Senate directs $524M in federal aid to public safety workers, childcare costs

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan Senate voted 37-0 Wednesday to spend $125 million in federal coronavirus relief dollars on child care rate reductions and $100 million on bonuses for public safety workers.

The supplemental spending bill would also allocate $11 million to hire 300 temporary workers for the Unemployment Insurance Agency to help process record unemployment claims and $62 million for testing supplies and personal protective equipment for industries.

In total, the spending bill approved by the Senate allocates about $524 million provided to the state through the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, which the federal government created to help states and local units of government during the public health crisis.

Sen. Jim Stamas, a Republican, right, and Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, now goes to the GOP-controlled Michigan House of Representatives.

"Although the state budget will face severe impacts caused by declining revenue and the governor’s response, we can put available federal relief dollars to work to better support our front-line workers, first responders, teachers and families — while also conserving our limited state resources," Stamas said in a statement.

The legislation creates a child care rate reduction program that gives grants to licensed child care providers to reduce rates charged to families of essential workers for April, May and June. The rate reductions would be 25% or $300 per month, whichever is less, according to an analysis of the bill.

On top of the child care program, the bill allocates $178 million to give a $3 per hour "pay enhancement" to direct care workers employed by the state Department of Health and Human Services, its contractors and subcontractors. The direct care workers include those caring for seniors in nursing facilities, according to a statement from Senate Republicans.

The $3 per hour increase would be retroactive to April 1 and would extend through Sept. 30, according to a bill analysis.

The bill sets aside $100 million for municipal first responder bonuses to be paid to cities, villages, townships and counties for either lump sum or hourly payments for law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and 911 operators.

School districts would see a total of $30 million in assistance for facilitating distance learning for students. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation would get $2.5 million to provide funds to workers in the hospitality industry who may not be eligible for unemployment.

The proposal received widespread support.

Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, said the bill in the GOP-controlled Senate balanced the priorities of both sides of the aisle and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office.

"It is a good step in the right direction for us all to be working together and trying to solve these problems together," Hertel said.

The U.S. Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to help states and local governments.