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UPDATE: Michigan construction to resume May 7 under Gov. Whitmer order, Whitmer proposes free college for front line virus workers

(KOTA)
Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 10:01 AM EDT
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UPDATED: Wednesday, April 29, 4:40 p.m.

Construction can resume in Michigan on May 7 under an impending order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The governor plans to sign an executive order Friday that loosens her stay-at-home order for the construction industry.

"No one should be surprised that the governor would open a lower risk field like she has said at previous press conferences," said Whitmer spokesperson, Zack Pohl in a statement to TV6 & FOX UP.

Gov. Whitmer's stay-at-home order is in effect until May 15.

she may soon allow construction to restart in Michigan if coronavirus hospitalizations continue to drop and testing rises.

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Michigan had about 180,000 construction workers in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was not immediately clear how many lost work due to the pandemic, though road projects were allowed to continued under Whitmer's stay-at-home orders which started March 24.

Jeff Wiggins, director of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, estimated that 70 to 80 percent of construction work has been halted, delayed or canceled.

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Gov. Whitmer had a news conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday where she talked about reopened construction, but other new programs as well.

During that news conference, the governor proposed free college for health care workers and others involved in the coronavirus fight, likening their service during the pandemic to soldiers who got a free education after returning home from World War II.

"Today, I'm announcing a plan to help ensure that our frontline workers have paths to opportunity once we get beyond this crisis, so we can thank them for the sacrifice that they've made on all of our behalves," Whitmer said. "This program was inspired by the G.I. Bill after World War II. Historically, when Americans put their lives on the line to defend the rest of us from a foreign enemy, we have shown our gratitude by giving them educational opportunities to improve their lives. Our enemy in this instance is a virus, but our frontline workers are just as heroic, and that's why it's important for us to extend some gratitude and some opportunity once we are beyond this moment."

Gov. Whitmer calls the program "Futures for Frontliners." It's a proposal to help ensure those workers, heroes as she called them, have paths to opportunity. The governor said this includes those working in hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores, childcare, manufacturing PPE, public safety, and delivering goods. The program would offer some tuition-free college opportunities and technical certifications.

The program would require approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature. Whitmer didn't disclose the cost during a briefing with reporters, but said the money would come from the federal government.

Also, on Wednesday, the governor opened the conference talking about a nurse from Gladstone, named Linda, who renewed her Michigan Nursing License to work at the hard-hit long-term care facility, Norlite Nursing Center, in Marquette.

"Linda is an example of someone who has determination and grit, much like the Yoopers I know and love," Gov. Whitmer said. "She's dedicated to protecting as many people as possible from this virus."

Gov. Whitmer also said the state will spend $130 million to help child care providers stay afloat, including those serving essential workers. Those getting a grant must reduce their weekly rates by at least 10% and care for children of essential workers regardless of where parents work.

Grants start at $1,500 for home-based providers and $3,000 for child care centers, but could be higher.

The governor also mentioned how not as many hospital beds will be needed, as was originally predicted.

"They're not filled, thank God,'' she said of the alternative sites that were built to house and treat COVID-19 patients.

The presentation used during the governor's press conference can be found

. You can watch the entire press conference embedded below.

For continuing coronavirus coverage from TV6 & FOX UP, visit

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Gov. Whitmer Press Conference: April 29

Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS' Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and other officials are giving an update on Michigan's ongoing coronavirus response and future plans.

Posted by TV6 & FOX UP on Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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