The federal government sent nearly $5.5 billion dollars to Michigan in COVID-19 relief aid, it was up to the legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to agree on how that money would be spent and where.
Wednesday, the legislature sent most of their plan to the Governor’s desk, without agreeing on a deal with her beforehand.
For weeks Governor Whitmer has been calling on the legislature to create a plan and appropriate the full amount of COVID-19 relief aid as soon as possible.
Her first plan was $5.6 billion dollars right away. Both the House and Senate Republicans came back with similar plans, similar in where to send the money but not how and when.
Republicans want to send out most the money now and hold back some for the coming weeks as the state sees where it is needed.
“We’re not withholding anything, it’s our job to appropriate funds,” said Representative Jack O’Malley, “Why just give anybody all of it? How about we say alright, let’s see what happens?”
As for Wednesday’s vote, in total the package of bills is $4.2 billion dollars but only $3.4 billion of that federal relief money.
The first bill passed by the House spends $2.3 billion on COVID related help like grants for workers and businesses, COVID vaccines and tests. That passed easily with an 85-25 vote.
The second is the school aid fund, almost 2 billion dollars worth, that passed 77-33.
The third bill was tied to that school bill. It would allow local health departments the ability to close schools and sports and take that away from the state. If this is vetoed by Governor Whitmer, nearly half of the school funding will be taken away as well.
Democrats said this kind of deal holds students hostage as the Republicans fight for power.
The bill passed by a much slimmer 60-50 vote.
All three of these bills now head to the governor where she can sign or veto parts, if not all, of the bills.
“We’ll see what the governor says,” said Rep. O’Malley, “This is the House and Senate coming together, saying this is our budget, let’s talk and we will see if she will.”
A fourth bill in the package was not able to be voted on Wednesday and will go up for vote next week. That bill will limit executive orders to 28 days without legislative approval and if vetoed, could hold back another $350 million.