Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for things to do this month, along with other community information.
Addressing High Insurance Costs in Michigan
Earlier this month, the House voted against House Bill 5013 to reform our state’s auto no-fault system. While I believe that our no-fault system is in dire need of reform, HB 5013 simply wasn’t the answer. The plan did not guarantee rate reductions or get rid of discriminatory rating factors like ZIP codes, education level, or credit scores, but the bill did guarantee that benefits would be gutted for many Michigan drivers and their families. I am pleased my colleagues on both sides of the aisle joined me in defeating that misguided bill.
But just because HB 5013 did not pass, that does not mean the work to reform our no-fault system is over. There is a better plan out there that I support, which will reduce costs without sacrificing our state’s world-class coverage. The bipartisan Fair and Affordable No-Fault Reform package would lower rates and maintain benefits for Michiganders by reducing costs for seniors, bringing fairness to insurance rates, increasing transparency in how rates are set, cracking down on fraud, lowering health care prices for accident victims and reducing lawsuits. I am hopeful that this package of bills will receive a hearing in committee soon so that we can provide real relief to Michigan drivers without reducing their coverage.
I will also continue calling for action on HB 5124, which would allow seniors to waive coverage for personal protection insurance benefits if they choose to instead rely on Medicare and lifetime retirement health care. We can do something today to lower insurance costs for Michigan seniors, and I hope my colleagues in the House will agree to this common-sense provision to fixing our no-fault system and bring HB 5124 to a vote soon.
I have also recently co-sponsored a package of bills aimed at reducing the high cost of premiums while extending consumer protections to those who buy insurance. The five-bill package would address home and auto insurance rates, in addition to improving the process by which consumers learn about and shop for policies. The bills would also deal with the manner in which insurance companies handle their customers’ personal and sensitive information. This package of bills aims to give more resources to consumers to shop for low rates and dismantle industry practices that prevent them from seeing rewards and discounts to which they might be entitled.
Unemployment Insurance Agency Bill Package
A bipartisan package of bills was approved by the House and sent to the Senate recently. The bills were introduced by a bipartisan Unemployment Workgroup to address the Unemployment Insurance Agency’s faulty MiDAS computer system. Between 2013 and 2015, many Michiganders were accused of fraud due to the MiDAS computer system. These bills aim to provide better services to claimants and to improve the MiDAS computer system. These services include the creation of an advocacy program for claimants accused of fraud, ensuring that claimants are properly notified by requiring the UIA to check with all available addresses from the Department of State and the Department of Treasury. In order to provide more protection, these bills will allow for cases to be reopened up to three years after a fraud determination. A separate package of bills introduced by House Democrats would go even further. This package includes bills to reimburse individuals who were erroneously accused of fraud, expand the statute of limitations to those who were accused of fraud between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2016, and restore unemployment benefits to 26 from 20 weeks.
DNR extends Black Friday invitation to #OptOutside; Michigan state parks offer free entry statewide Nov. 24
Residents and visitors are encouraged to put away leftovers and #OptOutside as part of their day-after-Thanksgiving traditions. To encourage folks to tap into Michigan's great outdoors and gather with friends and family, on Friday, Nov. 24, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that enables vehicle access to Michigan state parks, trails and boating access sites.
"In Michigan, you’re never more than a half-hour away from a state park, recreation area, state forest campground or state trail," said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division. Although the Recreation Passport vehicle entry fee into 103 Michigan state parks, 138 state forest campgrounds and parking for hundreds of miles of trails and fee-based boat launches is waived Nov. 24, camping and other permit and license fees still apply.
There are plenty of ideas to incorporate into popular day-after-Thanksgiving traditions, including opportunities to:
- Find a new mile to hike or run on one of more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails.
- Cast a line in a state park and put fishing on your Friday festivities menu.
- Try mountain biking.
- Jump on the Iron Belle Trail – the longest designated state trail in the nation – and crisscross more than half of Michigan’s counties along both hiking and biking routes.
- Enjoy the peace and quiet of camping in the off-season.
- Download a geocaching app and take part in an outdoor treasure hunting game that utilizes GPS-enabled devices.
