LANSING, Mich. — In her third annual address to Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer looked back at a tumultuous 2020, while painting a more optimistic outlook for the months ahead.
“The state of our state is resilient,” the governor began. “In the midst of the worst public health crisis in our lifetimes…the world saw just how tough Michiganders are.”
The short address – lasting about 30 minutes in total – was done virtually, a side-effect of the pandemic and a stark difference from the fanfare-filled night the event usually entails.
Coronavirus was the backdrop for much of the governor’s address, with a heavy focus on schools. This week, Whitmer and the GOP-led legislature revealed dueling COVID-19 relief bills. Lawmakers threatened to withhold nearly $2 billion in education funding if Whitmer doesn’t allow local health departments to make decisions on in-person learning and school sports, in lieu of MDHHS.
Governor Whitmer did not directly address the bills in her address.
“I’m reconvening the members of the Return to School Advisory Council. By spring, this group will provide guidance to policy makers, districts and schools about how best to promote comprehensive recovery,” she said.
Governor Whitmer also announced a new round of $500 grants to educators and school staff meant to offset costs they may have incurred over the course of the remote-learning year.
As of the address Wednesday night, 800,000 Michigan residents had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, putting Michigan 6th in the nation in terms of that statistic. It’s an effort Governor Whitmer compared to a locomotive – slow to start, then picking up steam. The number of first doses administered in Michigan has now surpassed the state’s total cases since March.
“Every eligible Michigander who wants a vaccine will get one,” said Governor Whitmer.
The Pfizer plant in Portage was at the center of the vaccine rollout, gaining praise from the governor during her address.
The governor also announced a new statewide listening tour, bringing her to every corner of Michigan in 2021, and playing off her old campaign slogan.
“This year, I will launch the ‘Fixing the Damn Road Ahead’ tour to engage with and listen to Michiganders – young and old, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and everywhere in between,” said Whitmer. “To focus on what unites us, improve how we talk to each other, and together we’ll fix the damn road ahead.”
In a year with historic flooding, racial injustice protesting, a contentious election and a global pandemic and recession, Whitmer called for more bipartisan work to be done in the next 12 months.
“While common ground seems less and less common these days, it’s never been more important that we work toward it,” she said. “Let’s make good use of this non-election year and work together. After all, we’re Michiganders first.”
Watch the full address here: