HAVLICEK: Breaking down the House’s COVID Recovery Plan

Published 2:34 pm Friday, February 12, 2021

Michigan House Republicans have introduced and passed three supplemental budget bills which together comprise their $3.5 billion Help and Hope for Struggling Michiganders plan. Much like the Governor’s COVID Recovery plan, this package contains numerous proposals aimed at tackling Michigan’s economic recovery, supporting our students, and ending our public health emergency.

First and foremost, the House’s plan would deposit $150 million into the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund to ensure our small businesses are not on the hook for fraudulent benefit disbursements and improper payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan would then allocate $393.5 million in tax and fee relief for afflicted businesses that have realized a significant financial hardship during the past year. This is broken out into four targeted programs which will be made available to businesses through a combined application process:

• $300 million to create a property tax relief grant program;

• $55 million to create an unemployment insurance tax relief grant program;

• $16.5 million to create a retail liquor license relief program; and

• $22 million to create a local health department food service fee relief program.

The House also included a $22 million Property Tax Penalty & Interest Reimbursement program for afflicted businesses that incurred penalties or interest fines for unpaid 2020 Summer or Winter property taxes.

House Republicans also address key public health priorities by allocating $22 million for vaccine distribution and $144 million for COVID testing and contact tracing. Unlike the governor’s plan, however, additional resources for vaccine distribution and testing would be allocated quarterly as needed, rather than all at once. Legislative leaders believe holding some funds in reserve allows for more oversight and ensures the funds aren’t squandered.

Last but not least is the education supplemental, HB 4048 H-1. Introduced by Berrien County’s own Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles), it contained a number of positive spending provisions aimed at getting students back in classrooms and providing financial support to help local school districts with increased costs.

As you can see, there are plenty of common themes between what the House has proposed and what Gov. Whitmer announced just over two weeks ago. Having reviewed both plans in-depth, I believe the House differentiated themselves by creating a proposal more concentrated on targeted small business relief and overall accountability. Those are easy concepts to get behind. After all, Michigan does not have money to waste and every dollar should go where it’s needed most.

Michigan also does not have time to waste. The House’s plan is now under consideration in the senate, and we are imploring swift action on their part to send this legislation to the governor’s desk. I have ended far too many columns by saying struggling businesses and workers need relief now. It’s time for leaders in Lansing to work together and deliver the help and hope needed to get Michiganders back on their feet.