State house passes $4.2B COVID relief bill

State Republicans play politics as they tie some spending to limits on health department authority.

The state legislature on Wednesday passed a sweeping new COVID-19 relief bill, planning to spend $4.25 billion on everything from vaccination efforts to school aid.

Most of the spending comes from funding allocated by Congress in the waning days of the Trump administration. However, concurrent bills that would limit the state health department’s ability to issue public health orders could put some of that spending in jeopardy.

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What Happened: The bills passed Wednesday by the state house would allocate about 70% of $5 billion given to the state for COVID-19 relief measures in December. But some of that spending is tied to restrictions on the health department’s authority.

In one case, $840 million in school funding is tied to a bill that would make it so only local health departments could halt in-person schooling and sporting events in response to the pandemic.

Another proposal ties COVID-19 testing funds to rules that would allow the legislature to override state health department emergency orders.

Both proposals are considered to be poison pills and are likely to be vetoed by the governor. That puts that spending at risk.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer chastised Republican legislative leaders for playing politics with COVID funding.

“Washington didn’t send us this money to sit on it, they sent it to us because people need it,” she said during a Tuesday press conference. “They sent it to us because it’s crucial to economic re-engagement, and protecting public health is crucial for our seniors and for our students alike, and small businesses, too.”

You can read more on Bridge Michigan.

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