Four months of expanded unemployment insurance. An extra $600 weekly in unemployment pay. And a $1,200 check from the federal government.
That’s what many in Michigan will see under a massive $2 trillion aid package passed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday night. It’s the largest economic stimulus bill in American history, and it’s intended to keep people — and the U.S. economy — afloat as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country.
The package still needs final approval from the U.S. House before it can go to President Trump, who has said he supports it. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the package Wednesday morning but stopped short of saying the chamber would pass it as-is. If all House members agree, they could pass it as soon as Thursday.
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If it does become law, both workers and businesses in Michigan are expected to get financial help within weeks.
“A fight has arrived at our shores. We did not seek it, we did not want it. But now we’re going to win it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon before the upper chamber passed the package 96 to 0 later that evening. “Our nation needed us to go big and go fast, and (we) did.”
Michigan has been hit hard by an influx of coronavirus cases, which have skyrocketed since the first cases were discovered just over two weeks ago. As of Wednesday afternoon, the state had reported 2,295 confirmed cases and 43 deaths — the fifth-highest number of confirmed cases in the country. Southeast Michigan has been particularly affected, with high numbers of cases in Wayne (1,122 cases), Oakland (543 cases) and Macomb (281 cases) counties as of Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to health burdens, the state — like the rest of the nation — is struggling under unprecedented economic pressures as most businesses have shuttered or significantly scaled back under stay-at-home restrictions intended to slow the spread of the contagion.
Here’s what you need to know about how the package would affect Michiganders.
How much money will I get from the federal government? And when?
If the bill passes, every adult making less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income would receive a one-time payment of $1,200. A married couple making less than $150,000 collectively in adjusted gross income would get $2,400. Qualifying families would also receive $500 per child.
Above that income level, the amount you’d receive would be reduced by 5 percent of your income and would be completely phased out at $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for married couples with no children.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, told reporters Wednesday that Americans would get that money in around two weeks after Trump signs the bill. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin estimated most people would get their check within three weeks.
Is that the only financial aid I can get?
Nope. If you lost your job, you can apply for unemployment benefits. Under the bill package, you can get Michigan’s unemployment benefits — worth up to $362 per week — plus another $600 per week for four months. Traditional benefits, which you can get for up to 26 weeks under an executive order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week, would be extended by 13 additional weeks.
Under her executive order, Whitmer already broadened unemployment benefits to include people who have “unanticipated family care responsibility” such as childcare or to care for sick family members; people who are sick, quarantined or immunocompromised and get laid off or don’t have family leave; and public health workers who get sick.
Under the deal passed by the Senate Wednesday, those categories would be expanded to also include people who rely on part-time work, who are self-employed or who are “gig economy workers” such as Uber and Lyft drivers, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday.
Democrats say the package would also ensure that furloughed workers, on average, would receive their full pay for four months.
Alex Rossman, External Affairs Director for the Michigan League for Public Policy, praised the package’s unemployment benefits in a statement Wednesday as a “vital” means to “address the economic struggles that are coming with (Covid-19)—and are sure to linger after the virus is under control—and we are grateful for tonight's bipartisan agreement.”
The state Unemployment Insurance Agency reported last Sunday that 108,710 unemployment claims were filed in Michigan last week between Monday and Friday — usually, that number is closer to 5,000, the agency said, a 2,100 percent increase.
Would Michigan businesses get help?
Small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) who promise not to fire employees during the crisis would have access to $367 billion worth of guaranteed loans from community banks through June 30 that would be forgiven if the business continues to pay workers the whole time. That money could be used for employee salaries, paid sick leave, insurance premiums, and mortgage, rent or utility payments.
“What’s happening in Washington is going to be pretty fundamental to small business,” Small Business Association of Michigan CEO Rob Fowler said during a briefing Wednesday. The loans, which would essentially be grants for most businesses, “is a game-changer for companies that are hanging in the balance.”
Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, said that once the president signs the package, businesses could start receiving money within two or three weeks.
Larger companies would also have access to help: $454 billion of Federal Reserve money would be available to those businesses through subsidized loans, and an additional $46 billion in loans would be available for specific industries such as airlines. They would also be exempt from paying payroll taxes for two years.
Many of Michigan’s auto manufacturers would likely qualify for assistance from the $454 billion Federal Reserve fund, said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and the Detroit Regional Chamber’s vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives.
