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Whitmer introduces plan to pay college tuition for workers on the frontline

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants to help store clerks and nursing home staff who are showing up for work during the COVID-19 crisis pay for college or job training.

Whitmer says her plan is modeled after the G.I. Bill that helped military veterans pursue higher education after World War II. The governor says she wants to use federal disaster funds to pay for the program.

“It will provide tuition-free college opportunities for people who have risked their lives fighting on the front line of this pandemic," she says. "It will help more workers acquire technical certificates, associate degrees at community colleges, and potentially bachelor’s degrees at universities.”

Whitmer says that includes health care workers who don’t have degrees or certificates, store clerks who stock shelves, and delivery workers.

The proposal fits with the governor’s pre-COVID crisis goal of increasing the number of Michigan workers with professional certifications and college degrees.

Whitmer says she will decide when sectors of Michigan’s economy re-open, not the Legislature. Republicans have been pressing the Democratic governor to move more quickly to re-open more businesses.

The governor has amended executive orders to allow more businesses to re-open and workers to return to jobs where there’s less risk of people breaking social distancing rules.

Whitmer says this is not the time to engage in political negotiations over public safety.

“I’m going to make decisions not based on negotiation, but based on facts, and science, and data, and risk.”

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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