Dear Neighbor,Welcome to my Capitol & Community Update e-newsletter! In addition to my other regular constituent outreach efforts, such as my virtual and in-person coffee hours and weekend legislative walks in the district, I am happy to continue providing these email updates with the latest information, resources and opportunities relevant to our community members.
As always, you can reach my office at (517) 373-1783 or PadmaKuppa@house.mi.gov for any thoughts or questions about state-level issues. Be sure to also check out the latest on my website at kuppa.housedems.com and on my social media platforms — @PadmaKuppaMI41 (Twitter) and @MIRepPadmaKuppa (Facebook)!
House District 41
In-Person Office Hour: Pints with Padma
Between knocking doors and hosting virtual events, it has been great to return to in-person office hours, and I’m excited that we are finally bringing back Pints with Padma! Grab a pint with me as we discuss legislation and other things we’ve been working on, as well as taking your questions!
When: Thursday, Aug. 26, from 5-6:30 p.m.
Where: Old Detroit Burger Bar (27 E. 14 Mile Road in Clawson)
Virtual Office Hour
Join me on Facebook Live for a virtual coffee hour, where I will be answering your questions on state legislative issues and providing a legislative update. As we near the end of the in-district work period, I want to hear from constituents on the issues they care about so that I can better represent and advocate for our community in Lansing.
When: Tuesday, Aug. 31, from 5-6 p.m.
Where: My Facebook page (@mireppadmakuppa)
Join me to knock on doors in the community! We’ll be talking with neighbors in Troy and Clawson about the issues that matter to them so we can update our legislative agenda in Lansing. We will meet outside the main entrance of the Troy Community Center for a quick training and to distribute materials at the start of each shift. New volunteers are welcome, but they must register in advance!
When: Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
How: Register at https://tinyurl.com/KuppaWalks
Eliminating the Tampon Tax
In February, I introduced House Bill 4271 as part of a bicameral legislative bill package that would exempt necessary menstrual hygiene products such as pads and tampons from Michigan’s sales and use tax. The Tax Policy Committee, which I sit on, is set to meet at the end of the month and hear testimony on this issue. I am proud to see that Michigan is that much closer to repealing this unjust tax and finally addressing the issue of “period poverty” in a meaningful way. Since November 2020, I’ve been writing a monthly OpEd at American Kahani (kahani means story), and my August one focuses on this bill — with a bit about Bollywood and period poverty.
Justice for Allie
My first bill, Justice for Allie, is still awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. This legislation, inspired by a courageous family of constituents, would close a loophole in the law to protect vulnerable adults from being sexually exploited online. Justice for Allie was also my first bill introduced last term. This session, Justice for Allie is a two-bill package: House Bills 4159 and 4160. The latter bill was introduced by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland) and underscores our bipartisanship commitment to preventing sexual exploitation. Following their passage from the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee, we are awaiting the next steps for the bills in the Judiciary Committee. Thank you to everyone who has continued to support these bills on their legislative journey! Please help us to advocate on behalf of this legislation by sharing your support with the members of the Judiciary Committee.
My bill, House Bill 4802, was recently passed by the House Energy Committee! I had previously given testimony on the bill before the committee on June 8 and June 17. The bill is part of a bipartisan legislative bill package (HB 4801–4805) to expand electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure in Michigan. After working with industry leaders, the administration and a bipartisan group of legislators, I am hopeful that these bills will be passed by the entire chamber when we return from the in-district work period. I am proud to support efforts to ensure that Michigan remains a leader in the automotive industry! Also, this week, I will be testifying before the EPA on clean fuel standards — stay connected on social media for more info!
This legislative term, I sponsored a bill in the bicameral Drive SAFE legislative bill package, which would allow Michigan residents to obtain a driver’s license and/or state identification card regardless of their immigration status. State Rep. Rachel Hood and Sens. Winnie Brinks and Stephanie Chang are also sponsors of the package. Due to our state’s current laws, documented immigrants are often unable to obtain driver’s licenses or state identification cards, making it difficult or even impossible to do basic things like grocery shopping, going to work or the doctor, or getting their kids to school. With support from faith leaders, law enforcement and the agriculture sector, we have widespread agreement that it’s time we stop holding Michigan’s residents and economy back by becoming the 17th state to adopt this legislation. The House Bills, HB 4835 (Kuppa) and HB 4836 (Hood), have been referred to the Committee on Rules and Competitiveness.
