As the Legislature returned to session on Jan. 13, it was my honor to be sworn in on the house floor of the Michigan Capitol and join the rich history of those who served before to help shape our great state of Michigan.
With the start of my first term, my team is working hard to set up our Lansing office, setting our legislative priorities and connecting with constituents across the district.
As COVID-19 still plagues our state, it’s important to remain engaged and keep our office updated if you have any questions or opinions about state or community issues. My office is reachable by phone at (517) 373-2575, and by email at RanjeevPuri@house.mi.gov. I am excited to announce our first *virtual* coffee hour — please see information below on how to sign up and join! I look forward to what this year will bring and hope to be able to connect with you at in-person events again soon.
In this Edition:
- Legislative Update
- COVID-19 Update
- Upcoming Time with Ranjeev
- What We’ve Been Up To
Safety in the Capitol
This week was supposed to be our first full week of legislative session. Unfortunately, session was cancelled due to credible threats surrounding armed protests being planned at the Michigan State Capitol and capitols around the nation with the Inauguration of Joe Biden happening in Washington D.C.
Following the insurrection and attempted coup at the United States Capitol, the Michigan State Capitol Commission (MSCC) met on Jan. 11, 2021 and unanimously voted to prohibit open carry in the Michigan Capitol Building. While many view this as a good first step, this decision provides a false sense of security. A ban on open carry will not keep people safe. Many of the worst mass shootings in history have involved handguns alone–guns you can’t see are just as deadly as those you can.
Following the decision to ban open carry in the Capitol, I sent a letter to the MSCC asking them to ban all weapons in the Capitol, install metal detectors, and work to improve security and screening of those entering the premises. The cost of additional personnel and metal detectors does not compare to the cost of human lives. It has been eight months since the MSCC first met to discuss the issue of guns in the capitol following an armed anti-Whitmer protest that intimidated lawmakers during legislative session. Action has been repeatedly delayed and during this time we have seen a thwarted attempt to kidnap our governor, an attempted coup on the United States Capitol, a bomb threat in our state’s capitol, and repeated threats of violence and acts of domestic terrorism.
It is time to ban all weapons from entering our state’s Capitol. This is not just needed to project armed intimidation of lawmakers, but to protect every individual that works there, every tourist and every child who visits on a class field trip. Please know that I am eager to continue this conversation to ensure that the Capitol building is a safe place for every Michigander to engage in democracy.
2021-2022 Legislative Committee Assignments
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be serving on the following House Committees for the 2020-2021 term:
I look forward to using my professional experience in technology and the automotive industry and partnering with leaders and colleagues from across the state to focus on our legislative priorities. Working towards a better Michigan, includes clean energy solutions, updating our electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, and protecting our industries to position Michigan as a national leader in each of these areas.
MDHHS Epidemic Orders
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced recently that restaurants and bars can reopen for indoor dining on Feb. 1, but will be subject to a 25 percent capacity limit and 10 p.m. curfew.
The updated order, scheduled to remain in place until Feb. 21, also allows concessions at casinos, movie theatres and stadiums. Also, beginning today, stadiums that seat more than 10,000 may allow up to 500 people, while those with under a capacity of 10,000 are limited to 20 percent capacity, or 250 people.
Our office has already been contacted by a few constituents who have asked for information on how or when they will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, or to share their frustration for not being able to book an appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is distributed by the State of Michigan to the Wayne County Health Division who are responsible for scheduling and handling vaccinations. MDHHS determines the quantities and the delivery schedules for all supplies. The Wayne County Health Department COVID-19 webpage provides comprehensive details around vaccine information, registration and immunization sites.
Wayne County has created a Frequently Asked Questions Document and a Vaccine Info Packet which may be particularly helpful.
Beginning Mon. Jan. 11, MDHHS moved into a new phase of vaccine distribution. While vaccinations are ongoing for healthcare workers and long-term care facilities and staff, the following groups of people are now eligible:
- Michiganders age 65 and older
- Frontline essential workers (firefighters, police, corrections workers, inspectors)
- Childcare and preK through high school staff
- Congregate care facilities (homeless shelters, juvenile justice, childcare staff)
The graph below from MDHHS illustrates the preliminary COVID-19 vaccine eligibility timeline based on the numbers of vaccines currently received by the state from the federal government. Vaccines are not “being held up” by the state. To state it simply, there are not yet enough vaccines to meet the high demand from eligible groups.
Michigan COVID-19 vaccination timeline as of Jan. 15, 2021
Improvements are being made by local health departments by the hour but we must be patient and continue to practice safety measures like masking up and social distancing while we procure more vaccines and improve the rollout.
