Welcome to my latest Capitol Update! As your state representative, one of my most important jobs is to keep you updated on issues at the state Capitol and in our community. My staff and I are always ready to answer any questions about state government and provide any help you need in contacting state departments. I also look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on how to make state government work better for you.
You can also reach me at (517) 373-0159 or by email at email@example.com. You can also visit my website at sowerby.housedems.com to find up-to-date information and news on my work in Lansing. I hope you find my updates useful and informative.
In this issue:
- Upcoming Coffee and Conversation
- COVID Relief Supplemental Funding
- Payday Lending Restrictions and Consumer Protections
Strengthening the Unemployment Insurance Agency
State Representative, 31st House District
Upcoming Mt. Clemens Virtual Coffee Hour with Congressman Andy Levin
On Friday, April 9 at 4 p.m., Congressman Andy Levin will join me as my special guest for a virtual coffee hour to hear from our Mt. Clemens constituents. We will discuss federal and state legislation, the COVID-19 response and other issues of the day. We will also take questions and do our best to address your concerns. Please register and feel free to share with other Mt. Clemens residents who might be interested.
Register in advance for this meeting at the link below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
COVID Relief Supplemental Funding Signed by Governor Whitmer
Last week, House and Senate Republicans finally brought to a vote a supplemental budget that appropriated the federal relief money signed into law back in December of 2020. It was signed into law with line-item vetoes by Gov. Whitmer, removing many of the worst provisions designed to limit the governor’s power. I applaud her actions to deliver relief to Michiganders despite continued obstruction from House and Senate Leadership.
Despite waiting more than two months to get this money to Michiganders and businesses who desperately need it, legislative leadership completely shut out Democratic legislators and prevented Gov. Whitmer from fully appropriating the money made available to our state. By tying this vital, necessary funding to requirements that blatantly attempt to limit the extent of executive action and ability to respond to ongoing crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, the majority party is putting party politics over the people of our state.
I voted against the supplemental dollars because these political games keep being played while leaving Michiganders to suffer. Even if my Republican colleagues disagree with the governor’s response to COVID, tying the hand of the governor to respond to current or future crises is not in the interest of the public and would only harm public safety overall.
Consumer Protections on the Payday Lending Industry
This week I introduced House Bill 4515, which would increase consumer protections for customers of payday lending institutions and ensure that Michiganders aren’t trapped in a never-ending cycle of debt. My bill will create a 30-day cooling-off period for customers between payday loans and require payday lending institutions to document that a customer has a reasonable ability to repay the loan. These protections are much needed in our state and are in line with those that all other financial institutions are subject to, including banks and credit unions. Financially vulnerable individuals should not be exploited and forced to pay over 300% in interest on these short-term loans.
Strengthening the Unemployment Insurance Agency
Last week, I introduced legislation as part of a broader package of bills that aims to fix our ailing unemployment insurance system. My bill specifically would extend the time frame for individuals falsely accused of fraud due to the failed MIDAS computer system put in place by former Governor Snyder. These hard-working people have together accrued millions in fees and penalties after doing absolutely nothing wrong, and each one of them deserves the opportunity to be made whole. My bill extending the statute of limitations on these cases will empower those who have not yet done so to bring legal action and receive the compensation they are owed.
The other bills in the package would do the following:
- Increase due process requirements of the UIA to require in-person or telephone appeals hearings, ensuring those falsely accused of fraud have the opportunity to be heard.
- Require all correspondence from the UIA to be in “plain language”, defined in the bill as at a 4th-grade reading level.
- Lower wage garnishment from 50% to 20% for an individual required to repay benefits they were mistakenly paid.
- Allow for unemployment benefits to be deducted from adjusted gross income, easing the tax liability for individuals on unemployment.
- Increase the hardship waiver to 200% of the federal poverty level, excluding $20,000 in cash assets from the calculation.
- Ensure the UIA reimburses all individuals erroneously accused of fraud by the faulty MIDAS computer system.
- Require state agencies to help individuals restore their credit when their private information is compromised due to security breaches of state operated database systems.
- Require the UIA to contract to have an audit done on their computer system’s algorithms and logic formulas.