GOP's $3.5 billion recovery plan threatens school funding if Whitmer doesn't relinquish powers

The Michigan House GOP has released its own COVID recovery plan, contending with a $5.6 billion version released by the governor last week.

The Republican's plan is similar in its breadth of services it wants to fund, like businesses, schools, and vaccine distribution, but about $2 billion less in the amount of money it wants to allocate. 

It also ties $2.1 billion in education funding to the passage of a law that would shift the responsibility of dictating in-person learning schedules and sports activities from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to local health departments.

"Some Michigan school districts haven’t had in-person classes since March – that’s hurting kids in ways we can’t even imagine, and not just academically," said Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) said. "The disruption of sports and other extracurricular activities also takes a major toll."

Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell)

The Republican's plan was announced in a press release Wednesday morning, the same day that Whitmer plans to make the case for her own COVID relief plan during her State of the State address.

The education funding will use grant funding to school districts to offer summer and before-and-after school programs to kids in grades K-8 to catch up on lost learning due to closures from the pandemic. It also assigns $250 per student to help districts that are "committing to reopen in-person instruction by Feb. 15."

Education funding:

  • $1.65 billion to schools, including $363 million for districts that reopen in-person learning by Feb. 15.*
  • $135 million for an in-person summer semester, including $15 million for before-and-after school programs
  • $21 million for teachers and support staff to help students during summer school
  • $5.8 million to offset transportation and tutoring costs for summer school

Whitmer has outlined a plan that urges districts to have some form of in-person learning available by March 1. 

In a recent press conference when she announced plans to reopen bars and restaurants for indoor dining, she maintained restrictions of indoor close-contact sports in schools. The lack of reopening has enraged families that believe it's an unnecessary precaution relative to what industries were reopening. 

RELATED: Whitmer's multibillion dollar COVID-19 recovery plan sends money to schools, businesses

Also included in the GOP bill is a $415 million grant program for businesses that have suffered financially through the pandemic and $38.5 million to offset costs for liquor licenses and health department fees. 

Additional assistance will go toward meals for seniors, child care, mental health, and substance abuse. There's also assistance allocated for rent and utility relief for families, and property tax breaks for businesses.

Job and family funding:

  • $150 million into an unemployment trust fund
  • $55 million to job providers with high unemployment system contribution costs
  • $415 million for restaurants and other small businesses
  • $38.5 million to reimburse fees for liquor licenses and health department inspections
  • $22 million in property tax relief
  • $165 million to help families with rent and utility relief
  • $510 million into SNAP benefits

"The goal here is to provide much-needed hope for job providers in danger of closing their doors forever, families struggling to stay above water, and school kids suffering academically and emotionally," said Albert.

In addition to legislature-approved funding of $50 million for vaccine distribution in December, the plan sends another $22 million for that and $144 million for COVID-19 testing. 

Vaccine distribution funding:

  • $22 million for vaccine distribution plan*
  • $144 million in virus testing

*Funds are contingent on the state not mandating getting a COVID-19 vaccine.