Whitmer vetoes $652M in federal COVID relief a second time

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday vetoed for a second time nearly $652 million in federal COVID relief funding for business tax relief, Michigan's unemployment fund and private schools.

Whitmer first vetoed the funding earlier this month while signing another $2.5 billion in federal funding into law. At the time, Whitmer's administration indicated the $652 million hadn't been negotiated and represented "key points of difference" between the Democratic governor and GOP-led Legislature. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference on Feb. 24, 2021.

The Legislature rebundled the money into two spending bills about a week later and sent it back to her desk in the hopes that she would reconsider.

The funding included about $405 million in tax and license fee relief for small businesses impacted by pandemic shutdowns, $87 million in federal relief money earmarked for private schools, $10 million for parents of children in summer school programs and $150 million for the state unemployment fund. 

Whitmer noted in her Friday veto letter that she had already blocked the funds once but stood ready to negotiate and allocate federal money still "sitting idle in the Michigan treasury."

"That's money that could be immediately put to work supporting kids, families and small businesses," Whitmer wrote. "Let's get it done for the people of Michigan."

The veto was greeted by criticism from House and Senate Republicans on social media, and House Appropriations Chairman Thomas Albert criticized Whitmer's veto letter as hypocritical.

"The Legislature gave her a second chance to do the right thing, but she is again turning her back on school kids, families, job providers and the workers who depend on them for a living," said Albert, R-Lowell. "The governor keeps trying to confuse people with misleading and inaccurate claims, so I want to be very clear — none of the funding she vetoed today was in any way connected to disputes over gubernatorial powers"

The $652 million vetoed Friday is part of roughly $2 billion that has yet to be allocated from Congress's December COVID-19 relief package. 

The state is expected to get another $10 billion more from the most recent federal COVID relief package that cleared Congress earlier this month.