Michigan is stepping up its COVID-19 relief efforts with new legislation to assist recruit and retaining health care workers, test students in schools, and expedite lab processing.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a new law on Wednesday, February 16, authorizing $1.2 billion in federal help for the COVID-19 relief effort in the state.

This fund includes $300 million to address the lack of health care workers, $150 million to enhance COVID-19 testing and $367 million to increase lab capacity and speed up the processing of tests.

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The bill includes financing for a variety of other projects, including $8 million for supplemental payments to private child care facilities, nursing home operations, and COVID-19 vaccination distribution efforts.

Whitmer said in a tweet: “The bill I signed today is a testament to what’s possible when Republicans and Democrats work together to put Michiganders first.”

In December, four local hospitals in Michigan had to call in the National Guard for help, highlighting the lack of health care staff.

Whitmer’s new bill will allow the state’s health and human services department to recruit, retain, and educate healthcare workers who meet statutory requirements.

The bill also allows the state to provide financial recruitment bonuses, student loan repayment aid, cash retention bonuses, tuition support, and other forms of training and programming to present and potential health care workers.

Whitmer’s new law comes at a critical time in Michigan’s coronavirus epidemic, with health officials just two months ago labeling the state’s COVID-19 status as “urgent.”

Michigan has seen a significant increase in confirmed cumulative cases of COVID-19 from July 2020 through January 2022, with minority communities bearing the brunt of the burden.

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 two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and recorded less than 31,000 deaths.

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.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, however, encourages the public to still mask up in closed settings, like long-term care facilities, health care facilities, jails, correctional facilities and shelters.

Source: The Hill

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