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As COVID-19 restrictions lift, Gov. Whitmer focuses on jumpstarting economy

Governor Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 10:08 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 22:40:04-04

DETROIT, Mich- — As Covid restrictions lift here in Michigan, the focus now turns to the economy, a topic that was a focal point of discussion with Governor Whitmer Tuesday.

While commenting on the reopening from Belle Isle in Detroit, the Governor and Lt. Governor discussed the $3.5 billion surplus the state currently has, something they're hoping to use to make what they call 'transformational change.'

During the press conference, Governor Whitmer discussed the Michigan Economic Jumpstart Plan.

Under the governor's proposed plan, the state will increase incentives to boost wages and attract applicants, while also providing grants to small businesses to ramp up hiring.

A shortage of workers is something many companies and industries around the state have been struggling with places like restaurants even saying that can't open to full capacity until they get employees in the door.

"We don't have 100% capacity in the cards, or we don't we don't believe we do anyways," Chris Funaro of All in Hospitality Group told FOX 17 Monday.

State officials are also putting a focus on childcare and expanding access to it, since they say many young families who want to work, simply can't.

"The fact of the matter is, so long as we've got lack of access to childcare, that's a complete barrier for people getting back to work," said Governor Whitmer.

The Governor has said she'd like to use $1.4 billion to expand access to childcare and make it more affordable, she believes the funds will impact 150,000 additional kids in Michigan, and help their parents with back-to-work stresses.

Meanwhile, to help get people trained and back to work, the state is offering a couple of education-related programs: Michigan Reconnect, which helps those 25 and older who don't already have a degree get a tuition-free credential, certificate or associates degree. There is also the Futures for Frontliners program, which helps those essential workers from the pandemic further their education

"This is a program that is an opportunity for skills for people who did stand the frontline, those who stacked our grocery shelves, or who kept us home and our lights on when we all had to stay home," Whitmer said. "It's a program that's the first of the kind in America and I'm hoping other states will copy us."

More than 120,000 people have already enrolled in Futures for Frontliners, and on Tuesday, Governor Whitmer announced plans to expand it so more than 22,000 additional frontliners could take part. She proposed using $100 million dollars from the state's $3.5 billion surplus, which she called a 'drop in the bucket.'

The goal of both education programs is to help ensure 60% of Michiganders have a post-secondary degree or skills training by 2030, something state leaders say will benefit everyone in 'The Mitten.'

"Recoveries take time, but I think we all know we've got the wind at our back, and we don't have time to waste," Whitmer said. "We've got a big task ahead of us, but we are up to this task because we know Michigan might get knocked down like everyone else, but we dust ourselves off, and we help one another get back up."

During Tuesday's press conference, state officials also stressed making sure the economy is equitable for everyone, saying how hard the Black community has been hit by the pandemic.

The plan still needs to be approved by the legislature, and Governor Whitmer says she welcomes lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to help take part in the conversation about the economy.