Michigan's Frontline Coronavirus Workers Could Get Free College Tuition Under Governor's Plan

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday a plan to provide free college tuition for people working on the frontlines during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Whitmer's "Futures for Frontliners" plan will provide those working on the frontlines – including hospital staff, grocery workers, and child care providers – with the opportunity to get either a college or a technical degree on the state's dime, if they do not already have one.

"The Futures for Frontliners program is our way of saying 'thank you' to those who have risked their lives on the frontlines of this crisis. This program will ensure tuition-free college opportunities and give these dedicated Michiganders an opportunity to earn a technical certificate, associate degree or even a bachelor's degree," the governor stated in a press release.

"I want to assure all of our workers we will never forget those of you who stepped up and sacrificed their own health during this crisis. You're the reason we're going to get through this," she added.

The release also states that the program is the "first of its kind in the country, and was inspired by the federal government's support of soldiers returning from World War II by providing educational opportunities." The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill, which provided funding for college, low-interest mortgages to buy or build housing, and unemployment benefits for up to a year for war veterans. While the provisions for the original bill ended in 1958, many similar bills have been passed by Congress, including in after the Vietnam War and post-September 11, 2001.

Included in the governor's press release is a call for Congress to support Senator Gary Peters' "Heroes Fund." The senator from Michigan proposed the fund as a way to increase the salaries of essential health care workers by $25,000, which according to his proposal would equal to a $13 per hour raise from the time the COVID-19 pandemic started until December 31, 2020. The proposal also calls for a $15,000 one-time "premium incentive" for health care workers and first responders who sign up to help combat the novel coronavirus.

"Whether it's health care providers and food supply workers in the private sector, or postal workers and security professionals in the public sector, we owe our frontline workers our thanks and our support," Peters stated when he announced the proposal on April 7.

Whitmer echoed Peters' sentiments in her press release Wednesday, stating that ""No Michigander should have to worry about how to feed their family or pay rent during a crisis. And no Michigander should be scared to go to work."

"From the beginning, my team and I have been working around the clock to solve those problems for working families. And I will continue to fight for our working people long after this crisis is over," Whitmer stated.

Michigan currently has 40,399 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 3,670 deaths, according to the state's website. The state has seen 8,342 people recover from the virus, as well.

Whitmer faced harsh criticism from state residents who conducted protests over her stringent lockdown measures. The governor relaxed some restrictions when she extended the stay-at-home orders through May 15.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the General Motors Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant on January 27, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. - GM announced a $2.2 billion USD investment at its Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant to produce a variety of all-electric trucks and SUVs. GM's first all-electric truck will be a pickup with production scheduled to begin in late 2021. Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM's first fully-dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images) JEFF KOWALSKY/Getty