Welcome to our first e-newsletter! I’m honored and humbled to serve as our community’s voice at the Capitol in Lansing. 2020 was a year unlike any other; as we continue on into the new year and new term, rest assured the challenge families in our community and state are facing are at the top of my legislative priorities.
I would also like to introduce you to our team—Brooke Hansen and Morgan Foreman. Brooke has previous legislative experience, and Morgan lives in Ypsilanti Township and is an experienced community leader and former educator. Both Morgan and Brooke are excited to serve you alongside me.
Included in this edition of the e-newsletter are some important COVID-19 and unemployment updates, along with resources I hope will prove helpful. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by phone at (517) 373-1792 or email at FeliciaBrabec@house.mi.gov for questions about these or any other state-level issues.
55th House District
Upcoming Virtual Event
Please join me to kick off our first Virtual Coffee Hour. This is an opportunity to chat, ask me questions and share how I can best represent you in Lansing. I will be hosting the first session on Saturday, Jan. 30th from 10 -11 a.m. on Zoom or ‘Like’ my Facebook page and tune in for the livestream. Hope to see you there!
Updated MDHHS Epidemic Order
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its epidemic order to allow for the re-opening of additional activities where Michiganders can remain masked and socially distanced, including indoor group exercise and non-contact sports. The new order took effect on Saturday, Jan. 16 and will last until Sunday, Jan. 31.
Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households. MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings or pick a single other household to interact with. Families are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to maintain momentum in fighting the spread of COVID-19 and protect loved ones.
As of Friday morning, the plan is to open indoor dining with mitigation measures, capacity limits and a curfew on Feb. 1. The order will allow for indoor dining at restaurants with certain requirements; concessions at casinos, movie theaters and stadiums; personal services requiring mask removal; and non-residential gatherings of up to 10 people from two households. The new order will last three weeks, until Sunday, Feb. 21.
Additionally, colleges and universities can have students return to campus for the winter semester and restart in-person courses as of Jan. 18.
As before, employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, while employees who can work from home should continue to do so. Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; and personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced they would grant Gov. Whitmer and eight other governors’ request to release millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Michigan also entered a new phase of vaccine distribution, beginning to offer vaccinations to Michiganders ages 65 and older; frontline essential workers including public safety officers, frontline state and federal workers and jail and prison staff; and pre K-12 educators, support staff and childcare providers.
For the most up-to-date information regarding the state’s COVID-19 vaccination progress, visit michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine. For Washtenaw County-specific information, click here.
K-12 In-Person Guidance from MDHHS
Earlier this month, Gov. Whitmer announced the state’s goal of having every school in the state offer an in-person learning option by March 1, 2021. State medical experts and epidemiologists believe that schools can create a safe learning and work environment if everyone wears a mask and follows the necessary safety protocols. Additionally, a large segment of the education workforce is expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine within the next month. While this March 1 deadline is strongly encouraged, school districts are not required by the state to return to an in-person option.
Unemployment Insurance Update
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has started issuing $300 weekly Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) payments to an estimated 365,000 residents on regular state unemployment insurance (UI) and Extended Benefit programs coming soon.
The PUC supplement, which is payable from Dec. 27, 2020, through March 13, 2021, provides an additional $300 per week to all eligible unemployment recipients who receive at least $1 for the week. Claimants do not need to take any action to receive this additional weekly benefit, it will be paid automatically after they certify. The additional payment comes from an extension of the federal COVID-19 relief package passed in December.
Workers who were on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) continue to have no actions to take at this time. They will not be able to complete certifications and payments will not be issued for weeks after Dec. 26 until the technical updates to the UI system are completed per the recently received guidance from the U.S. Dept. of Labor (USDOL). This will only be a disruption and claimants will be made whole once the extensions are fully implemented.
If you have any questions or concerns about your unemployment benefits, please email our office, or fill out the UIA Assistance Form on my website.
MI Employee Assistance Grant Program
Michigan’s Employee Assistance Grants program is designed to provide support to employees impacted by the MI Department of Health and Human Services’ Gathering and Face Mask Order that took effect on November 18, 2020. The application period opened on January 15, 2021, and will be available until January 25, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. The grants, of up to $1,650, are not first come, first serve and the application will be open for submissions for the entirety of that 10-day period. Employees working in restaurants, bars, food trucks, and other impacted businesses are eligible to apply. See full details here.
Small Business Resources
On Jan. 14, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved two grant programs totaling $58.5 million in relief to help meet the urgent needs of small businesses and live event venues impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program will provide $55 million in grants to meet the urgent need of Michigan small businesses that have experienced significant hardships due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants of up to $20,000 will be awarded to businesses that are fully closed, with grants of up to $15,000 awarded to businesses that have been partially closed, or otherwise are open and can demonstrate an impact.
The Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program will provide up to $40,000 in one-time grants to eligible Michigan live music and entertainment venues that have experienced a significant financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for a total of $3.5 million in grants.
Click here for more information and eligibility requirements for these important measures to support Michigan’s small businesses and event venues.
Virtual State of the State Event
The governor’s State of the State Address will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 7:00 p.m. Traditionally, this speech has been given in the House Chambers during a joint session of the Legislature. However, ongoing concerns about spreading COVID-19 led to Gov. Whitmer’s decision to give a virtual address. Information on where the event can be streamed has not yet been announced, but I will be sure to keep you updated as the information becomes available.
Nominate an Essential Worker!
Each month, I will be featuring an essential worker who is a resident of the 55th House District! Community members can nominate various individuals that they feel deserve the recognition and honor of being known as the “Essential Worker of the Month”. If you know someone that should be acknowledged for their service and sacrifice to the community, please fill out this form here.
EMU’s Returning Citizens Fellows Program
The Returning Citizen Fellows program (RCF) is a cohort structured student success and persistence program for individuals who were formerly incarcerated in and/or with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).
As a program, the RCF’s primary intention is to provide Fellows a support system within EMU and external to EMU as a way to help navigate both the complexities of higher education as well as the challenges to reentry, post-incarceration. The Fellows program is designed in tandem with MDOC Offender Success Model. A detail of the program is available here.
Next month is Black History Month and I will be highlighting important people, facts, and events on my Facebook page the whole month so stay tuned! I am also looking for YOU to share how I can stay connected with our community.
I am also pleased to inform you that I have been appointed to the Michigan House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations for the 101st Legislature. I will also serve as Democratic Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and Community Colleges, and as a member of the Appropriations Subcommittees on Health and Human Services, and Judiciary. I am so excited to get to work with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to create a better future for all Michiganders.
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can ever be of any assistance.