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Infrastructure deal makes historic investments in state of Michigan

This week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will sign Senate Bill 565, the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan that provides nearly $5 billion in state and federal funding to make historic investments in residents and communities’ pressing needs.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic and before it, the Michigan League for Public Policy has been advocating for affordable, accessible housing, improved broadband access, and safer water infrastructure as ways to make Michigan a better place for all residents now and in the future. Those represent many of the areas of investment in the Building Michigan Together Plan — and many of the issues facing Alpena-area residents and communities.

The Building Michigan Together Plan includes nearly $2 billion to address critical water infrastructure needs, including $325 million to update crisis-level water infrastructure in Benton Harbor and other communities and replace lead service lines around the state. The plan includes critical investment to implement “filter first” protections for safer drinking water in our schools. Funding will also go toward repairing failing septic systems in rural areas, updating pumping stations to clear floods, and repairing dams in Midland and Gladwin counties and across Michigan.

The plan also provides funding centered on housing in underserved rural and urban areas. The bill will put $50 million into the Housing and Community Development Fund to address the housing needs of residents with lower incomes, $383 million for COVID Emergency Rental Assistance to help renters avoid eviction, and $121 million to help prevent foreclosure for Michigan homeowners. Funding will also go toward grants to repair and refurbish existing homes, including efforts to improve energy efficiency.

The Building Michigan Together Plan will also direct $250 million in funding to improve access to broadband. That will help make reliable, high-speed internet available to all residents, regardless of where they live or how much money they make.

We appreciate the commitment and all the work behind the scenes to reach that agreement and release that vital funding.

That is exactly what the federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act was intended for — to address the crises facing Michiganders and our communities while also making one-time investments that can permanently transform our infrastructure, our lives, and our future. The plan rightfully recognizes the individual and collective needs of our communities, addressing immediate problems and preventing future emergencies around the state, and directing funding to residents and communities with the greatest current challenges.

The Building Michigan Together Plan shows yet again that policymakers can find common ground, even amid contention and political tension, and that all of Michigan reaps the benefits when they do.

We hope that compromise can serve as inspiration for continued bipartisan collaboration on additional, equally historic supplemental funding and a 2023 state budget that works for everyone.

In the coming months, lawmakers should build on the same principles and priorities of that compromise and direct additional funding to our state’s greatest needs, like equitable K-12 education, access to health care and improving health outcomes for all Michiganders, and helping families with low incomes who were hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.

Monique Stanton is president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

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