Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed spending more than $1.5 billion in federal pandemic rescue funding on Monday to help boost the business climate, redevelop polluted sites, and take steps to speed up the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and jobs

The proposals are the Democratic governor’s most recent since Congress and President Joe Biden approved an unprecedented $6.5 billion in discretionary aid for the state, half of which can be allocated now. She and the Republican-controlled legislature have not appropriated any of the funds. Some may be negotiated as they work to complete the next state budget by October, though much of it may not be approved until later. 

Approximately $700 million would be spent under Whitmer’s plan to redevelop brownfield properties, rehabilitate vacant buildings, prepare sites for business development, build more energy-efficient homes, and strengthen regional economic resiliency plans. Approximately $350 million would go toward fostering a business environment more conducive to high-tech, high-growth startups, preparing manufacturers for opportunities in emergency industries, accelerating charging infrastructure for electric cars, and expanding an internship program for science, technology, engineering, and math students, according to the governor. 

An additional $456 million would boost the Going PRO program, which gives employers money to help train current and newly hired workers, assist students who are nearing the end of their education or whose classes were disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, expand apprenticeships, and assist released inmates in transitioning to jobs. 

Whitmer said she is proud of the state’s economic turnaround and fiscal picture after more than a year of the pandemic. Still, she cited challenges such as a lack of people to fill jobs, a lack of necessary skills, lagging entrepreneurial sector jobs, and a lack of affordable housing. Although the unemployment rate is lower than the national average, labor force participation is low. 

“We are in a strong position to emerge from this once-in-in-a-lifetime pandemic and usher in a truly new era of prosperity and opportunity here in Michigan,” said during a news conference at Lansing’s Rotary Park. “But that prosperity is only possible if we meet the moment and address the big, preexisting challenges exacerbated by COVID, and we do it together.” 

Whitmer stated that she would elaborate on her economic proposal in the coming weeks. When previously announced or updated aspects such as expanding tuition-free programs for adults 25 and older and frontline workers jobs, providing grants and loans to small businesses, and temporarily assisting businesses in paying $15 an hour are factored in, the total would be $2.1 billion. 

Jared Fleischer, vice president of government affairs for the Rock Family of Companies, which includes Detroit-based Rocket Mortgage, was among those who joined the governor. COVID-19, he claims, has changed the economy by speeding up automation and artificial intelligence, reshaping downtowns with smaller tax bases and fewer workers due to remote or hybrid work and positioning Michigan to make advances in shipping and logistics. 

We could not stand in stronger support. We could not believe that the investments that are being announced are more critical to our state, our future prosperity,” Fleischer said. 

Source: Iron Mountain Daily News