Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas
Michigan House Republicans on Wednesday morning introduced a $1.2 billion plan using federal funds for COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment, health care employees and COVID-19 testing.
House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) said in a press release that the plan will help to address some of the state’s largest issues when it comes to COVID-19 testing and treatment. He specifically noted the plan’s provisions to boost testing in schools, saying he believes the plan “will help students stay healthy and in school so they can continue their efforts to catch up.”
“This plan addresses the main challenges facing our state right now – increasing the capacity to provide early treatments to COVID patients, a critical shortage of health care workers, and keeping our kids healthy and in school,” Albert said. “We are providing immediate help where it’s needed most and will do the most good.”
However, state Rep. Tom McMillin, a GOP state school board member and former state representative, had a different reaction at this week’s meeting about kids being in school following incidents like the Oxford High School shooting last week. McMillin proposed that kids should not be required to attend school, instead allowing them to take part in “education pods,” and “micro-schools.”
House Bill 5523, introduced by state Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland), would appropriate $367 million to boost testing programs across the state while another $300 million will go to rapid testing for schools.
Another $300 million also will go to helping to recruit and retain health care employees in the state as the state faces extreme staff shortages.
An estimated $134 million will go to boosting the program that would distribute monoclonal antibodies and other programs to combat the virus. About $109 million of the funds will establish eight testing and treatment sites across the state for the treatment, while the remaining $25 million will go to purchasing monoclonal antibodies from manufacturers. An additional $90 million will go to improving vaccination initiatives.
Calley said in a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the bill that it will specifically take aim at providing early treatment for those who are suffering from COVID-19 by using federal aid money.
“We have a lot of focus on that concept of early treatment,” Calley said. “We’ve seen other states take proactive measures and we would like to do the same.”
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association also endorsed the bill on Wednesday, saying the plan provides “vital funding” for health care workers in the state. The association said in a press release that with the COVID-19 surge, the funding could not have “come soon enough.”
The bill’s introduction comes as Michigan leaders are grappling with how to spend about $8.5 billion in federal aid, along with another $2.4 billion state budget surplus. There is about $5.8 billion in stimulus funds through the American Rescue Plan that still have yet to be used.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged lawmakers in the Michigan Legislature to spend $800 million in federal aid on COVID-19 response and relief. She also recently called on the Legislature to spend about $300 million on COVID-19 testing initiatives in schools.
Whitmer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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