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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Gov. Whitmer announces programs to support Michigan families, restaurants & small businesses

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Posted at 11:40 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 23:40:44-05

(WXYZ) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her administration will take actions to "provide support for Michigan's families, restaurants and small businesses."

Her administration will implement another liquor buyback program for restaurants and bars, similar to the one administered earlier this year. The governor's office will also partner with Michigan restaurants to allow SNAP benefits for prepared meals.

The administration also announced another $2 million for the Eviction Diversion Program.

“As we head into another Michigan winter, I’ll continue to do everything I can to support our families and small businesses,” Whitmer said in a press release. “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.”

The 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 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.

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. Whitmer’s administration will take similar action this winter to provide "crucial" support for Michigan’s bars and restaurants.

The Eviction Diversion Program is designed to keep Michigan residents who fell behind on their rent during COVID-19 in their homes. The governor's office says 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.

Whitmer's announcement comes one day after the Michigan Legislature passed a COVID-19 relief 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.