2021 Michigan Budget Focuses On Education, Health

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MICHIGAN — The 2021 Michigan budget focuses on improving education, health programs and other key issues, such as expanding broadband internet services during a time of virtual learning across the state.

The budget — Whitmer’s second — will deliver on many of Whitmer’s signature priorities, including the Michigan Reconnect program for a tuition-free pathway for adults, funding for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to ensure women have the care they need for a healthy pregnancy, and expanding access to childcare for families, Whitmer’s office said in a news release.

“When we started the budget process in early February, nobody had an idea of how challenging the coming months would be, no knowledge of the devastating impacts that COVID-19 would have, including the impact to our state budget,” Whitmer said. “But Michigan is strong, and by working collaboratively with our partners in the Legislature we now have a budget I will soon be signing, a budget that funds shared priorities that will move Michigan forward.”

Education Budget Notes

The budget includes $161 million in flexible per pupil spending which could help districts address the increased costs of educating students in the midst of a pandemic, Whitmer said.

About $30 million has been allocated for the Michigan Reconnect program to provide a tuition-free pathway for adults looking to upskill and earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree, according to Whitmer’s office. Implementing Reconnect will help close the skills gap and move the state closer to reaching 60 percent postsecondary educational attainment by 2030, according to a news release.

The budget includes $5.6 million for mental health counselors to assist children in schools with mental health needs.

A goal to attract and retain first-year teachers in Michigan school districts is funded by $5 million in incentives.

Literacy coaches and resources to improved training for educators in the field of literacy learning was given a $3 million boost.

Of note during the pandemic, $2 million was budgeted for additional supports to assist vulnerable students who are learning remotely, including special education students, students who are chronically absent and children in need of childcare while their parents are working.

About $2 million was budgeted for Detroit Public TV, to foster early childhood initiatives to enhance learning and early education.

The implementation of previously announced teacher hazard payments of up to $500 per teacher, along with the addition of payments of up to $250 for school support staff, was also included in the budget.

About $1 million was allocated for school meal debt forgiveness.

“This has been a budget cycle unlike any other, but in the end we have been able to work collaboratively and put together a budget that reflects many of the Governor’s key priorities and values,” State Budget Director Chris Kolb said. “I am pleased that we will soon have a budget in place for the new fiscal year which begins October 1, but I still have concerns about projected revenues loses for Fiscal Year 2022 and we still need Congress to provide states with new federal funding.”

Michigan Health Budget Notes

When it comes to budget priorities for the health of families across Michigan, the budget will include:

About $12.6 million was budgeted for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to ensure women are given the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy and to expand support for interventions that are proven to improve outcomes.

Access to childcare for families was expanded through a $26 million budget line aiming to help increase the income limit from 130 percent to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, expanding childcare services to nearly 6,000 children.

Direct care workers assisting the elderly and other vulnerable individuals during the pandemic will see a $2/hour wage increase through a $135 million budget allocation. The budget also includes $20 million in additional support for nursing homes for COVID-19-related cost increases.

About $20 million was budgeted to support the state’s psychiatric hospitals so that Michiganders in need of mental health services have improved access and care.

The Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund has a $2 million line to protect Michigan families from lead in their homes.

About $10 million was budgeted to implement policies to keep more children with families rather than entering congregate care.

First responders can receive mental health services through a $2.5 million budget allocation.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the challenges and disparities that have prevented far too many Michiganders from realizing their fullest potential,” Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said. “The budget that we’ve put forth is an opportunity to take a proactive, deliberate approach toward investing in the health, education, and economic well-being of those who need it the most. This budget sets a foundation to make expand access to opportunity for all of the people who call this state home.”

Business Efforts, Environmental Care and Broadband Internet

The 2021 budget will include critical funding for programs within the Department of Labor and Economic Development and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, including $100 million for business attraction efforts, according to Whitmer’s office. A total of $28.7 million will be provided for the Going Pro program to support job training grants to businesses to support training for current and new employees in high-demand, skilled trades industries. New funding of $3 million is provided for a statewide pre-apprenticeship program with the goal of developing qualified candidates for building trades apprenticeships in the construction industry. Funding for the popular Pure Michigan campaign will be set at $15 million.

The budget will also provide funding for critical initiatives directed at the environment, including $5 million that will draw down significantly more in federal funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to reduce runoff of contaminants into Lake Erie and other watersheds, according to a news release. The budget will add $1 million to Michigan Saves to help Michigan families make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

A total of $4.2 million will be provided to begin implementing the pre-trial incarceration task force recommendation for crisis intervention and de-escalation training through the Michigan Coalition on Law Enforcement Standards, helping ensure law enforcement officers have the training and education they need to intervene successfully. The budget will include $7 million to increase the number of troopers within the Michigan State Police.

The budget will also include $14.3 million in broadband funding to help expand Internet access across the state.

This article originally appeared on the Detroit Patch

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