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Michigan Senate approves $1.9B COVID-19 relief funding bill

February 26, 2021
<p>Lansing Capitol building on Sept. 19, 2019. </p>

Lansing Capitol building on Sept. 19, 2019.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

The Michigan Senate approved over $1.9 billion COVID-19 relief funding bill on Thursday that includes:

Senate bills 29 and 114 passed 20-15 during the Feb. 25 session.

The package that the Senate approved is less than a third of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s $5.6 billion supplemental spending plan. 

“The Senate has now approved roughly $6 billion in COVID-19 relief to improve access to lifesaving vaccines while also supporting our front-line workers, students, small businesses and people trying to make ends meet,” Jim Stamas, Senate Appropriation Committee chairman, said in a press release Thursday.

Senate bill 29 includes:

A minimum of $450 per student to address learning loss associated with school closures.

  • $5.9 million to reimburse parents for summer school costs.
  • $20 million for student mental health services.
  • $11.7 million for benchmark assessments in reading and math.
  • $87 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) grants for nonpublic schools.

Senate bill 114 includes:

  • $110 million for vaccine distribution.
  • Appropriating $184 million in federal dollars for COVID-19 testing, of which, $75 million would be for testing in school districts and $20 million for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
  • $282.5 million in emergency rental assistance and administrative costs.
  • $150 million for direct care workers extending direct care workers' $2 wage increase to a $2.25 increase through the end of September.

Direct care workers advocate for more

Direct care workers provide extensive care daily to the elderly, those with physical and intellectual disabilities and people with long-term needs. According to a report from the Paraprofessional Health Institution the number of direct care workers employed in Michigan has increased 23% since 2009. 

Wage increase for direct care workers has been extended several times since Whitmer signed the executive order that increased their pay last April. The executive order was in place from April 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020. 

The Michigan Senate approved Senate Bill 690 last May, which would increase direct worker’s pay by another $1, $3 total. The increase would be retroactive from April 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020. However, the Michigan House of Representatives amended the bill, which extended the $2 wage increase through Sept. 30, 2020.

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Direct care workers have been advocating for a permanent wage increase but have only gotten the increased wage extended since September. Whitmer included a permanent wage increase in her budget for the 2022 fiscal year. 

“We know that in order to live in affordable housing you need to make around 15 bucks an hour, and if you’re earning far less than that then it's just not sustainable,” Stephanie Van Koevering, vice president at Resch Strategies, said. 

PHI reports that the median wage for direct care workers in Michigan is $2.42 lower than the median wage for job with similar entry level requirements like janitors, retail salespersons and customer service representatives. In Michigan, the median wage for direct care workers is $12.95. 

Direct care workers are paid through federal dollars allocated to Medicaid. The state then awards the money to different agencies that provide services to those who need it. The agencies will give money to people that require services so that they can pay their direct care worker.

Both bills will be considered by the House next week.


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