“It’s one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the country and in Michigan it’s our signature industry,” Stevens told Bridge Wednesday. “It’s a critical industry for the nation, so we feel with our voices (in Washington) and our federal delegation there hopefully will be relief” for the industry.
This total of $500 billion for larger companies would be subject to transparency measures, including requirements to disclose the names of businesses that received federal help and the creation of an independent inspector general to review lending decisions. Companies that receive loans couldn’t do stock buybacks or give bonuses to their CEOs for the duration of the loans plus an additional year afterward.
Companies would also be eligible for a tax credit if they don’t fire employees and could defer payment of the Social Security payroll tax.
Any businesses owned by Michigan’s 14 U.S. representatives and two U.S. senators — or those owned by President Trump or top federal officials such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — would not be eligible to receive government assistance under the program.
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How about the health care system?
Hospitals and health care workers are working overtime to treat an influx of coronavirus cases in Michigan. State officials are looking to hotels and now-empty college dorms for impending patient overflow while healthcare workers plead for more personal protection equipment like masks, gowns and gloves as demand has depleted their reserves.
Under the proposed deal, hospitals and other health clinics around the country could tap into $100 billion in aid. “Everyone fighting coronavirus” would have access to the funds, Schumer said Wednesday morning.
Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, an industry group, said in a statement Wednesday he is “very pleased” with the stimulus package’s proposed allotment for hospitals. Some hospital executives, particularly hospitals in rural areas of Michigan, told Bridge this week that the revenue hit they’re taking from the coronavirus outbreak could put them out of business.
“Hospitals are our country’s frontline of defense to the pandemic and this funding will, over time, alleviate many of our hospitals’ cash and financial burdens,” Peters said. “This is a step in the right direction by our federal government, but more work remains in securing more equipment and supplies to appropriately test and protect our healthcare workers and patients.”
The state’s hospitals are “optimistically” waiting for the U.S. House to pass the bill, Peters said.
Will local governments get any help?
Yes. Both the state and local governments are spending big to try to combat the virus, and it’s likely they’ll suffer more in the future as depressed wages and spending will mean less tax revenue, Gabe Ehrlich, an economic forecaster at the University of Michigan told Bridge.
The federal package currently includes $150 billion in funding for state and local governments. It’s unclear how much of that money will go to Michigan and its municipalities, but the funding would be distributed proportionally to states based on population and no state would receive less than $1.25 billion.
Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, said the federal aid would be “essential” for local governments. Monroe County alone is spending around $70,000 per week on Covid-19 response so far, he said.
“Counties are on the front lines in working against the spread of corona, via public health departments, sheriff departments and support to ensure Michigan utilities can do maintenance to keep the lights on and the calls connected in these difficult times,” he said.
What do Michigan politicians think about it?
Some Michigan politicians said the package doesn’t go far enough. U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade Township, said on Twitter Wednesday that the package is a “raw deal” because it doesn’t provide enough aid to “those who need the most help” and pumps billions towards large companies.
This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the people. It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 25, 2020
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said on Twitter that Michiganders “needed help weeks ago so to settle for a one-time payment, rather than recurring payments, leaves our neighbors too vulnerable in (these) uncertain times.” In a series of other tweets, she urged the Senate to include aid for water shutoffs, which Bridge has reported is still happening to residents who cannot pay their bills in Detroit (though the city and state began offering discounted restorations shortly before the first Michigan cases were announced.)
Others seemed to support it. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said during a telephone town hall Wednesday evening that it’s a priority to pass a stimulus package as soon as possible. “We are making sure that we’re putting families and workers first with a particular focus on those that are feeling the immediate direct impact of the crisis,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, tweeted Wednesday that she’s “very pleased” with what’s included in the relief package, including “the things I have asked for, for our workers, cities, small biz, and auto&aero manufacturers.”
“I’m very grateful that they reached an agreement,” Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, told WDET Wednesday. Compared to the package initially proposed by the Senate, the agreed-upon deal is “much much more a bill for people.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, wrote on Twitter: Glad to see the Senate pass the Phase lll of our #COVID19 response, albeit three days after it could and should have passed. Now on to the House. While I expect an overwhelming vote, I don’t believe “Unanimous Consent” is the right way to pass a $2TRILLION spending bill!