Gov. Whitmer calls on federal government for state budget support through COVID-19

Gov. Whitmer said Thursday in her COVID-19 press briefing that she's counting on the federal government to give support to Michigan to help the state see through a massive budget deficit right now due to the virus.

She says the state's general fund was already stretched thin before the pandemic but is seeing a $3 billion problem right now. She says moving forward, her main priority for funding is for school classrooms and literacy.

State budget director Chris Kolb joined the governor at her briefing and said that the state's revenue shortfall right now is a direct result of COVID-19 and the economic toll it's taken.

"Michigan is a well-managed state with a good credit rating and a good rainy day fund," he said. "The state's rainy day fund currently stands at just over $1.2 billion. Even if we used every single penny in that fund we won't be able to solve or close our budget problem." He said it's as bad, or if not worse, than the Great Recession. 

So far some of the biggest hits due to COVID-19 to the state's budget have been the more than $250 million spent on PPE like gowns and ventilators, along with $8.5 billion in unemployment paid to Michigan workers. Millions have also gone to nursing homes, health centers, child care and small business relief grants. 

In addition to prioritizing funding for schools, Gov. Whitmer said other priorities for the budget right now include protecting police, fire and local communities, worker protections; funding vaccine research, rebuilding Michigan bonding program and for paid sick and family leave.

Gov. Whitmer said Thursday that she believes per-pupil education funding cuts are still avoidable without financial help from the government but knows tough decisions will be ahead.

Right now the federal CAREs Act does not allow states the ability to use federal dollars for existing items in the budget affected by the loss of revenue.