- Seek out historical markers and learn a little bit more about Michigan’s backstory.
- Make a bird-watching scavenger hunt for kids and start a list of the birds you spot.
Interested in learning more about things to do and places to visit? Go to the DNR’s website at michigan.gov/dnr to learn more about fishing, hunting, forest land, state parks and much more. To search for a list of Michigan state parks, rustic state forest campgrounds, state-designated trails and associated activities and amenities, visit www.michigan.gov/recsearch. Interested in the Recreation Passport and how it helps Michigan state parks, trails and waterways? Go to www.michigan.gov/RecreationPassport.
Treasury Provides Special Benefits to Military Members and Veterans
In observance of Veterans Day, the Michigan Department of Treasury reminds current and former military members about the special benefits they may be entitled to receive.
Current and former military members may be eligible to receive:
- Military Pay Tax Exemption. Military pay is exempt from Michigan tax, including military retirement benefits and exit and separation pay.
- Children of Veterans Tuition Grant. This program provides undergraduate tuition assistance to the children of Michigan veterans who were totally and permanently disabled, missing in action or died while serving. Students may receive scholarship assistance for up to four academic years for a total of up to $11,200.
- Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption. A property tax exemption for real property used and owned as a homestead as outlined in state law.
- Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) for Active Duty Military Personnel. Property owners can retain a PRE while on active duty if their property is rented or leased.
- Property Tax Relief during Active Military Service. Property owned by a serviceperson cannot be sold to pay delinquent property taxes during a tour of active duty.
- Summer Property Tax Deferment. A serviceperson, veteran or widow or widower whose income outside of military compensation is no more than $7,500 per year may be eligible for a summer property tax deferment.
To learn more about tax relief and other benefits for current and past military members, go to www.michigan.gov/taxes.
Help Available for Those in Need during Michigan Winter
As freezing temperatures start to settle in across Michigan, Consumers Energy is reminding Michigan families, seniors and those in need that now is the time to reach out for help with winter heating costs. Consumers Energy is working to connect eligible customers with nonprofit organizations in communities across Michigan that will provide over $45 million in state dollars to help with heating costs. Consumers Energy encourages anyone who is looking for available assistance in their community to start by calling 2-1-1, a free service that can refer people to local assistance programs, or by visiting www.ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance. In November, Consumers Energy customers are also receiving information regarding assistance programs along with their bills. The information describes company payment plan options, as well as outside help such as the nonprofit agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services State Emergency Relief program, the Michigan Home Heating Credit and more.
Volunteer Campground Host Applications Being Accepted for 2018 Season
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking volunteer campground hosts in Michigan state parks, recreation areas and rustic state forest campgrounds for the 2018 camping season. In exchange for 30 hours of service per week, including duties such as helping campers find their campsites, answering camper questions, planning campground activities and performing light park maintenance duties, campground hosts enjoy waived camping fees.
Both individuals and couples may apply for volunteer positions that begin as early as April and last through October. Volunteer hosts must be 18 years of age and provide their own camping equipment, food and other personal items.
Interested volunteers can click on "campground host" at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers to learn more about the volunteer host campground program, download an application and waiver and view a vacancy host campground report, which is updated regularly and indicates when and where hosts are needed in specific parks.
For information, contact Miguel Rodriguez at 517-284-6127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
November is Scholarship Month
November has officially been declared scholarship month in Michigan! All month long, MI Student Aid will be actively posting on social media to celebrate. They will be highlighting their own scholarship database, compiled of Michigan scholarships, where students can submit a request and get scholarships sent right to their email inbox. They will have tips and tricks for filling out scholarship applications in order to help students with their search. They will also be discussing the various scholarships and grants programs provided by the State of Michigan as well as other resources, beyond scholarships, that can help make college Accessible, Affordable and Achievable for Michigan students and families. Follow them on all of their social media accounts @mistudentaid
MI Student Aid Six Easy Tips to Consider When Applying for Scholarships
Tip No. 1: Get Organized
Every student should begin their scholarship journey by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA determines need-based federal aid such as grants and loans. The FAFSA also generates a Student Aid Report (SAR) which is used by colleges in determining need based grants and scholarships. Scholarship applications often require recommendation letters, resumes, family financial information, transcripts, and lists of activities, academic honors, leadership roles, work experience, community service and more.
