State Senate approves controversial COVID relief bill

The $1.9B spending bill has been chided by opponents as too small and ineffectual.

The Michigan Senate on Thursday passed a much-anticipated COVID-19 relief bill. However, the $1.9 billion spending plan falls far short of what some people believe is needed to support the state’s coronavirus relief efforts.

What Happened: The bill passed by the State Senate is about a third of what Governor Gretchen Whitmer has called for. It also differs from a bill passed in January by the State House.

The bill would provide funding for some targeted programs, such as COVID-19 testing and rental assistance. It also specifically parses out vaccine funding into smaller batches, requiring the state’s health department to request more funding as it runs out.

Controversy: The most controversial part of the bill, however, comes from amendments submitted by Republican lawmakers.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

A weekday morning email roundup of Kalamazoo stories and events.

One amendment, added by Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, would bar the state from using demographic data to determine where to allocate vaccines.

Data has shown that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and other minority communities in Michigan. Those communities are also much less likely to have been vaccinated so far.

Senator Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, chided Republicans for choosing politics over science.

“There’s a CDC that actually determines how many vaccines we get based on our own rules, and then maybe the state Legislature that knows almost nothing about this other than the slideshow they saw, shouldn’t be the ones that are actually setting policy here,” he said.

We won five Michigan Press Association awards, thanks to you!

Click here to see which ones

You can read more on Michigan Advance.

Independent journalism is essential to a healthy democracy. Make a donation today.