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Published in Economic Development

Business groups back House Republicans’ COVID-19 spending plan

BY Wednesday, January 27, 2021 04:15pm

Statewide business groups announced their support today for House Republicans’ COVID-19 spending plan that’s a rebuttal to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s $5.6 billion plan unveiled last week.

State Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, unveiled the $3.5 billion plan on Wednesday, hours before Whitmer is scheduled to give her annual State of the State address. Albert, who’s chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, held a hearing this morning in Lansing that included testimony from small business owners affected by the most recent hospitality industry shutdowns, as well as advocates from the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

State Rep. Thomas Albert COURTESY PHOTO

“My first impression is this is the strongest, most substantial pro-small business statement we’ve seen out of state government so far, by far,” SBAM President Brian Calley testified. “The components of this plan directly impact and address the ramifications that so many small businesses are facing because they have carried the majority of the economic burden.”

Calley specifically noted a proposed $150 million that would deposited into the state’s unemployment trust fund to ensure benefits are continued to be paid and offset the cost of fraudulent claims last year; $38.5 million that would reimburse fees for liquor license and health department inspections; and $22 million to assist property owners facing penalties and interest on unpaid summer 2020 property taxes.

The Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) also supported the proposed $150 million appropriation for the unemployment trust fund.

“Chairman Albert’s plan shows great insight on the many issues facing Michigan employers,” MMA Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Johnston said in a statement. “Providing support for the UITF, which is solely funded by employer tax dollars, is an appropriate move. Too much unemployment money was lost to fraud and employers should not be held responsible for these violations that occurred under the State’s stewardship of the trust fund.”

The House Republicans’ plan also calls for $415 million in grants for businesses that have lost revenue during the most recent round of closures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

On COVID-19 vaccines, House Republicans propose $22 million quarterly for “closer monitoring and accountability” of the state’s vaccine rollout, as well as $144 million for virus testing.

Meanwhile, House Republicans’ $2.1 billion portion for education is “contingent upon approval of a law moving power to close in-person learning and sports activities away from the governor’s administration to local health departments, which would have that authority following health metrics,” according to a statement from Albert’s office.

Advocacy group Progress Michigan panned the education component of the Republican plan, saying GOP lawmakers are “holding billions of our federal tax dollars hostage in an attempt to undermine Gov. Whitmer’s ability to do her job all while pretending she’s the one standing in the way of ‘bipartisan’ government.’”

Whitmer Communications Director Tiffany Brown issued a statement Wednesday morning saying the governor is “ready and eager to work with Republicans in the legislature to pass a bipartisan economic recovery plan that supports our small businesses and helps get families back on their feet. It is also crucial that we pass a plan that helps vaccinate our educators and puts more dollars into classrooms so we can get our kids back in school safely while staying focused on protecting public health. This is not the time for partisan games. It’s time to get to work.”

Albert said the House Republican plan would be revisited at a future committee meeting.

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