What the American Rescue Plan passed by Senate means for Michigan


GVL / Jonathan Lantiegne

Olivia Fellows, Associate Print Editor

On Saturday, March 6, the United States Senate passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, with the aim to rush a much-needed influx of aid in many forms to struggling people and businesses around the nation. Senators passed the bill through budget reconciliation, a process that required no Republican support but every Democratic vote. 

The broad legislation includes direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, a $300 weekly boost to jobless benefits into September, and an expansion of the child tax credit for one year. It also puts new funding into COVID-19 vaccine distribution and testing, rental assistance for households and providing money to K-12 schools for reopening costs. Many Michigan schools are in the process of preparation for reopening in the fall. 

Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow expressed positivity at the bill’s passage, stating that the provisions included will make an incredible difference in the reopening and support of Michigan. 

“Michigan families have been through so much this past year just trying to keep their families safe, educate their children at home and survive the financial challenges of this health pandemic,” Stabenow said in a press release. “They need and deserve to know that their government has their back. The American Rescue Plan does just that. The Plan we just passed will get vaccines into people’s arms, provide direct financial help for people to survive the pandemic and help return students safely back to school and so much more.” 

The health care provisions for the pandemic include $20 billion for improving vaccine administration and distribution, $50 billion for testing, genomic sequencing of variants and contact tracing efforts, as well as manufacturing and procurement of PPE, $10 billion for the Defense Production Act to procure essential PPE and other medical equipment, and $8 billion for public health workforce development.

$4 billion is for behavioral health care services to help Michigan families deal with the mental health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stabenow helped in securing another $420 million to fund Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics across the country. According to Stabenow’s’ office, Michigan currently has 24 clinics that have received $112 million in funding to support community behavioral health services. Additionally, the bill also contains funding to support youth mental health and suicide prevention programs, as well as to address the mental health effects of the pandemic on frontline health care workers.

Michigan senator Gary Peters was also instrumental in pushing for the passage of the legislation and worked closely with senate democrats to work on strategies and forming the bill’s contents. Peters was in close contact with leaders in Washington to provide support for the bill’s passage for months prior. 

“I appreciated the chance to speak with President Biden and Vice President Harris on the urgent need to pass the American Rescue Plan,” Peters said in a press release in February. “We’re in an unprecedented economic and public health crisis. It’s very clear that we must pass robust relief for Michiganders who are struggling to put food on the table, afford their bills and make ends meet. The relief bill that was passed late last year cannot be the final round of assistance.” 

Currently, Michigan’s unemployment rate sits at 5.7%, and took a sharp plunge in January, largely due to significant withdrawal from the state workforce, according to data from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget. The Center square reported in December that pandemic restrictions had forced the temporary closure of 32% of Michigan businesses at the time. With the arrival of vaccines, many are hopeful that full indoor dining will be able to resume soon. 

During his speech on Thursday, March 6, President Biden announced the administration’s goal of having all ages and persons eligible will be able to receive a vaccine by May 1. According to data from the Lansing State Journal’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, the total administered number of doses in Kent County is 212,367, with 133,897 people (20.82%) vaccinated with at least one dose, and 78,470 people (12.21%) people fully vaccinated. Biden highlighted the fact that as of that evening, the total number of deaths in America was 527,726 – more deaths than in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined. 

You lost your job. You closed your business. Facing eviction, homelessness, hunger, a loss of control, and, maybe worst of all, a loss of hope,” Biden said. “It’s all has exacted a terrible cost on the psyche of so many of us. For we are fundamentally a people who want to be with others — to talk, to laugh, to hug, to hold one another. I promise I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people. I need every American to do their part. And that’s not hyperbole. I need you — I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family and friends and neighbors get vaccinated as well.” 

Now the largest relief bill to be passed into law, the American Rescue Plan, and its creators, can now begin the hard process of making the dreams of millions return to a normal life a reality. If Biden and the legislators in Washington are successful, they will have helped America through the most damaging economic, health, and social crisis that the country has faced to date.