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Gary Peters says GOP virus plan not enough

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters

ALPENA — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat from Oakland County, said Thursday he is working on Capitol Hill to provide more relief for people struggling economically during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure municipalities, schools, and health care workers are provided needed assistance.

Peters said he is not a fan of the stimulus package recently introduced by Senate Republicans, which he said doesn’t go far enough to help citizens still not back to work after pandemic-related shutdowns or businesses who have found it hard to bounce back financially.

Peters said the proposed plan reduces the $600 weekly emergency unemployment funding to $200 a week, which he said is not enough for many people to pay their bills. The $200 a week would be added to what the state pays for unemployment claims.

Republicans say too many Americans are making more money staying home than working because of the unemployment bonus, hurting employers who need people to get back on the job.

The $600 add-on expires today.

“We have to get together and get a package together as soon as possible,” Peters said. “We have people in Michigan who are losing their benefits, and it is going to put a real strain on the families, financially. I support the $600 being extended, but I’m sure it will be one of the things that will be up for debate.”

Whether the final package is closer to the House Democrats’ bill, which would cost $3.1 trillion, or the Senate Republicans’ $1 trillion plan, Peters said small businesses need support.

“I am going to work to get them the help they need,” he said. “I am really leaning into this issue, because it was the smallest businesses that have been hit the hardest. I am going to continue to push for more funding to help them.”

The senator is also working on a bipartisan bill with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, that would provide financial opportunities to municipalities who have seen damage from high water levels.

Peters said many communities, including Alpena, Rogers City, and others along the Lake Huron shoreline, have received a great deal of damage from the climb in water depth and more needs to be done to help local governments with repair and prevention costs.

“It would provide interest-free loans, through (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), to help communities deal with the damage to public property,” he said. “The money can also be used to take steps to prevent future damage from the rising water. If we do mitigation now, it will cost less later. We’ll be working hard to pass that.”

Peters said he is working on a host of other bills, one which would create the National Institute of Manufacturing. He said there are 50 programs designed to support manufacturing, but they are scattered among 11 agencies. He said the institute would consolidate all of the programs into one place, so it would be easier to navigate for businesses.

“Seventy-five percent of small manufacturers have fewer than 20 employees, and we haven’t had manufacturing policy in forever,” Peters said. “The way things are set up now, it is just not efficient. We need to make it more coordinated and consolidated. It will be simpler to navigate through.”

Peters is being challenged this fall by Republican John James, who has the backing of the U.S. and Michigan chambers of commerce and has outraised Peters, but is behind the incumbent in the polls.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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