House GOP says Whitmer must loosen COVID-19 restrictions before allocating federal relief

By Scott McClallen | The Center Square Jan 8, 2021

(The Center Square) – On Friday, House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, said that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must reopen Michigan’s economy before the legislature can discuss allocating federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“I can’t envision starting conversations about how to allocate additional federal COVID-19 relief funds until the governor shows more willingness to restore the economy and a sense of normalcy,” Albert said in a statement.

“It’s difficult to properly allocate relief funds when the governor still has not informed Michiganders when or under what conditions we can have our freedoms back. What Michigan needs is clarity and hope, and we’re not getting either from the governor.”

On Nov. 15, Whitmer announced a “three-week pause” of indoor dining at bars and restaurants that she’s extended through Jan. 15 while reopening casinos, bowling alleys, and stadiums.

Although cases have declined for 46 days and COVID-19 hospitalizations are down from 19.6% inpatient bed occupancy to 12.6%, Whitmer didn’t loosen any restrictions this week.

Other Democrat-run states in the Midwest Governor’s Association, Minnesota and Illinois, have announced the reopening of indoor dining and loosening of other restrictions this week or said they likely would after Jan. 15.

Albert argued that the best way to help Michigan families is to safely and fully reopen the state.

When asked about Albert’s statement, Whitmer said that withholding hundreds of millions of federal dollars would be “devastating to so many people in our state” who rely on that money to stave off evictions, to set up broadband networks, and distribute vaccines.

However, Whitmer didn’t mention her shutdown has forced layoffs of approximately 250,000 bar and restaurant employees during the 2020 holidays or that the 2,000 Michigan restaurants already permanently shuttered in 2020 might climb to 6,000 through the 2021 spring under continued shutdown orders.

On Friday, Whitmer said “studies” show that indoor service at bars and restaurants spreads COVID-19, but her office hasn’t responded to a request to specifically identify what studies she’s referencing.

When pressed that Nov. 5 data showed bar and restaurant COVID-19 outbreaks to be the fourth-highest outbreak source behind long-term care (58), K-12 schools (44), and manufacturing/construction (26), Whitmer said the state’s tracing capabilities are “underwhelming” in that category.

The Michigan Restaurant Association has previously objected to this claim, arguing only 4.4% of COVID-19 outbreaks could be tracked to dining facilities as of November.

Albert argued that one person wasn’t meant to make decisions impacting nearly 10 million people.

“People are tired of our state government’s response to COVID hinging on one person. That’s not how state government is supposed to operate – and for good reason, because centralized authority doesn’t work,” Albert said.

“Just look at the problems with our unemployment benefits system – including the governor’s veto last month that takes away additional financial support from thousands of Michiganders. COVID in our nursing homes, schools forced to close against the wishes of their parents, the refusal to extend property tax relief to families and businesses who need it – the list goes on and on.

Whitmer said she needed more data before making any further decisions.

“Enough is enough,“ Albert said. “I fully intend to employ the checks and balances required in our system of government. We will not simply hand over billions of taxpayer dollars to extend the current way of governing.”

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