Whitmer: Spend $300M of virus aid to hike hourly wage to $15

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday proposed spending $300 million in federal COVID-19 funding to help Michigan businesses pay workers $15 an hour.

State grants would cover the difference between an employee’s current hourly wage and $15 for three months, as long as the business committed to continuing the $15 wage for at least three additional months. The Democratic governor’s office did not immediately say how many people would see bigger paychecks under the program, which would need approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Negotiations over allocating billions in federal coronavirus aid are ongoing. Employers have been unable to add as many workers as they need.

Whitmer included the wage proposal in an economic plan she unveiled at a women’s business center in Grand Rapids. Some facets were previously announced, such as funding new tuition-free programs for adults 25 and older and frontline workers to attend community college. She also reiterated the need for $300 million to give grants and loans to struggling small businesses, and again highlighted her budget proposal to expand access to no-cost or low-cost child care to families at 200% of the federal poverty line.

Under another new proposal, the state Unemployment Insurance Agency would hire 50 more full-time staff to help claimants who, starting this week, must actively search for work to qualify for benefits. That requirement had been waived for more than 14 months.