Whitmer signs most of COVID recovery plan package, vetoes funding tied to limits on pandemic powers

LANSING, Mich. — The debate over how to use federal dollars for COVID-19 relief will continue in Lansing, after the Governor signed most of the legislature’s latest relief package into law.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed more than $2.5 billion in coronavirus relief spending on Tuesday. That includes a $2.25 per hour wage increase for all direct care workers through September, and is a raise from the $2 per hour increase previously in effect.

Other provisions include $283 million for rental assistance, $110 million for vaccine administration, and $555 million for testing and tracing.

“I think it’s great news that we’ve been able to get some of the federal funding available to us appropriated, including passing two of my key proposals to provide a wage increase for direct care workers and increased funding to help expand vaccinations for Michiganders who are 50 years old or older,” said Whitmer in a statement.

The Governor called on state lawmakers to pass another package of bills to appropriate the more than $2 billion dollars still available from the federal government.

State Budget Director David Massaron hopes to meet with members of the House and Senate appropriations committees by the end of this week to negotiate how those funds can be put to use. Whitmer wants to send more than $300 million to the rent assistant program, and $2.1 billion more to food assistance programs.

The Governor vetoed nearly $650 million of funding in the latest package. Items include $405 million in business relief, $150 million for the state’s unemployment fund, $87 million for private schools, and $10 million for summer schools. Whitmer also vetoed part of a bill that required the state health department to cede power to close schools to local health departments. The $840 million in funding for K-12 schools tied to that bill may end up a casualty of the veto. The situation is under review by the Governor’s legal team.

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