State-wide and National COVID Relief Packages Move Forward Today


By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

Lansing, Mich. – Today, both the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate approved a supplemental spending bill that will provide $220 million in unemployment benefits, $55 million in small business grants and $79.5 million in vaccination operations and COVID-19 testing, among other expenditures.

Programs funded by this spending are expected to begin receiving funds in January. Even though the funding was approved by both legislative bodies, the bill still needs to go to Governor Whitmer’s desk for her approval. After formally requesting the expanded funds on Dec. 3, it’s expected that Governor Whitmer will approve the spending proposal.

Despite near-unanimous passage, at 97-5 in the house of representatives, Republican members of the house criticized the governor for what they saw as leaving a temporary solution up to the legislature, while a permanent solution on the governor’s part is yet to come, says Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering).

Totaling $465 million, specifics on the spending have not been obtained by time of publication. However, with a vote expected today in Congress, the figures are likely to change as more Coronavirus relief funding becomes available from the federal government.

Yesterday, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnel announced that a deal has been reached on the issue of COVID-19 Relief Funding. Details of the deal show that a $600 direct-aid check will be provided to Americans, similar to the $1,200 check back in March, with $600 checks sent for parents with eligible children.

A number of other programs will restart, such as federally subsidized unemployment, a renewal of Paycheck Protection Program funding and other benefits that are meant to be direct-aid to industries and workers.

A larger issue on the Bill that’s likely to be voted on today is the absence of direct funding for states, a bargaining point McConnell called a “controversial state bailout.” During the summer, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer publicly called for renewed Coronavirus relief funding from the federal government.

Although many call out states like Michigan for mismanaging funding, the reality is that throughout the pandemic, Michigan was slow to spend federal aid. Among the leading spenders of federal aid, only California, New York and Colorado had spent more than 50% of federally funded Coronavirus relief, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

So far, Michigan has spent around $68.5 billion in COVID response. To put that in perspective, the operating budget for the state of Michigan in 2019 was $62.7 billion. The state legislature was allocated just $3.9 billion from the Federal CARES Act, leaving Michigan with most of the cost.

The United States is currently at the highest number of cases it has ever experienced, with almost 18 million active cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. With stay-at-home orders in nearly every state in the country, the economic fallout is likely to continue until “herd immunity” is an established phenomenon after enough people complete the Coronavirus vaccine.

In the meantime, the newest round of state and federal spending will look a lot like the last one in March, with renewed national programs and statewide benefits increases. Unemployment for Michigan will continue into March, with $300 to be added to that by the Federal Government.

As a new effort in mitigating the virus comes with the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, a chunk of that spending will need to go to manufacturing and distributing the vaccine. Congress is planning on putting aside $20 billion to provide vaccines to people who need them, along with an $8 billion effort to distribute the vaccine.

Spending for the original CARES Act is set to expire for states and municipalities on Dec. 30, meaning that this new round would provide for the following year’s spending.