News Story

Auditor: 97% of Michigan’s $18B in COVID spending was federal money

A single firm earned nearly $149M producing commercials

Nearly all of the money Michigan spent on pandemic response came from Uncle Sam, according to a new report from Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler. Between March 2023 and June 30, 2023, federal funds accounted for 97% of Michigan’s roughly $18.108 billion in COVID-19 outlays.

In the early days of the pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decried the lack of a national plan for responding to the virus. But while federal money accounts for $17.630 billion of Michigan’s COVID spending since March 2020, state funds only accounted for about $463 million.

According to the audit, private COVID spending far outpaced local government spending, $13.25 million to $1.54 million for a ratio of nearly 9 to 1.

The state of Michigan paid a single firm, Brogan & Partners, about $149 million for a public media campaign. This included the many commercials encouraging Michiganders to take the COVID-19 vaccine, such as the one embedded below from 2021.

Brogan & Partners boss Ellyn Davidson was a donor to the campaigns of Whitmer and other Democrats, though at a minimal level. Brogan was Michigan’s seventh-biggest line item during the pandemic, according to the audit. This month’s audit is the sixth and final one regarding COVID spending.

Read it for yourself: State of Michigan COVID-19 expenditures, the final audit

“I want the world to open back up,” a woman’s voice says to start the spot, titled “My Why.” The 60-second commercial premiered in April 2021 and features visitors to Detroit’s Ford Field, one of the earliest hubs to receive the COVID vaccine, who explain why they took the jab.

According to the state’s COVID dashboard, as of Nov. 20, roughly 63% of Michigan residents have taken at least one dose of a COVID vaccine and approximately 7% have taken all recommended doses.


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.