Rep. Thomas Albert, chair of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, today announced a new plan expanding early treatment capacity for COVID-19 patients, easing worker shortages in the health care system and keeping schools open for in-person learning.
The $1.2 billion supplemental budget plan is funded entirely by federal COVID relief dollars allocated to the state.
“This plan addresses the main challenges facing our state right now – increasing the capacity to provide early treatments to COVID patients, a critical shortage of health care workers, and keeping our kids healthy and in school,” Albert said. “We are providing immediate help where it’s needed most and will do the most good.”
Highlights of the plan include:
Early treatment in COVID cases: Treatments such as monoclonal antibodies often help lessen the severity of COVID cases and allow patients to recover more quickly. Studies suggest the drugs can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death for COVID-positive patients by up to 85 percent. Currently, delivery is bottlenecked at short-staffed hospitals – the House plan will expand delivery to eight additional sites across Michigan. Investment in buying and expanding delivery of the potential lifesaving drugs – and other medicines such as COVID treatment pills that are coming soon — will be up to $134 million. Priority must be given to high-risk individuals, and treatments must be offered free of charge.
Easing the health care worker shortage: With thousands of unfilled health care positions across the state, those still on the job are stretched too thin and need reinforcements. The House plan provides $300 million for health care employee recruitment and retention and additional support for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Keeping students in school and protecting residents: About $667 million would be provided for COVID testing overall, including $300 million for schools to buy COVID testing kits directly and allow the state to stockpile additional tests for schools. The Michigan National Guard would not be allowed to confiscate tests. About $100 million would be provided for private employers to test unvaccinated workers. An additional $90 million would continue the state’s vaccination program.
“The loss of learning during COVID shutdowns will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the pandemic,” Albert said. “Kids have fallen behind and it’s putting their future opportunities at risk. This plan will help students stay healthy and in school so they can continue their efforts to catch up.”
The Michigan Legislature previously has appropriated more than $4 billion specifically for schools to address the pandemic.
House Bill 5523 remains in the Appropriations Committee for further consideration.