House approves $465 million COVID-19 relief before year-end

By: - December 21, 2020 10:59 am

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan House passed a $465.07 million supplemental funding bill for COVID-19 relief, focused on vaccination and test distribution and providing money to health care workers and small businesses, during a rare Monday session.

The House concurred in Senate Bill 748, including $443.3 million in General Fund Money and $21.7 million in federal funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 97-5 vote. 

“This budget bill provides critical support to the workers and small, family businesses who have been left behind by their government and extends a lifeline right when they need it the most,” said House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering). “People are worried about the effects of the latest shutdown and what it means for their families. We are listening and looking for ways to help.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been pushing for the Legislature to put forward a COVID-19 relief package for over a month, and on Thursday Senate Republicans announced their COVID-19 supplemental relief framework, but did not include details on the amount of funding or allocations.

During a long Friday session, Sen. Jim Stama (R-Midland), the Senate Appropriations chair, announced the supplemental and it was passed by the Senate that night.

Now the relief bill goes to Whitmer’s desk to be signed. 

Appropriations in SB 748 include:

  • $220M for extending unemployment benefits through April 1
  • $55 million for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions
  • $51.3 million for health systems to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations
  • $22.5 million for COVID-19 testing in vulnerable populations
  • $15 million for COVID-19 supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • $3.5 million for independent venues that have been closed due to COVID-19
  • $3.3 million for hospitals providing care for COVID-positive nursing home residents

“Today’s action finalizes a desperately needed budget supplemental to address the various impacts of COVID-19 on our families, our workers, our businesses, our public health and our economy. We appreciate the resilience and determination of lawmakers to keep negotiating and not lose sight of their responsibility to tackle this crisis,” said Michigan League for Public Policy External Affairs Director Alex Rossman.

State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) was largely supportive of the budget bill, but was critical of the boilerplate language included in the bill that would allow certain hazardous material across the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit.

SB 748 contains some important resources for workers and businesses trying to navigate COVID. It also has language with unnecessary and dangerous environmental consequences,” Pohutsky tweeted Monday. “An amendment to remove that language was voted down without even opening the board for a real vote. I oppose this dangerous boilerplate language.”

Pohutsky added that she wished that the supplemental did more to address COVID-19 in prisons and included more support for municipalities experiencing revenue cuts. 

“My constituents need the funds in this legislation, but the GOP should be ashamed for holding it hostage like this,” Pohutsky tweeted. 

Before adjourning sine die, the House and Senate will meet for the last time Wednesday, according to Senate Concurrent Resolution 38.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.