Whitmer Signs $106M Bipartisan Relief Bill, Says Falling COVID-19 Numbers Show Residents ‘Have Done Their Part’ 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a $106 million bipartisan relief bill today that the Michigan legislature passed to give much-needed financial assistance to Michigan families, frontline workers, and small businesses. Whitmer discussed the bill during a press conference today.

“The bill will provide families and small businesses the support they need to stay afloat as we continue working to distribute these vaccines and eradicate COVID-19 once and for all,” Whitmer said. “I proposed this stimulus plan to the legislature in November because I know how much our families, frontline workers, and small businesses need relief.”

She added that “there is still more work to be done” to eliminate the virus and grow the economy. But for now, the relief bill includes:

  • $55 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
  • Grants of up to $20,000 that will be made available to small businesses across the state that need support this winter.
  • The relief bill also includes $3.5 million for grants of up to $40,000 each for live music and entertainment venues.
  • Also $45 million in direct payments to workers who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the virus.

 

The governor also signed bipartisan Senate Bill 604 extending unemployment benefits for Michiganders who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from 20 to 26 weeks until the end of March 2021. Senate Bill 604 was sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel.

 

“No Michigander should have to worry about how to put food on the table or pay their bills, especially during a global pandemic,” said Whitmer. “These bipartisan bills are an important step in providing immediate relief for working families, but there is more work to do. I urge the legislature to take further action to make this permanent. 40 states, including all of our neighbors, automatically provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment relief. Michiganders deserve better than a short-term extension that expires in March. It’s time to work together on a bipartisan, long-term solution for working families.”

 

Today, Whitmer also urged the legislature when they return to work in January to pass a permanent extension of unemployment benefits and an increase in weekly benefits that offer unemployed Michiganders the support they need to put food on the table for themselves and their families.

 

During the press conference, she also discussed how Pres. Donald Trump recently signed a COVID relief bill that provides some support for Michigan’s unemployed workers. The bill extends benefits to self-employed and gig workers and provides all unemployment recipients with an additional $300 per week.

“The extension will bring much-needed relief to 700,00 Michigan workers who are currently receiving benefits under the federal UI programs,” she said adding that residents will be able to buy groceries and prescription drugs. “Like every state in the nation, we must wait until guidance is issued by the U.S. Department of Labor before we can begin processing the benefits provided under the new legislation. We’re hopeful that will happen quickly.”

Whitmer said with 2020 coming to a close soon the new year comes with a “renewed hope” and optimism after speaking to experts across the state, having conversations with the new White House administration, and more.

“I really believe …2021 is going to get better than the last,” she said.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said that as a state, Michigan has 480,508 cases and 12,089 deaths due to COVID-19.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the data we are seeing in the state,” she said of three main metrics the MDHHS uses when tracking COVID-19 numbers:

  • Case Rates
  • Test positivity
  • COVID-19 patients in hospital beds

Currently, there are 279 COVID-19 cases per million people in the state. That number has steadily declined for more than 38 days now — though it’s still four times higher than September data.

Test positivity rates are now at 8.4% and have been declining for multiple weeks; though that number is still three times what it was since September, too.

Saginaw and Jackson region’s test positivity rates are above 10% and have the highest case rates in the state, although, that is also on the decline.

Khaldun said that 13.8% of inpatient beds in the state used to treat COVID-19 patients are down from previous weeks.

The most recent week’s average number of deaths statewide is 107 deaths per day compared to 123 deaths per day the previous week. Khaldun said, adding that important that people don’t get complacent.

“What we are seeing in the data is not a cause to celebrate,” she said. “While Michiganders are doing a great job of bringing our cases down that progress is fragile. We’re still identifying many cases across the state. It only takes one gathering to spread across multiple households and their close contacts. So while we are moving in the right direction let’s all do our part and remain vigilant.”

Khaldun encouraged residents to “find creative ways” to ring in the new year with virtual calls with family and friends. She also said that the holidays may be “emotionally difficult” for some people, especially during a pandemic.

“Let’s please remember to check in on loved ones, friends, and family throughout the holiday season with a phone call or virtual check-in,” she said. “It’s OK not to feel happy at this time of year and OK to seek out help if you need it. Please take care of your physical and mental health.”

Mental health resources can be found at michigan.gov/staywell.

She also asked residents to get tested for COVID-19 if they think they’ve been exposed to someone with symptoms or someone who tested positive. There are over 300 testing sites across the state and locations may be found at michigan.gov/coronavirus.

In the two weeks that vaccines have become available to some segments of the population, so far, over 71,000 people have been vaccinated in the state.

“This is so historic,” Khaldun said, adding that she is proud of the hospitals, local pharmacies, healthcare professionals, and others across the state working hard to get people vaccinated. “I was grateful to be vaccinated a couple of weeks ago with other frontline healthcare workers … and I’m looking forward to next week when I get my second booster shot of the vaccine to make sure I am fully protected.”

More information on the vaccine can be found at michigan.gov/covidvaccine.

To view the governor’s signing message to the legislature, click here.

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