Story at a glance
- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a law approving $1.2 billion in COVID-19 relief efforts.
- Millions of dollars will go toward supporting health care staffing needs, COVID-19 testing in schools and enhancing testing processes in labs.
- Just two months ago, four local hospitals in Michigan had to call in the National Guard for staffing help.
Michigan is ramping up its COVID-19 relief efforts with new legislation to help recruit and retain health care workers, test students at schools and speed up processing at labs.
In this July 12, 2021, file photo Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a vaccine mobilization event in Detroit. Michigan’s governor and health officials say the the state’s health care systems are strained to combat the omicron variant and unvaccinated individuals are taking up too many of the state’s hospital beds. (Andrew Harnik/ AP)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a new law Wednesday approving $1.2 billion in federal aid money for COVID-19 relief efforts, with $300 million going toward addressing the shortage of health care workers, $150 million to expand COVID-19 testing and $367 million to enhance lab capacity and speed up the processing of tests.
The bill appropriates money for a host of other initiatives, including $8 million for supplemental payments to private child care institutions, as well as funding for nursing home operations and COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.
“The bill I signed today is a testament to what’s possible when Republicans and Democrats work together to put Michiganders first,” said Whitmer in a tweet.
Addressing the shortage in health care workers is urgent, as four local hospitals in Michigan had to call in the National Guard for staffing help in December. Whitmer’s new bill will give the state’s health and human services department the ability to recruit, retain and train health care employees that qualify under the state’s rules.
Notably, the bill also creates the ability for the state to offer cash recruitment bonuses, student loan payment assistance, cash retention bonuses, tuition assistance and other forms of training and programming to current and potential health care staff.
Whitmer’s new law comes as Michigan has suffered serious moments throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with health officials describing the state’s COVID-19 situation as “critical” just two months ago.
Michigan saw a steep rise in confirmed cumulative cases of COVID-19 since July 2020 all the way through January 2022, with minority populations hit hard. The state’s COVID-19 data indicates for every million Black residents, 4,007 died by COVID-19, with similar numbers for American Indian/Alaska Native residents showing 3,754 deaths per million.
At the same time, white residents in Michigan had a 2,806 death rate per million.
Michigan has had 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and recorded less than 31,000 deaths. However, based on the New York Times COVID-19 tracker, cases in the state have dropped by 72 percent in the past 14-days.
The drop in COVID-19 cases has also prompted the state to revise its mask guidance, no longer requiring masks in indoor public settings, including in schools. However, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services encourages people to still mask up in congregate settings, like long-term care facilities, health care facilities, jails, correctional facilities and shelters.
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