includes funding to waive penalties and interest for certain property owners who did not pay their summer 2020 property taxes on time as a result of economic hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic.