Governor Gretchen Whitmer centered bipartisan unity and the passage of her pandemic relief plan in her State of the State address last night. The plan, which would work to boost vaccination efforts, aid businesses and reopen schools for in-person learning, faces opposition from the Republican-led Michigan Legislature.
“Like much of the last year, this State of the State is different, because it has to be. Tonight, it’s just me and a few people in my Capitol office,” stated Whitmer, to begin her address. “And while it’s different, it’s an opportunity to speak directly to you — the people of Michigan — about the past year and our priorities in 2021.”
SEEKING A STATE OF UNITY
Seeking unity to”fix the road ahead,” Whitmer urged Republicans — who had ramped up opposition recently to Whitmer and her COVID-19 orders — to put aside their partisan differences in order to bring an end to the pandemic.
Harking back to her famous line, Whitmer shared, “While “Common ground” seems less and less common these days, it’s never been more important that we work toward it. I know you’re used to me saying, “fix the damn roads.” This year, let’s also fix the damn road ahead – find common ground to grow our economy and get families and businesses back on their feet. That starts by ending the pandemic.”
The pandemic and its effects were everpresent during the State of the State address, as Whitmer spoke virtually from her office inside the capitol to prevent potential spread to legislators. While acknowledging the lives saved due to her stay at home orders and lockdown measures, Whitmer addressed the continued effect the Pandemic has had on small businesses.
SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT AND SCHOOLING
“This pandemic has taken a massive toll on our small businesses and the people they employ. Where the federal government failed, we, the states, stepped up. Last month, I signed a bipartisan, $106 million relief bill that directed $55 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID – including restaurant owners, who have made incredible sacrifices to keep their communities safe,” stated Whitmer. And last week, I announced the Michigan COVID Recovery Plan: distributing vaccines, getting our kids back on track, supporting small businesses, and jumpstarting our economy.”
“My plan includes a call on the Legislature to permanently extend unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. This would bring Michigan in line with 40 other states and provide hard-hit Michigan workers with the financial security and peace of mind they deserve,” added Whitmer as she continued to push for the passage of her COVID-19 relief plan. “My plan gives crucial support for small businesses and resources to help them thrive long after the pandemic is over.”
Also, turning her attention to schools and the education opportunities lost by Michigan’s children, Whitmer stressed the need to reopen schools, but to do so safely. Talking of her plan, she stressed the need to reopen schools by Mach 1, focusing on academic recovery, school infrastructure and support for the physical and mental health of students.
“Like everything else, COVID has disrupted our kids’ education. I see it in my own kids’ experience. There are students in Michigan who have not been in a classroom since March 13th of last year. The pandemic stole more than 10 months of in-person instruction and support. I set a goal for all schools to offer an in-person learning opportunity by March 1st. We’ve seen by following the safety protocols, this can be done successfully,” shared Whitmer. “I’m reconvening the members of the Return to School Advisory Council. By Spring, this group will provide guidance to policymakers, districts and schools about how best to promote comprehensive recovery. And my budget will fund academic recovery, school infrastructure improvements, and support for students’ physical and mental health.”
Lastly, Whitmer spoke of one of her original campaign promises, fixing Michigan’s roads. As part of this, Whitmer shared she would borrow $3.5 billion to address the abysmal state of Michigan’s highways and bridges. It should be noted that this proposal would not target local roadways.