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Whitmer announces tax respite, COVID-19 vaccine commission

a person holds a vaccine vial
Adobe Stock

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday her next round of actions to help people facing hardships due to the COVID-19 crisis. That includes a tax respite for businesses hurt by the COVID-19 restrictions and making plans for vaccines once they’re approved.

Under an executive order, entertainment venues and sit-down restaurants will be given more time to pay their December sales and payroll taxes. She says the postponed sales, use, and withholding taxes apply to recreation and entertainment venues as well as dine-in restaurants that have suffered due to pandemic restrictions. That means the businesses won’t have to pay their monthly taxes for December until January.

“The state Treasury will waive all penalties and interest for 31 days,” she said. “This is a crucial step in helping our businesses that are struggling, but we still need the Legislature and the federal government to act.”

A new commission will make plans to promote one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines that could be near approval for distribution. That’s along with early planning on who will get priority status for the vaccines, starting with health care workers.

The panel’s bipartisan leadership includes Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and former Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley. It will also include top health officials, as well as Michigan residents who apply to serve.

“This commission will help raise awareness about the safety and effectiveness of approved COVID-19 vaccines,” she said. “It will educate the people of our state, and it will help protect the health and safety of all Michigan residents.”

The commissionmust complete its work by the end of 2021. But Whitmer says it’s also important to get a head start with two vaccines possibly nearing approval for distribution.

And Whitmer also asked the Legislature to move on financial assistance for small businesses and extended unemployment benefits for workers who’ve lost income due to COVID restrictions.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports that as of Thursday, 10,395 people have died from COVID in Michigan, and there are 421,137 confirmed cases.

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