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UPDATE: Whitmer signs portion of state coronavirus stimulus plan

The governor signed a $106 million bipartisan coronavirus relief bill Tuesday morning - although she used her line-item veto power on a portion of it - and signed another measure that extends unemployment benefits to 26 weeks.
Published: Dec. 29, 2020 at 8:39 AM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a $106 million bipartisan coronavirus relief bill Tuesday morning - although she used her line-item veto power on a portion of it - and signed another measure that extends unemployment benefits to 26 weeks.

“I proposed the the MI COVID relief plan to the legislature back in November because I know how much our families, our frontline workers, and our small businesses need relief,” Whitmer said during her December 29 COVID-19 update.

The relief bill includes $55 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Grants of up to $20,000 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, and includes $45 million in direct payments to workers who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the virus. The legislature passed the bill last week.

When she signed the bipartisan relief bill, Gov. Whitmer said she line-item vetoed any items not subject to negotiated agreement. That includes $220 million to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund - a pool of funds designed to help businesses fund benefits for laid off workers. Whitmer says this veto does not affect anyone’s current benefits.

“General fund dollars have got to be used to fund essential services like vaccines and PPE, not to give tax breaks to big businesses,” said Whitmer.

In a tweet, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says unemployment cannot be extended without the $220 million in spending.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox released a statement disapproving of Whitmer’s vetoes, saying, “First, Governor Whitmer put people out of work with her shutdown orders. Then, through her administration’s incompetence, it became almost impossible for out-of-work Michiganders to receive unemployment benefits. Now, Whitmer has vetoed extending aid to workers even though her draconian shutdowns continue. Clearly, the ‘science’ Whitmer is following doesn’t include basic economics, and Michigan families are paying the price.”

Republican State Representative Beau LaFave also believes Whitmer’s action will harm Michiganders. He urged the governor to reconsider, saying, “You’re shutting down people’s livelihoods and making it impossible for them to go to work, and now you’re going to make it impossible for them to get unemployment benefits too? I don’t understand why a republican and a democrat compromise would be vetoed. This is a terrible public policy.”

Whitmer urged the legislature to pass a permanent extension of unemployment benefits and an increase in weekly benefits when lawmakers return Jan. 13. On Tuesday, 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.

Overall coronavirus numbers continue to trend in the right direction statewide and in the U.P.

The latest state hospital data shows 42 of 58 adult intensive care unit beds in U.P. hospitals are full, and 14 of those are coronavirus patients. On Nov. 10, 52 of 58 beds were full, with 35 of those taken by coronavirus patients. This is is one of the metrics the state health department says it’s monitoring when making decision about coronavirus restrictions.

The current order that bans indoor dining is in effect through Jan. 15. Whitmer says her administration is monitoring data to see if holiday travel has any impact on the declining trend.

Coronavirus vaccine distribution has been underway for two weeks, with 17,225 doses distributed to Upper Michigan hospitals, health departments and tribal health centers so far. Click here to see more vaccine distribution data.

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