Whitmer proposes economic grant programs during GR visit

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday laid out a number of economic proposals that she says will get people back in the workforce as Michigan emerges from the pandemic.

During a press conference at Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women in downtown Grand Rapids, Whitmer listed key points of a plan that she says will jump-start the economy. She focused on three issues: higher wages, small businesses and child care.

Among the programs she proposed is one dubbed MI Bigger Paychecks. She says it would offer three-month grants to businesses so they could raise their hourly wages to $15. The grants would cover the difference between current wages and $15. Businesses would have to commit to a $15 per hour wage for a total of six months; if they go back on their word, the state could take the grant money back.

Saying people should also have access to better jobs, Whitmer wants to send another $180 million on two programs created during the pandemic that pay for community college.

Under the three-pronged Michigan Main Street Initiative plan, $100 million in grants would go to brick-and-mortar businesses, specifically restaurants, to help them cover payroll, mortgages or other operating expenses as they return to regular business after the pandemic. $125 million would go to small businesses, including grants to community development financial institutions. Another $75 million would fund grants for startups, including $50,000 community planning grants.

Turning to her third point, Whitmer said a lack of affordable child care is preventing some people — particularly women — from returning to the workforce. Her budget includes $370 million to expand access to low-cost or free child care. That would include child care subsidies and support for five-day-a-week school in the fall.

The governor, a Democrat, said her programs would be funded by the state’s surplus and federal coronavirus relief aid. The Republican-led Legislature would have to approve all the spending.

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