By: - January 19, 2021 3:20 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday outlined her plan for a new $5.6 billion COVID-19 relief bill. Most of the funds for businesses, unemployment benefits, schools and vaccine distribution come from the federal government, with about $575 million from the state.

“To help grow and strengthen our economy, we must provide crucial support for our families, small businesses, and frontline workers,” said Whitmer. “The MI COVID Recovery Plan will help small businesses get through the winter, help us put more shots in arms and ramp up vaccine distribution, and get our kids back on track in school. It’s the right thing to do to protect public health and jumpstart our economy, and I’m ready to work with the legislature to get it done.”

There’s about $2 billion in education funding to help meet Whitmer’s goal of offering an in-person learning option in schools by March 1. There is $90 million for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, as well as $575 million to expand COVID testing, tracing and lab capacity in Michigan. The governor also wants increased rental assistance, unemployment benefits and food assistance.

And the plan includes $225 million for three new programs from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC):

  • The Michigan Mainstreet Initiative aims to stabilize the small business community by securing grants for restaurants and other place-based businesses.
  • The Michigan Microenterprise Support Initiative is for small businesses with less than nine employees.
  • The Business Accelerator and Resiliency Initiative will provide grants to high-tech startups.

Leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature have clashed with Whitmer over her pandemic health orders since last spring, with House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) threatening this month not to pass any more aid unless Whitmer’s administration lifts the few remaining restrictions, like on in-person dining.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.