This column originally appeared in the The Alpena News on July 8, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered all of our lives, upending our state economy and budget in the process. But right now, there is an opportunity to support efforts to provide important relief for people who are struggling and our state budget. You can help make that happen. The federal HEROES Act is currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate, and we need to make sure that Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters speak up and fight for the things that will make a real difference in Michiganders’ lives now and in the future.
Since the crisis first began to impact our state, we at the League have made every effort to take action, looking at policy solutions to help Michiganders through the crisis and out of the economic downturn. We’ve tried not to dwell on the bleak situation around us and to focus on recovery.
But it’s time to face facts, and those facts are bleak.
5,975 deaths. 1.7 million unemployment claims. 50,500 public sector jobs cut. 1.5 million K-12 students out of school. Businesses shuttered. A nearly $6 billion budget shortfall. All in the last four months alone. And that’s on top of years of shortsighted budget cuts that have made housing, child care and other basic necessities unaffordable for many.
The policy solutions the League has proposed will make a difference and help lift up Michigan’s families through this crisis, but one fact we must face is this: Michigan is woefully unprepared to weather this storm on our own. The solutions are impossible without federal relief.
We at the League have known this from the get-go, with federal action and support being a key component of all of our COVID-19 policy recommendations released in March. But the chorus for more federal funding is growing, most notably with both Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders Senator Mike Shirkey and Speaker Lee Chatfield adding their voices last week.
That’s because the next two weeks are critical.
The HEROES Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, could mean recovery is possible in Michigan. If the Act passes, it would allocate $14.1 billion to the state government and $14.2 billion to localities over two years, which would save thousands of jobs and help keep public services running.
It would provide $2.7 billion for education, which would give teachers and students the tools they need to navigate this new era of learning.
It would provide an additional $3.1 billion in Medicaid and increase the FMAP.
States cannot afford to wait much longer as much of the relief from the CARES Act is set to expire soon.
The next funding package must address this unprecedented crisis. People with low incomes, immigrants, and people of color have been hit the hardest by this pandemic and its financial fallout, and it’s key that these are the people at the center of relief efforts.
And let’s not let that relief end on an arbitrary date as it does with the CARES Act. Let’s make sure it continues through the pandemic and until the economy recovers.
You understand that public policy is the solution to a problem this dire. Please take a moment and encourage our U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, to continue helping Michiganders by prioritizing what matters for Michigan’s recovery.
COO, Michigan League for Public Policy