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Economy

Whitmer Proposes $5.6B Plan To Combat, Recover From Virus

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Courtesy
/
Michigan Executive Office of the Governor
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks during an update on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday, January 13, 2021, in Lansing, Mich.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday proposed a $5.6 billion plan to combat and recover from the coronavirus pandemic, including the use of billions in federal relief and $575 million in surplus state funds.

The request will go to Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature on Wednesday, less than a month after Congress and President Trump enacted additional COVID-19 aid.

A major facet of the Democratic governor’s proposal would allocate $2 billion — $300 million of it state dollars — to help K-12 schools offer the option of in-person instruction by March 1 and to address pandemic-related learning loss. Districts with higher numbers of disadvantaged students or those with disabilities would receive more money.

The spending legislation would cover expenses for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and expanded testing, tracing and lab capacity. Whitmer also proposed $225 million for three new economic-development programs, including additional grants to restaurants that cannot allow indoor dining under a state order.

The plan is focused on protecting public health, getting students back on track and jumpstarting the economy, she said about a month after signing a supplemental budget bill that helped small businesses.

“We can take strong bipartisan action again on behalf of Michiganders everywhere,” Whitmer said from Washington, D.C., where she planned to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

The governor again called for permanently extending unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, from 20, after her decision to veto a deposit into the unemployment trust fund last month nixed a temporary continuation. Whitmer, for the first time, also urged lawmakers to renew “Good Jobs for Michigan” tax incentives, which expired in 2019 and were used to attract large-scale business expansions.

A bill that would have reauthorized the program died last session but was supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

VACCINES

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the city received 6,000 vaccine doses this week, short of the 9,000 to 10,000 it had expected. Detroit has opened free vaccinations at the downtown TCF Center for people 70 and older, and people 65 and older who drive them to the center.

“The day the Biden Administration tells us we can count on 10,000 (vaccines) a week we are going to bring the age down to 65,” he said. “We are going to do this as fast as we can, but we’re also not going to raise expectations that we can’t meet.”

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