GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Democrats in the Michigan House are pushing for a vote on a COVID-19 recovery plan that calls for spending billions in federal stimulus dollars.
The House Democrats laid out the $5 billion recovery plan during a virtual news conference Monday morning. They called on the Republicans who control the state Legislature to hold a vote on spending the money, which is coming from the federal government.
“Michigan’s stimulus dollars are just sitting there, waiting to be deployed to people in need across the state. That is not what the people of the state of Michigan want or need. House Democrats are ready to take a vote on pandemic recovery that will put federal stimulus dollars to work immediately for those in need across our state,” said House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski of Scio Township.
The package would include $90 million for vaccine distribution throughout the state, $575 million to expand COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and lab capacity, $2.1 billion for food assistance, $661 million to help with rental assistance and winter utility bills, $2 billion for the state’s public schools, $270 million for small business relief and extending unemployment benefits from 20 to 26 weeks.
“To reopen our state, we need to solve the public health crisis before us. House Democrats are ready to take the vote to get these federal stimulus dollars in motion to return to the State of Michigan and help those in need who need it most across our state,” said Lasinski.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, also a Democrat, previously announced a $5.6 billion MI COVID Recovery Plan that includes money for small businesses, education and the vaccine rollout, among other things.
House Democratic said their package is very similar to the governor’s plan but noted it’s appropriations bills and doesn’t affect policy, unlike the House Republicans’ plan.
“What our plan does not do is tie the hand, in any way, to making safe public health decisions. We believe that expertise resides with health experts. We believe that there should be no holding hostage of federal dollars to the idea that there should be removal of power from our health experts in the Department of Health and Human Services or from the executive branch,” said Lansinski.
House Republicans countered with a $3.5 billion package that would tie billions in money to schools to allowing local health departments, not Whitmer, control of when schools can have in-person learning and sports. Whitmer has said that is “cruel and reckless.”
While Whitmer called for finding “common ground” in her State of the State address last week, the relationship between her and the Republicans who control the Legislature has been poor for some time and made even worse during the pandemic as lawmakers were left out of making decisions about coronavirus restrictions. Speaking to News 8 the day after the speech, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, indicated hope for the future but also said he was skeptical about a better relationship.
Also on hand during Monday’s virtual news conference were Rep. Joe Tate of Detroit; Rep. Christine Morse of Portage; Rep. Kelly Breen of Novi; and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky of Livonia.