I remain hopeful that with the incoming Biden Administration we will receive more vaccines in Michigan to administer and that this timeline can still be adjusted. I also remain strongly supportive of Gov. Whitmer’s efforts to obtain vaccines directly from Pfizer. I personally still have not received my vaccination and will continue to exercise all social distancing per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. Please know our office is working hard to advocate for our local health departments and obtain more doses as quickly as possible.
For statewide vaccine distribution information, visit the State of Michigan COVID-19 Vaccine website.
UPCOMING TIME WITH RANJEEV
As your new state representative for House District 21, I have big shoes to fill when it comes to coffee hours and town halls. Our former representative, Kristy Pagan, was well known in the community for these meet ups, and I’m excited to continue this tradition.
These district meet ups are a great opportunity for me to hear from you and to stay connected. I will give a state update and then open it up for any questions or concerns you may have.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and out of an abundance of caution, we will be meeting virtually for the time being. My first meet-up of the year will be a virtual community coffee hour that will be streamed live on my YouTube channel and to social media. The information is below.
Virtual Coffee Hour, Feb. 1, 2021 at 12 p.m.
Live Streamed via YouTube and social media
Any questions or comments during the coffee hour can be put in the comment or chat feature and will be addressed during the live stream. If you would like to pre-submit any questions, please email RanjeevPuri@house.mi.gov.
You may view my website for the most up-to-date events, and should continue to watch future E-newsletters and social media posts for information on the future of any coffee hour or in-district time we may have together.
WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO
Earlier this week, I was honored to attend and speak at the Canton Township COVID-19 Memorial Ceremony, pay our respects to those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
To view the live feed from the event, click here.
Stemming from the governor’s stimulus plan, new grant programs were announced last week to help offset some of the personal and professional financial losses that Michiganders may have been incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic – the Employee Assistance Grants and the Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program. Grant highlights are provided below.
EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE GRANTS
- What: The State of Michigan has allocated $45 million to provide support to employees impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Grant Amount: Eligible recipients meeting all criteria and providing a complete and accurate application will be awarded assistance up to $1,650. The award is taxable, but it will NOT count against your unemployment as income.
- Eligible Industries (employees working in the following industries qualify): Restaurants, hotels, motels, bed & breakfast, resorts, bars, food trucks, bowling alleys, theaters, nightclubs, golf courses, banquet halls, caterers, casinos, cafeterias, and other impacted industries.
- Applications: Applications opened on Jan. 15, 2021 at 9 a.m. and will be available until Jan. 25, 2021 at 5 p.m. Click here to learn more and apply.
MICHIGAN STAGES SURVIVAL GRANT PROGRAM
- What: The State of Michigan has allocated $3.5 million to create the Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program to provide grants to entertainment venues affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Grant Amount: The maximum grant request is $40,000. There is no match requirement. The Michigan Independent Venue and Promoter Association (MIVPA) will have the discretion to recommend a final grant award for applications.
- Eligible Expenses: Awarded grant funds are to be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or costs related to reopening a business.
- Applications: Grant applications will open on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at 9 a.m. EST and close on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 12 p.m. (noon). Click here to learn more and apply.
MI COVID Alert App
MI COVID Alert is a free app for your mobile phone that will help us stay safe and protect each other. This app is easy-to-use and can:
- Alert you if you may have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus
- Advise you on what to do to protect yourself and others
- Alert other app users that you were in close contact with, if you test positive for coronavirus
Contact tracing is a vital part of slowing the spread of the virus; the more people that download and use the app, the more it will help our state’s existing contact tracing operation. The app does this by alerting you that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The app will not disclose the name of the contact or the location of exposure, but it will let you know that you were close enough (within 6 feet) for long enough (15 minutes or more), for there to be a risk that you could have been exposed to the virus. The app will then alert you and advise you on what to do next. Likewise, if you test positive for coronavirus, you can use the app to alert anyone you have been in close contact with.
For more information on how to use the MI COVID Alert app, click here.
For more information regarding the app’s privacy and data policies, click here.
For more information on the importance of downloading and using MI COVID Alert, click here.
I Want to Hear from You
During this challenging time, it is more important than ever to stay in touch. I want to hear from you. What do you need? How can we help you? My office is here to assist you or answer any questions you may have. Please, reach out to me at RanjeevPuri@house.mi.gov.
Communications from my office will be available via bi-weekly email updates or social media. Otherwise, please feel free to contact our office directly and do not hesitate to reach out for assistance.
I hope that this information has been helpful and that we can be together again soon in person.