In-District Work Period
The Legislature is now in the in-district work period, where we do not have our regular Tuesday-Thursday session schedule; we are called back to Lansing as needed. Regular session weeks will start back up again in the fall. The current House session schedule can be viewed here. During this time, I have been focusing on door-knocking, attending community events and increasing our community engagement efforts. I’m so excited to be able to hear more of constituents’ thoughts and concerns on the issues impacting them, from prescription medication to protecting our Great Lakes and our right to vote. It is important so that we can develop and focus our legislative agenda for the coming months.
The FDA recently granted full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.Currently, all Michiganders who are at least 12 years of age are eligible to receive the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are eligible can visit Oakland County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hub, Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine or the CDC’s Vaccine Finder to find local health departments and vaccine clinics that are ready to book appointments.
If you know a vaccine-eligible individual who doesn’t have access to the internet, or they need help with vaccine translation services, call 2-1-1 and press ‘5’ for free, confidential assistance. If you need additional help navigating the vaccine scheduling process, call the COVID-19 hotline at (888) 535-6136 (press 1).Oakland County continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan, so we all must remain vigilant and do our part to limit the spread of this virus. This includes getting vaccinated if you are able, continuing to wear masks when appropriate, physically distancing and frequently washing your hands.
COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA)
COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) is a federally funded program available through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (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 so that they 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 will be able to 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.
New Federal Programs to Expand Internet Access
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 one million Americans enrolled in this program during its first week. Some of the most common ways that families qualify are:
Visit www.GetEmergencyBroadband.org 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.
The Federal Communications Commission has released a Report and Order providing details about the Emergency Connectivity Fund created under the American Rescue Plan, which will provide $7.1 billion in grants that can 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. The second application window will open on Sept. 13 and end on Oct. 13.
Learn more here.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has released the rules for the Broadband Infrastructure Grant program that was 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. The application is open until Aug. 17.
Learn more here.
Additional Tax Credit for Michigan Families
Raising kids can be expensive, and the Child Tax Credit is here to help. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan increased the amount of the 2021 Child Tax Credit to support families with children. The full benefit of the Child Tax Credit is now $300 per month per child under age 6 and $250 for each child age 6 to 17.
If you filed your 2020 taxes this year or your 2019 taxes last year or used the IRS “Non-Filer Portal” to get a stimulus check last year, you don’t need to do anything. The IRS will automatically send you a monthly payment by direct deposit or check.
If you didn’t file taxes in the last 2 years, you just need to fill out a simple form available at www.childtaxcredit.gov.
Eligible Unemployment Claimants Granted Overpayment Waivers
The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has notified claimants who are no longer eligible to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits that overpayments will be waived.
In June, claimants were asked to requalify for PUA by providing the agency with the necessary information to remain eligible for the federal program. Four PUA COVID-19 eligibility reasons that were included at the beginning of the pandemic are no longer accepted. Under federal law, UIA had to reevaluate PUA eligibility for individuals who selected one of the non-qualifying reasons.
Of the roughly 690,000 claimants that were asked to requalify, about 241,000 responded to the UIA’s request. Waivers will be granted to the initial group of approximately 350,000 non-responses, many of whom may no longer be collecting benefits. Claimants will be notified through their MiWAM account or via US Mail.
Federal Unemployment Programs End Sept. 4
A number of federal unemployment programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), are ending on Sept. 4. Even if you have unused weeks remaining on a PUA or PEUC claim, weeks after Sept. 4 will not be paid.
These programs were set to end on March 14, 2021, but were extended by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Weeks prior to Sept. 4 that are pending review, protest, non-monetary issues etc. can still be paid once those issues are resolved. These programs ending will not affect claimants on a regular state unemployment claim.
For more information on these federal unemployment programs, please visit Michigan.gov/uia.