Whitmer signs bill investing $2B of COVID relief in food, rental assistance

By: - June 23, 2021 2:26 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills into law, Dec. 22, 2020 | Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday signed bipartisan legislation to invest $2.2 billion in COVID-19 relief funds in food and rental support for Michiganders, largely made up of federal funds. 

The legislation comes just one week before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national moratorium on evictions expires on June 30.

“As we look ahead, we have an unprecedented opportunity to use federal stimulus funds to help Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever before,” Whitmer said in a statement. “The bipartisan bill that I signed today is the result of good-faith efforts by members of the legislature and it is a testament to what we can do together: make a real difference in people’s lives right now.

The $2.2 billion will provide food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and help struggling renters through the Emergency Rental Assistance program.

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Local governments also will receive funds to continue providing essential services, while disaster relief dollars will be doled out to support vaccination efforts across the state as well as communities impacted by last year’s historic Midland flooding.

The funding includes:

  • $1.5 billion in federal SNAP funding within the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) for a 15% increase in monthly food assistance benefits through Sept. 30
  • $378.3 million in federal funding within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) for grant awards to be used to assist renter households at or below 80% of area median income and to support the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (includes rental and utility assistance payments, housing stability services and case management to eligible renters impacted by COVID-19)
  • $322.1 million in federal funding within the Department of Treasury for local units of government to provide assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits; aid industries including tourism, travel, and hospitality; provide premium pay for essential workers; make investments in water, sewer or broadband; and provide other government services
  • $65.2 million in federal funding within the Department of State Police (MSP) for payment to vendors for emergency and disaster response and mitigation services provided across the state 
  • $21 million in state funding within the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) for a one-time purchase of tax vouchers issued to the Venture Michigan Fund (VMF), which is used to generate investment capital from lenders and result in projected savings

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“I’m glad we’re getting these critical FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] disaster assistance dollars out to impacted communities and putting our federal relief funds to effective use helping struggling Michiganders feed their families, supporting local governments and ensuring people have access to emergency rental assistance,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a crippling impact on renter households, particularly households of color and other marginalized groups, who have struggled to pay their bills and avoid eviction after businesses shut down and workers were laid off due to public health measures.

The CDC’s moratorium on evictions began in September to offer more time for households to seek rental assistance. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, more than 7 million renter households were behind on rent last month and nearly half are at risk of eviction in the coming months.

“Necessary resources such as food, rental, and utility assistance for Michigan residents are critical as we continue to respond to COVID-19’s impacts,” said state Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit). “This bill provides the necessary funds to do just that.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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