Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! As always, I will be most effective in my job when acting on your direct input. I encourage you to reach out to me and my staff with any questions, comments, or concerns that you may have regarding our community or the state and with any policy ideas.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out by phone at (517) 373-0853 or send an email to AngelaWitwer@house.gov.
State Representative, 71st House District
In this issue:
- Upcoming Coffee Hours
- Legislative Update
- General Updates
Upcoming Coffee Hours
Please join me for my Weekly Wrap-up with Witwer each Friday at 11 a.m. You will find the event on my coffee hour event page on Facebook at that time, and no code is needed to join. Please also like and follow my page to stay connected with updates from the Capitol. I look forward to resuming in-person coffee hours soon.
Parole Deferral Waiver
For many survivors of violent crimes and their families, the nightmare doesn’t always end when the perpetrator is convicted. The current parole system requires that parole reviews are conducted annually and lacks a deferment mechanism for the board to waive the annual review. That means that survivors, either of the crime itself or the victim’s families, are forced to relive their trauma over and over again.
My colleague Rep. Sarah Lightner and I introduced House Bills 4562 and 4563 to allow the Michigan Parole Board permission to defer parole consideration for dangerous inmates for five years for prisoners who pose a public safety risk based on a history of certain behaviors. This would give survivors and their families time to live their lives more freely without being forced to relive their trauma every year.
These bills are a direct response and requested by our county prosecutor and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) as they are concerned that a serial killer arrested in our district has served 40 years and is currently up for parole.
Prescription Drug Price Transparency
No one should ever have to choose between their medication and putting food on the table, but for so many throughout our state and district, that is the disheartening reality they live in. Prescription drug price hikes have gotten entirely out of control in recent years, and there does not always seem to be a good reason for it. Wealthy drug manufacturers need more oversight; if they cannot explain their price increases with good reason, they must be held accountable.
In March, my House Bill 4347 was approved by the House Health Policy Committee and passed the House floor. The bill would require drug manufacturers to file a report with the state within 30 days of raising the wholesale acquisition cost of certain prescriptions by 15% or more in a given year, or 40% or more over three years.
Restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit
Many working families struggle to provide the most basic needs for their families. In order to give families the opportunity to provide a more sustainable lifestyle, my colleagues and I introduced House Bill 4933 which would restore the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to pre-2011 levels. This would return Michigan’s EITC back to 20 percent of the Federal EITC, up from the current level of 6 percent. Restoring these levels would lift roughly 15,000 additional families out of poverty and raise the average tax credit for 770,500 taxpayers from $148 to $493. Ultimately, the EITC encourages people to work and boosts the economy by giving taxpayers more of their hard-earned money back to support their local economy.
House passes Fiscal Year ’22 and Supplemental Budget
Last month, the House passed 16 departmental budgets for the 2022 fiscal year and a series of supplemental budget bills to allocate billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding. However, some bills included 75% funding cuts for many state departments and focused on unnecessarily paying off bonds early instead of investing in transformational projects. More than 50 amendments were offered to right the many wrongs in this proposal, all of which were rejected. We need to invest in our people, our economy and our infrastructure. I will continue working across the aisle to ensure you have all the resources you need.
New Federal Programs to Expand Internet Access for Michiganders
We know that many families here in Michigan still do not have access to reliable, high-speed internet. This makes learning and working in the 21st century increasingly difficult. As we have all had to rely on virtual tools to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to bridge the digital divide and equip Michiganders with the tools they need to succeed. These exciting federal programs will be instrumental in expanding access to crucial broadband services.
Emergency Broadband Benefit
This is a program that will provide a discount of up to $50 per month off a qualifying household’s internet bill (and up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands). In addition, some internet service providers are also providing discounts on the purchase of internet-capable devices, like laptop computers.
More than 1 million Americans enrolled in this program during its first week. Some of the most common ways that families qualify are:
- They participate in SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit.
- They experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and had a total household income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
- They received a federal Pell Grant in the current award year.
- They were approved for benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program.
