Gov. Whitmer, Republicans Spar Over Relief Money

The Democratic governor wants to allocate the money as quickly as possible, but GOP legislative leaders continue to delay appropriation of the funds.

State Republicans continue to blast Governor Whitmer over what they say is a unilateral approach to fighting the pandemic, despite the fact that GOP leadership controls how state and federal money is allocated.

The COVID-relief bill signed into law by former President Trump gave billions to Michigan last December. That money still hasn’t been distributed. Some funds — like those allocated for rent assistance — could be lost if it’s not used soon.

“Other states are deploying these resources to support their children, to support businesses that are struggling to roll out their vaccine distribution. Michigan is sitting on them…” — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says action is needed now to fight the pandemic and help people who are struggling.

“Our recovery will take longer, our vaccination rates could decline and that’s why we get to have help in partnership from the legislature because Congress did their part,” Whitmer says. “Now we need our state legislature to do this.”

Legislative Republicans say they want greater oversight and make sure the $5.6 billion Whitmer has proposed spending won’t be wasted. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said schools should be ready to be back in the classroom by March 1. Speaking in a news conference on Tuesday, she called on the GOP to hurry up and allocate $2 billion in federal and state funds to make it easier for schools to get ready.

“Other states are deploying these resources to support their children, to support businesses that are struggling to roll out their vaccine distribution,” Whitmer says. “Michigan is sitting on them, and it’s because we’re waiting for the legislature to appropriate these dollars.”

Republicans have blocked Whitmer’s political appointments and have proposed bills that would strip state health officials of the ability to issue more pandemic orders.

In the meantime, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun says Michigan continues to make strides in inoculating the state’s senior citizen population.

“Every resident and staff in a skilled nursing facility has been offered a first dose of the vaccine, and many have already completed their second doses as well,” says Khaldun.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) data show 25% of the state’s 65-and-older residents have received at least one dose of the vaccination. Overall, state health officials have set a goal of inoculating 70% of the state’s adults. So far 11% have received one dose. Khaldun says vaccination efforts are ramping up to meet demand.

“We know there are not enough vaccines in the state for everyone who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine,” Khaldun says. “But we assure you that everyone who wants the vaccine will eventually be able to get one.”

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.