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State budget a hopeful shot in the arm for recruiting workers

Federal and state budget time tends to be one of familiar squabbles. A repeated tradition of absolute posturing and late-night additions and early mornings of resigned reconciliation. Fresh outrage — as if the tug-of-war isn’t the same every year — is part of the ritual.

But this year’s budget banter is a little spendier by virtue of $150 billion in federal Cares Act funding funneled to state, tribal and local governments.

Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey used a chunk to funnel traveling nurses to the state; she also wants to use $400 million to build and renovate prisons. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers wants to spend $80 million to update the state’s outdated unemployment system.

And while controversy plays its dutiful part in this year’s pageant by way of defunding health departments over mask mandates and abortion-related maneuvers, Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the GOP-led Legislature found common ground by doing something useful about our state’s short staffing.

They are still working on allocating much of the federal coronavirus relief funding, but settled the last $55 billion on the state budget Wednesday with carrots for hiring workers in stretched sectors.

Among them, child care, direct care nursing home workers and emergency medical services providers.

This bipartisan move is a welcome effort to stem the flow of serious worker shortages in these crucial industries.

It will provide $1,000 bonuses to child care workers and raise wages for “direct care” workers in nursing homes and other residential facilities.

These caregiving sectors power the rest of Michigan’s workforce. We’ve seen, and COVID-19 made it even more plain, that quality care for children and vulnerable adults are non-negotiable when it comes to building a healthy Michigan.

Emergency medical services providers also got a sorely needed shot in the arm with an increased state Medicaid reimbursement that enables additional federal funding. This, President of the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services Jack Fisher told the Associated Press, will “increase pay for paramedics and EMTs and recruit much-needed new staff into the profession.”

The budget also builds future capacity through education with the continuation of tuition-free community college for older students and frontline workers.

So while we don’t expect the annual budget battles to slacken anytime soon — do our politicians get paid extra for them? — we appreciate the decisive action to take care of those who care for us.

— Traverse City Record-Eagle

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