GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the federal government needs to come up with more money to help in the fight against COVID-19 but since Washington has been unable to find agreement on another stimulus, she’s now asking Michigan’s legislature to act.
It’s a $100 million ask from the governor with not a lot of specifics, but that may be for the best to give the administration and the legislature a chance to fashion a plan on which they can both agree.
Whitmer does mention some broad strokes and a couple of tangible plans in a letter she sent to leadership on the day before Thanksgiving.
First, she said the $100 million should be used to help “families and small businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.”
She doesn’t say exactly what the parameters would be for that assistance but does warn lawmakers about trying to expand spending to cover other issues, in light of an expected billion-dollar deficit next year.
She also wants a permanent extension of unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. Currently, someone receiving unemployment is eligible for up to 26 weeks of coverage — but that ends on Dec. 31.
Finally, Whitmer wants a statewide mandate requiring the use of face masks. While the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has already made such a mandate, the governor has said repeatedly she thinks it would send a good message for the legislature to codify that.
Some sources in Lansing on Monday said there was not a lot of reaction to Whitmer’s letter, with some offices saying they needed more details.
Whitmer wants the $100 million COVID bill to move in the final nine days of the current legislature. If it doesn’t, the she could try again with the next legislature in 2021.
New members in the Michigan House of Representatives will begin in January, though the margin for Republicans remains the same as it did before the election, as they control both the Michigan Senate and the House.