Whitmer unveils plan to boost jobs, childcare with federal COVID relief funds

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist | Whitmer office photo

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday announced a new plan to invest in Michigan workers and small businesses by using a portion of federal relief funds.

    The “Michigan Economic Jumpstart Plan” would increase incentives for higher wages, give grant money to small businesses and expand childcare access for working families.

    “As we continue to take steps to jumpstart our economy, we need to have a real conversation about putting Michigan back to work with better jobs and bigger paychecks,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Under the Michigan Economic Jumpstart plan, we can harness these once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunities and channel it to raise wages, invest in small businesses, and uplift families.”

    The state of Michigan has received a total of nearly $20 billion from the American Rescue Plan this year. More than $2 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act have not yet been put to use.

    Whitmer said a portion of that money should be put toward investments that will help Michiganders and businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, as public health restrictions loosen and case numbers continue to decline.

    Michigan’s unemployment rate has also recently decreased, with the U.S. Department of Labor reporting a statewide rate of 4.9% last month that is 1.2 percentage points lower than the national average.

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    “The combination [of] the federal stimulus plan and the improving public health situation have set the stage for robust growth in Michigan,” said State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks. “The Governor’s plan will jumpstart the economy by providing the support that small businesses need to recover and grow and by helping parents find the child care they need to get back to work.” 

    The Michigan Economic Jumpstart Plan proposes three overarching areas of investment:

    • $300 million to MI Bigger Paychecks: Three-month grants to incentivize businesses to bump wages by up to $15 per hour
    • $120 million to Michigan Reconnect job program
    • Continue Futures For Frontliners program
    • $100 million to Michigan Small Business Restart Program to help restaurants and other businesses cover costs by providing grants for operating expenses. $25 million set aside for businesses with less than nine employees 
    • $125 million to Michigan Microenterprise Support Initiative: Grants for businesses left out of other incentives
    • $75 million for the Michigan Small Business SmartZones and Business Accelerator and Resiliency Initiative for startups
    • Expansion of Michigan’s Work Share program
    • Hire additional 50 full-time staff for Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
    • Temporarily increase income eligibility threshold for childcare subsidies from 150% to 200% of the federal poverty line
    • Waive out-of-pocket copays through Fiscal Year 2022
    • Provide a 10% increase in hourly rates for childcare providers
    Laina G. Stebbins
    Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).