Prior to beginning a search, gather all these materials and save them in a folder for easy access. Having this information on hand will save time and ensure no information is left out of an application.
Tip No. 2: Get Smart
Individuals who requested a MI Student Aid scholarship search prior to their senior year in high school should re-request their scholarship search. The scholarship database is continuously being updated with new opportunities.
A common mistake students make with their scholarship search is limiting themselves based on scholarship amount. Small award amounts add up too, so apply for all eligible scholarships, even if the amount is smaller.
Never pay for scholarship information or advice. If a service requires money to get money, it is probably a scam.
Tip No. 3: Get Looking
College is expensive. Many students have to combine multiple types of financial aid, as well as savings and income from student jobs, to pay for college.
To put together a strong college financing plan, research and apply for multiple scholarships, including local, college and national scholarship opportunities.
Tip No. 4: Get a Scholarship Calendar
Create a schedule that sets aside time to apply for scholarships. By creating a schedule, an individual is likely to submit more applications. Ideally, approach scholarship searches as if they are another assignment due. Creating a calendar of due dates is a beneficial tool. Always set a due date on or before each deadline. It’s vital to keep track of all scholarship deadlines so no opportunities are missed. Most scholarship committees discard late applications.
Tip No. 5: Get Writing
Be true to yourself when developing a scholarship application essay. A review committee is interested in an applicant’s unique story. Make sure that an essay expresses the applicant’s voice and experiences. Continuously review and work to improve application essays. Recycle application components that may be applicable to other scholarships. Remember, by applying for many scholarships, an applicant betters his or her chances.
Tip No. 6: Get Connected
Follow @mistudentaid on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for new scholarship opportunities, updates and best practices on all of our social media platforms.
To learn more, go to www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid.
911 Emergency Text Message Option Now Available
Residents of Genesee County now have the option to send emergency text messages to 911. Sending a text message to 911 would be appropriate when someone is unable to speak because of an emergency such as a home invasion or an abusive partner, the statement said. Users should send brief messages without using abbreviations or slang, be prepared to communicate your exact location and be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 dispatcher. The service also is intended to aid people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability. Parents are urged to educate their children about the 911 texting option and remind them that it is for emergencies only.
FREE DENTAL HEALTH CLEANINGS FOR SENIORS!
Valley Area Agency on Aging (VAAA) and Mott Community College (MCC) are partnering to offer free dental health cleanings to Genesee County seniors! Care is provided by MCC dental hygiene students, under the direct supervision of licensed dental hygienists and dentists. Seniors who qualify are those who are 60 years of age and older. Appointments are being scheduled ALL DAY Monday through Friday; call today to schedule an appointment: (810) 762-0493.
Events, Programs or Services in the 48th House District
Opening Night of Christmas at Crossroads
The annual Christmas at Crossroads Village is opening on Friday, Nov. 24, from 4:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. It’s one of Mid Michigan’s favorite holiday traditions. You’ll find costumed villagers, live entertainment, model trains, craft demonstrations, holiday music and, of course, visits with Santa himself. Join for a tree lighting ceremony followed by Christmas carols and fireworks! On opening night, Genesee County residents receive free village admission.
For more information, please visit the Genesee County Parks Event page, or call (800) 648-PARK.
Genesee District Library Closed for Thanksgiving
The Genesee District Library will be closed Thursday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 26 for Thanksgiving.
May the good things of your life be in abundance not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the year. As we unite in gratitude for our blessings, please take a moment to consider those who may be less fortunate. Extending a helping hand to someone in need can brighten everyone’s holidays. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving from my office to your home.
The Michigan House of Representatives, along with many other federal, state and local offices, will be closed on the following dates in observance of Thanksgiving:
Thursday, Nov. 23
Friday, Nov. 24
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.
State Representative Pam Faris
48th House District