State Rep. Greg Markkanen this week voted in favor of funding to help Michigan distribute the COVID-19 vaccine while helping those whose livelihoods have been forcibly disrupted by the virus and economic shutdowns.
Markkanen, of Hancock, helped the House approve a $465 million overall plan that also temporarily extends unemployment benefits while supporting the restaurant industry, small businesses and the families who depend on them.
“The governor has shut down people’s livelihoods, leaving thousands of our residents suffering financially,” Markkanen said. “What Michigan businesses and the workers they employ need most is for the governor and her administration to get out of the way and allow them to reopen safely and survive by their own merits. In the meantime, this funding will provide some temporary relief to the many local families who are struggling to stay afloat through no fault of their own.”
Highlights of Senate Bill 748 include:
- Restaurant and small business relief. The measure adds to grant programs for small businesses whose operations have been shut down or restricted by the governor’s latest orders. Markkanen said the small business survival program – supported by $55 million in this measure alone – could provide a lifeline for many job providers and families on the brink of economic collapse. However, he continued to stress the importance of allowing local businesses to reopen safely.
- Unemployment benefits and additional help. The measure includes $220 million to temporarily extend unemployment benefits for those who have been forced out of work by the governor’s most recent shutdown orders. Benefits are extended by six weeks through March, meaning laid-off workers are temporarily eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits. Employers are held harmless for the change. In addition, $45 million would be set aside for an employee assistance fund providing grants of up to $1,650 to replace lost wages for those employed by a business impacted by the current orders.
- Vaccine distribution and support for health care workers. The measure includes more than $50 million to support vaccine distribution efforts, and $22.5 million to boost virus testing efforts – with a special focus on nursing homes. Another $42 million will support temporary staffing needs and wage increases for direct care workers who are the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.
Markkanen said the proposal builds on the Legislature’s commitment to fight COVID-19 and its repercussions – which includes approving more than $3 billion earlier this year from state budgets, plus allocation of federal unemployment funding to surpass $6 billion overall.
Senate Bill 748 will soon head to Gov. Whitmer for her consideration.
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State Rep. Greg Markkanen, of Hancock, this week joined his colleagues in voting to advance a comprehensive COVID-19 recovery plan – which works to get kids back in classrooms, help struggling families and job providers, and improve the state’s flawed vaccine distribution program. The $3.5 billion plan now advances to the Senate for further consideration. […]