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COVID-19 relief bill on its way to Whitmer's desk

Inside the Michigan Capitol looking up at the dome.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Michigan House approved a COVID-19 relief bill Monday that includes a pay boost for workers on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19; funding for vaccine distribution; and extending unemployment benefits. There’s also money to help small businesses that have been hurt by the continuing health crisis.

The bargaining between the Legislature’s GOP leaders and Governor Gretchen Whitmer continued into late last week. The Senate adopted the bill Friday, and the House returned Monday to finalize the deal.

These were tough negotiations, with the only point of agreement between Republicans and Democrats being no one is entirely satisfied with the final product.

"Although this a step in providing relief, I want to caution my colleagues from believing this is enough,” said state Representative Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), who voted for the bill.

Democrats say more help for renters and making prisons safer for infected inmates should be high on next year’s priorities list.

The bill now goes to Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), who released a statement praising the Legislature’s work:

'This bipartisan relief bill will provide families and businesses with the support they need to stay afloat as we continue working to distribute the safe and effective vaccine and eradicate COVID-19 once and for all. There is still more work to do to beat this virus and grow our economy.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) also released a statement taking aim at the Whitmer administration’s COVID-19 restrictions:

“This budget bill provides critical support to the workers and small family businesses who have been left behind by their government and extend a lifeline right when they need it the most,” he said. “People are worried about the effects of the latest shutdown and what it means to their families.”

Some Democrats complained they were strong-armed into supporting a COVID relief bill that includes a provision allowing the transport of hazardous waste across the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit and Windsor-Ontario. That caused a few metro Detroit lawmakers to break off and vote “no.” The language cannot be line-item vetoed.

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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