Published in Economic Development
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs the fiscal year 2022 budget at Lansing Community College’s West Campus. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs the fiscal year 2022 budget at Lansing Community College’s West Campus. COURTESY PHOTO

Whitmer signs budget with childcare, talent development priorities; millions in one-time spending for Kent Co.

BY Wednesday, September 29, 2021 04:02pm

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a state budget for the new fiscal year that includes hundreds of millions of dollars for childcare and talent development, as well as more than $23 million in one-time spending for various Kent County developments.

The total $70 billion bipartisan spending agreement reached with the Republican-led state Legislature sets priorities for the fiscal year that begins on Friday.

Business advocates have announced their support for $1.4 billion in spending for childcare, which is mostly reliant on federal stimulus funding, as well as the full funding of talent development programs such as Michigan Reconnect, Futures for Frontliners and Going Pro.

The Going PRO Talent Fund — which awards funding for employers to train, develop and retain skilled workers — will receive $40 million again this fiscal year. The state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity issued 1,021 awards to companies at the same level of funding in the current fiscal year, according to a state dashboard.

Futures for Frontliners, which provides tuition-free community college enrollment to frontline workers, is allocated at $25 million. The Reconnect program that provides tuition-free paths to certificates or associate degrees in in-demand industries received $55 million.

The budget also includes $6 million for “wraparound services” for both programs, including childcare, broadband, transportation and other services for program participants.

“This sustainable, bipartisan budget will make key investments to address the number one issue for the business community: talent,” Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Baker said in a statement. “From a historic investment to make childcare more accessible and affordable, to additional funding in important workforce development tools like Going PRO, this is a budget Michigan employers and employees can be excited about to help our state fully recover and thrive.”

Additionally, the budget includes $1.4 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding for startup grants and expanding eligibility for families to qualify for low or no-cost childcare, as well as an additional $30 million for one-time $1,000 bonuses to childcare workers.

“Investing in childcare is a shared priority that helps families and businesses thrive as we usher in a new era of prosperity for our communities,” Whitmer said in a statement today.

Kent County projects

Meanwhile, the fiscal year 2022 budget features $23.5 million in one-time spending for various projects in Kent County. That includes $10 million to potentially reconstruct or reconfigure the Wealthy Street interchange along U.S. 131. The Michigan Department of Transportation has reportedly been studying the potential reconstruction of U.S. 131 between downtown Grand Rapids and 28th Street.

Other budget allocations include:

• $4 million to “assist infrastructure necessary to develop” the Kent County Sustainable Business Park in Byron Township. The project, proposed in 2018, is adjacent to the South Kent Landfill and would create a new center to repurpose waste as feedstocks for new products or fuel. “The state investment in this important project will vastly reduce Kent County’s landfill usage and contribute to a circular economy,” Kent County Department of Public Works Director Dar Baas said in a statement.

• $7 million for “waterway improvements and restoring rapids” as part of the Restore the Rapids project in Grand Rapids.

• $1 million toward construction of the planned West Michigan Construction Institute, a hub for talent recruitment, skills development and job placement that’s expected to open early next year in Grand Rapids.

State House House Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, last week noted his support for two more allocations of $1 million for the West Michigan Aviation Academy hangar at Gerald R. Ford International Airport and $500,000 for the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s planned $64 million expansion.

“These are important, one-time investments to improve the quality of life for families in Kent County and all of West Michigan,” Albert said in a statement last week.

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