New: State budget includes pay hike for some health care workers during pandemic

By: - September 21, 2021 1:00 pm

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The nearly $70 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget will include a temporary $2 hourly pay raise for direct care workers providing Medicaid-funded in-home behavioral health and long-term care services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Advance has learned. 

The budget also allocates $460 million to give a permanent $2.35 hourly raise to direct care workers in nursing homes.

Last week, budget leaders from the governor’s office, House and Senate announced they reached a deal on the upcoming state budget, but there are few details about what will be included. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Whitmer has until Sept. 30 to sign the budget in time to avoid a partial government shutdown, and she says she plans to make that deadline.

On Tuesday afternoon, legislative Conference Committees are set to meet for votes on final agreements on both the Higher Education and General Government budgets. As the Advance previously reported, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has said funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities has been a sticking point in the process. Several universities have vaccine mandates, which Shirkey and other Republicans oppose.

On Wednesday, the conference reports are expected to be voted on by the full House and Senate and then head to Whitmer’s desk.

The Advance has learned the budget also includes $5 million for a pilot program for home weatherization and energy efficiency; $19.1 million for the MiChoice program expansion to provide alternatives to nursing home care;  and $7.4 million to expand the Infant Home Visiting program to at-risk families with infants born with substance exposure.

There also is $8.4 million to reduce health disparities and expand the use of community-based navigators to enhance access to health coverage and $6.7 million for the Sickle Cell Disease Initiative.

It’s unclear what leaders have agreed to in terms of other COVID-19-related spending and policy. During the last 18 months, the Democratic governor and GOP-led Legislature have frequently battled over health orders and how to spend billions in federal pandemic aid. 

In July, Republicans in the House and Senate voted to approve the Unlock Michigan petition to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA). Whitmer had been relying on the EPGA to impose statewide restrictions on  businesses, stay-at-home orders, school closures and mask mandates during the early part of the pandemic. 

Michigan law allows for the Legislature to adopt citizen-led petitions if they have the required number of signatures without the approval of the governor.

Since fall 2020, Whitmer has relied on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to issue public health orders, though all restrictions have been lifted as of July 1. 

As of Monday, the state reports that a total of 995,910 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 20,700 have died from the virus.

Unlock Michigan launched a second petition last month to limit state and county epidemic orders to 28 days, unless extended by legislators or county commissions.

Republicans have continued taking up legislation to limit the state’s ability to handle health matters as the pandemic continues. 

The Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee, for instance, last week approved four anti-vaccination and anti-mask bills. Senate Bills 600603 would prohibit schools from requiring students to be vaccinated for in-person learning, prohibit schools from “discriminating” against unvaccinated and asymptomatic students who have not been tested for COVID-19 and prohibit the DHHS from requiring vaccinations, face masks or tests for schools.  

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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.