The Michigan House of Representatives on Thursday voted 96-6 to push through a $185 million supplemental spending bill that would benefit convention and visitor bureaus, as well as entertainment and fitness venues that were forced to close during the pandemic.
According to The Detroit News, the bill would use federal COVID relief funds to finance the measure, with $53 million of the funds being distributed to health and fitness industry businesses. The grants would be capped at $250,000 per physical location and would be equal to the financial hardship related to the pandemic.
"These businesses were prohibited by the government from operating and generating revenue during the pandemic," said Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, the bill's sponsor and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
While the funds would largely support businesses, a large chunk of the money would also go toward forgiving licensing fees for occupations stressed or shut down by the pandemic.
"This package, and the funding that Rep. Albert’s bill would provide for it, is a chance to right that wrong of asking businesses to pay for the right to operate without actually being given the chance to operate during the 2020 and 2021 shutdown orders," Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Hillsdale, told the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday.
Alyssa Tushman, vice chair for the Michigan Fitness Club Association, testified in support of the bill. Tushman said she had to close two of her three facilities during the pandemic, and the association estimated that more than 30 percent of Michigan gyms ad fitness centers closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
"Not only did I lose two (facilities), but I’m being sued by my landlords," Tushman said Wednesday. "There were no protections in place for commercial tenants while there were for residential tenants. This industry is a mess.”