Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday proposed using $300 million in federal coronavirus aid to assist businesses in the state in paying their employees $15 dollars an hour.
Whitmer, a Democrat, proposed using state grants to cover the difference between an employee’s current hourly wage and $15/hour for three months. Businesses that received such aid would have to pledge to continue to pay workers $15 an hour for an additional three months.
The proposal would have to be approved by the GOP-controlled legislature before it can take effect.
The governor announced the $15 wage plan on Thursday as part of a larger economic plan during her appearance at a women’s business center in Grand Rapids. The governor’s office has not said how many workers the wage plan would provide with a wage hike, The Associated Press reported.
President Biden has pushed for a federal $15 minimum wage, and originally included it in his March coronavirus relief package, but it was removed before the bill became law.
Some Democrats have come out against a $15 minimum wage as potentially harmful for several states. In February, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voiced their opposition to boosting the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $15 as part of the coronavirus relief bill. In both states, the cost of living is significantly lower than the national average, and a federal $15 minimum wage would likely cause both states to lose jobs.
Whitmer’s economic plan also includes several other proposals, including funding for new programs to pay tuition for adults age 25 and above to attend community college, $300 million in grants and loans for small businesses that are struggling, and expanding access to no-cost or low-cost child care to families who are at 200% of the federal poverty line, the AP said.
Whitmer has come under fire during the pandemic for both her stringent coronavirus restrictions and her own administration’s apparent failure to observe them in several instances.
In spring last year, Whitmer’s strict lockdown policies angered some Michiganders, prompting demonstrations at the state capitol. The governor’s restrictions at one point prohibited residents from visiting their second residences as well as buying and selling paint, furniture, and garden equipment.
Compared to February 2020, before Whitmer’s strict lockdown policies went into effect, the state’s employment levels are down almost 300,000, and nearly 25% more Michiganders are receiving unemployment checks.
Last month, Whitmer admitted that she had gathered with friends over the weekend at a restaurant after photos showed her at a table with 12 other people in violation of the state’s May 15 order saying that no more than six people can be seated at one table and that tables must be six feet apart.
A Michigan restaurant owner who was jailed for violating Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions said last month that she believes the governor should also face the consequences after she was caught flouting her own pandemic rules.