The Michigan Senate voted through a $465 million plan to fund additional COVID-19 response, vaccine distribution and stimulus payments for workers and businesses impacted by the pandemic late Friday evening.
The package could head to the governor’s desk as soon as Monday.
The chamber voted 35-2 after days of deliberation with the House and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration. The plan would put state and federal funds toward a combination of direct aid to unemployed workers and hardest-hit businesses, as well as pandemic response efforts in the state health department and health care industry.
Under the plan, individual workers laid off, furloughed or working reduced hours due to the latest COVID-19 restrictions instituted last month are eligible for up to $1,650 in state aid. The Department of Treasury will be tasked with setting up and distributing $45 million set aside for this purpose.
“Is that enough? I don’t know the answer to that question,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr., D-East Lansing. “But it will mean something to them as we head into these holidays.”
Another $220 million would keep the state’s COVID-19 unemployment expansions — allowing unemployed workers to collect benefits for 26 weeks instead of the 20 codified in state law — running through the end of March 2021.
Small businesses that have been closed or had their operations limited by recent COVID-19 shutdowns would similarly be eligible to apply for grants funded by a $55 million appropriation, and $3.5 million was specifically set aside in the bill to help entertainment venues that have been shuttered since March.
Whitmer announced earlier Friday that the ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants across Michigan will remain in effect for another four weeks as the state health department seeks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
While restrictions on indoor dining will remain in place through Jan. 15, other indoor entertainment venues like theaters, casinos, bowling alleys and indoor gun ranges will be allowed to reopen with capacity limits and a ban on concessions. Schools will also be allowed to resume in-person learning on Jan. 4.
On the healthcare front, the legislation includes $79.1 million to expand testing and fund vaccine distribution, and another $115.3 million would be directed to hospitals and nursing homes to address nursing shortages and temporarily increase pay for direct care workers by $2 an hour.
“This important funding bill will send available state and federal dollars where they are needed most, to our workers and business owners struggling to stay afloat,” Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, said in a statement.
If signed into law, the legislation would mark nearly $4 billion in pandemic-related spending approved by the state.
Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said he hopes state lawmakers are willing to go further and push Congress…
Go to the news source: Michigan Senate approves $465M for coronavirus response, relief for businesses a…