- They meet the eligibility criteria for their internet service provider’s pre-existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
Visit here to learn more and enroll; call 833-511-0311 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. any day of the week, or sign up directly with your internet service provider.
Broadband Infrastructure Grants Available through NTIA
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has released the rules for the Broadband Infrastructure Grant program created under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. This program will provide a total of $288 million in grants to public-private partnerships established to expand broadband service.
Emergency Connectivity Fund Grants Soon to Be Available through FCC
The Federal Communications Commission has released a Report and Order providing details about the Emergency Connectivity Fund created under the American Rescue Plan. The plan will provide $7.1 billion in grants to support schools and libraries in providing connectivity to students, school staff and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to connected devices and high-speed internet service sufficient for remote learning.
COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program
COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA)
COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) is a federally funded program available through MSHDA to help Michigan tenants facing pandemic-related hardships avoid eviction while also ensuring landlords can recoup owed rent. The program can provide rental and utility assistance for eligible renter households to retain their housing stability. The CERA program is an important resource for those who have experienced financial hardships due to the pandemic and provides peace of mind to renters by ensuring they can stay in their homes.
MSHDA is currently administering the CERA Program through its statewide network of local nonprofit housing resource agencies.
MSHDA estimates that 50,000 to 55,000 families will be able to receive financial assistance through CERA. For more info on who is eligible, check out the FAQ page here.
How to Apply
MSHDA has an online application portal for application intake. This is the best way to apply for those that have a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Tenants and landlords can also apply through their local service agency. Please see the CERA Contact List for the service agency in our county.
Unemployment Work Search Requirement
Unemployment insurance claimants are traditionally required to actively seek work and report their activities to the agency during certification for any week they receive benefits. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this requirement has been waived since March 2020. The Unemployment Insurance Agency will now again require claimants to actively seek work by reporting one “work search activity” per week.
The state Legislature expanded what qualifies as work search activity through legislation last year. Work search activities include applying for jobs online, participating in virtual job fairs or employment workshops or searching job listings at sites like Monster.com, LinkedIn or MITalent.org.
If you need or know someone who needs help with their unemployment please contact our office at email@example.com or 517.373.0853 with the following info:
- Full Name
- Phone Number
- Case Number
- Summary of Issue
MDHHS Latest Updates
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a revised version of its previous epidemic order. This new order is now in effect.
The following is included in the new order:
- Outdoor gathering capacity restrictions are eliminated.
- Indoor gatherings can be held at 50% capacity.
- Restaurants and bars can be open at 50% capacity.
The following continues to be required:
- Fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks indoors. Those who are not vaccinated or who have been vaccinated less than two weeks ago are still required to wear masks inside.
- Masks are no longer required outdoors.
- Fully vaccinated student-athletes are no longer required to be routinely tested for COVID-19. Non-vaccinated athletes ages 13-19 are still required to participate in a weekly COVID-19 testing program.
- Masks will no longer be required during any sports practice or for non-contact sports. Masks are still recommended for non-vaccinated student-athletes during contact sports games.
This order is effective through July 1. More information can be found at michigan.gov/coronavirus.
Listening to My Community
As we head into the summer, warmer weather and higher vaccination rates in our state, I have been traveling across the district to meet face-to-face and hear directly from the people in our community. My volunteers and I are out knocking on doors to listen to your concerns and talk about ways we can build a better Michigan for all of us. If you have an issue you would like me to know about, please contact my office.
Ways to Engage
If my staff or I can ever be of assistance to you, please reach out to us. My door is always open, and don’t forget that my team and I work for you! The best way for me to continue to represent your interests and elevate your voice is to stay connected.
Please don’t hesitate to call me at (517) 373-0853, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by my office. We are located in room 1090 of the Anderson House Office Building, 124 N. Capitol Ave. in Lansing.
You are also more than welcome to attend a house session. House sessions are open to the public and are normally held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and Thursdays at noon. If you’re not able to attend, you can always stream it live at house.mi.gov/htv.asp. For a complete schedule of House sessions, visit house.mi.gov.