Virus Outbreak Congress

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters before the House votes to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. 

(The Center Square) – Over the weekend, the U.S. House passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that seeks to hand billions of taxpayer dollars to Michigan.

Some lawmakers argue the spending is mostly pork unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan includes stimulus checks of up to $1,400 per person for those earning up to $100,000 or families with incomes up to $200,000, and $400 expanded federal unemployment benefits through August.

Members of Michigan's Republican delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives argue the measure is full of non-COVID-19-related liberal "pork" projects.

U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, voted against the plan and instead advocated his own plan that would slash $1 trillion of spending but doubles direct stimulus checks to $2,400.

“This is not what the American people need,” Meijer said in a statement. “Instead, we need direct dollars over government excess ($DOGE): bigger checks to those who need it most, increased vaccine purchasing and distribution, COVID-19 testing and PPE, K-12 funding for our schools to reopen safely for in person learning, and support for our small businesses so they can weather this awful pandemic. This shouldn’t be controversial because these are areas of funding we can all agree upon.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Jackson, pointed out that only 9% of the $1.9 trillion focuses on COVID-19 public health measures.

“In reality, this bloated $1.9 trillion bill is riddled with political handouts that have little or nothing to do with combating the virus," Walberg said in a statement. "It is simply indefensible that this legislation devotes billions of dollars to extraneous provisions—foreign assistance programs, a subway in Speaker Pelosi’s district, a bridge in Senator Schumer’s state, and much more. Up to this point, Congress has already allocated more than $4 trillion in COVID relief, and $1 trillion of that has yet to be spent.”

The bill seeks to spend billions to bail out retirees in multi-employer pension plans, including the Central States Pension Plan covering Michigan Teamsters retirees which will become insolvent in four years, even though that’s debt preexisting the COVID-19 pandemic.

That debt incurred is because they’ve spent years paying more out in benefits than they’ve saved and their investments apparently haven’t paid out, James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told The Center Square in a phone interview.

“These are private workers who earn private benefits, and their union and their employers are the people who are responsible for ensuring that the retirement promises are paid,” Hohman said. “Taxpayers shouldn’t have anything to do with it, outside of any obligations that may have existed for the benefit guarantee corporation.”

The Detroit Free Press reported:

  • State government could receive $5.7 billion to help offset tax revenues lost due to COVID-19 and other costs associated with the pandemic. Another $4.4 billion would fund county and local governments. Wayne County would receive $339 million, Oakland County $244 million and Macomb County $170 million. Detroit stands to receive $880 million.
  • Michigan school districts would receive a total of some $3.5 billion to safely reopen or address lost learning. Of that total, Detroit schools would receive some $980 million, Flint $120 million and Dearborn $104 million.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, backed the bill.

“The path to providing that relief is far from over though, and we have to keep pushing every day to get checks in people’s hands,” Tlaib said in a statement. “We need members of the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as the president of the Senate, to make sure provisions like the $15 minimum wage increase remain in this relief package. Our people cannot wait any longer for this long overdue raise.”

However, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled out a provision to double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Tlaib also advocated for recurring, $2,000-payments to every resident. 

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.