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Governor Whitmer Takes Action to Provide Support for Families, Restaurants, and Michiganders Facing Eviction


December 22, 2020 

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Governor Whitmer Takes Action to Provide Support for Families, Restaurants, and Michiganders Facing Eviction 


LANSING, Mich. -- Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that her administration will take a number of actions to provide support for Michigan's families, restaurants, and small businesses. The Whitmer Administration will implement another liquor buyback program for restaurants and bars similar to the one administered earlier this year, as well as partner with Michigan restaurants to allow SNAP benefits for prepared meals. The administration also announced another $2 million for the Eviction Diversion Program to ensure that Michigan families can keep a roof over their head this winter. 


"As we head into another Michigan winter, I'll continue to do everything I can to support  our families and small businesses," said Governor Whitmer. "These actions will ensure that families have the support they need to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads this winter, as well as provide support to local restaurants and small business owners all over the state that are struggling as a result of the pandemic. As we continue working to distribute the safe and effective vaccine and eradicate COVID-19 once and for all, I will keep using every tool in my toolbox to protect our families and small businesses. Remember, Michiganders: mask up, practice safe social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings where the virus can easily spread from person to person. We will get through this together." 


"This year has presented our state with so many unique challenges, and, every time, we have risen to the occasion to deliver innovative solutions," said Lt. Governor Gilchrist. "We don't have to make the false choice between protecting people's health and safety or supporting our economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Today's actions prove that we can and must do both, which will only make our state that much stronger as we safely step into a more normal life going forward." 


Governor Whitmer's Restaurant Meal Program will give eligible food assistance recipients the opportunity to use their benefits to purchase restaurant meals. Older adults over 60, people with a disability including those who receive Social Security  Income (SSI) or other disability program benefits, and people experiencing homelessness are among those who are eligible. MDHHS is opening the program for restaurants to enroll with the aim of providing diverse and affordable options for eligible participants across the state. Restaurants interested in partnering with MDHHS in this program are asked to visit the MDHHS website, where they can learn more about program requirements and how to enroll. 


"We at Jack's support the Restaurant Meal Program," said Bobbi Ryan and Cynthia Ivy, owners of Jack's Restaurant in Rapid River. "We care deeply about our community and strive to serve as may as we can however we can."   


As part of the spirits buyback program announced earlier this year, The Michigan Liquor Control Commission bought back almost $3.4 million in spirits from 673 on-premises liquor licensees, providing an average $5,000 in financial relief for bar and restaurant owners during the pandemic. Governor Whitmer's administration will take similar action this winter to provide crucial support for Michigan's bars and restaurants. 


"We are thankful for these programs because any kind of assistance helps our struggling industry," said Scott Ellis, Executive Director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association. "Our number one goal is to get businesses open, which is why we urge Michiganders to do everything they can to end this pandemic." 


The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) Eviction Diversion Program (EDP) is designed to keep Michigan residents who fell behind on their rent during COVID-19 in their homes. So far, the program has helped an estimated 16,000 people stay in their homes. The program was initiated and funded from Senate Bill 690, which appropriated $880 million in federal dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Senate bills called for $60 million to be set aside to establish a rental assistance program - of which $50 million has been dedicated to keeping renters in their homes with the remaining $10 million covering case management, legal, and administrative costs. The Whitmer administration will continue to assist renters with this program and other complementary programs until additional federal eviction resources arrive through the federal stimulus that passed yesterday. 


"This year, 'home for the holidays' is more fragile than ever for too many Michiganders, as the COVID-19 crisis has many families still worrying about how they're going to make their next rent or mortgage payment," said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO for the Michigan League for Public Policy. "The governor's continued recognition of the need to protect residents from eviction, hardship and potential homelessness during the pandemic is greatly appreciated, and it is more important now than ever as we head into Michigan's brutal winter months. While Congress was finally able to pass an additional federal stimulus yesterday to help residents during this crisis, the governor's important action today will help sustain the state Eviction Diversion Program and help renters until additional federal eviction resources arrive."   


Governor Whitmer's announcement comes one day after the Michigan Legislature passed her stimulus plan, which includes $55 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Grants of up to $20,000 will be made available to small businesses across the state that need support this winter. The relief bill also includes $3.5 million for grants of up to $40,000 each for live music and entertainment venues, and includes $45 million in direct payments to workers who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the virus, with a direct focus on restaurant and hospitality workers. 


After Congress passed a federal relief bill late last night, Governor Whitmer this morning issued a statement urging them to continue working together to provide crucial support for state an local governments. The governor said, "Michigan and states across the country need additional aid to state and local governments. For months, bipartisan governors across the country have been urging Congress to provide federal funding to states to fund crucial services like police and fire, emergency responders, Medicaid, higher education, and more. These services could face cuts without help from the federal government."