MI Senate OKs front-line worker funds

The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved $524 million in available COVID-19 federal funds to help families in need of financial assistance, deliver much-needed supplies to front-line workers and support critical state infrastructure.

“Front-line workers have stood tall in the face of this pandemic and taken on extreme burdens to save lives and ensure we have what we need to take care of our families,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Michigan has received $3 billion from the federal government and my colleagues and I are looking at ways to provide additional support to those in need.”

Senate Bill 690 would provide $100 million in support pay for first responders such as police officers, firefighters and EMS workers, $50 million for additional testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers in hospitals and other settings, $125 million to reduce child care costs for essential workers, and $178 million to increase pay by $3 an hour for direct care workers, including those who provide care for seniors in nursing homes, disabled individuals and individuals with mental illnesses.

The legislation includes language to provide $11 million to immediately hire an additional 300 temporary workers to the Unemployment Insurance Agency, $12 million for agriculture processors for testing, facility needs and PPE supplies, $30 million for at-home learning and assessment support for schools, $15 million for summer schools and $2.5 million in assistance to hospitality workers who may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

“Michigan workers who have remained on the job deserve all of the resources they need. They have given so much for us and they should be afforded the proper equipment to keep themselves safe and decrease the risk of bringing anything home to their families,” Schmidt said. “At the same time, those who have been forced out of a job because of a government mandate deserve every dollar that was promised to them.

“Some families are going on seven-plus weeks now without even hearing back from the state’s unemployment agency — we should certainly be doing better than that. Hiring additional temporary employees to help facilitate claims will help clear the backlog and ensure people get the money that’s owed to them.”

Schmidt said this funding will be especially helpful in his district, which heavily relies on the hospitality industry — one of the industries hardest hit by the governor’s stay-home orders.

“Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula receive a tremendous economic boost from folks heading north to enjoy Michigan’s beautiful natural resources,” Schmidt said. “I know many businesses in my district have been incredibly hurt by this outbreak, and we want to try to provide as much relief to people as we can.”

SB 690 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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