Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for things to do this month, along with other community information.
I have recently co-sponsored a package of bills that would help deter wage theft by increasing penalties for repeat violators of wage theft and retaliation against whistleblowers.
Wage theft is defined as the failure to pay workers the full wages to which they are legally entitled, and can include any of the following: paying workers less than the legal minimum wage, failing to pay employees time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week, asking employees to work off the clock before or after their shifts, denying workers their legal meal breaks, taking illegal deductions from wages or not distributing pay stubs, confiscating tips from workers or failing to pay tipped workers the difference between their tips and the legal minimum wage, or misclassifying employees as independent contractors to pay a lower wage.
A report from the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year found that Michigan workers are losing $429 million in wages due to wage theft every year. Studies also indicate that stronger penalties serve as a deterrent toward this egregious act. Michigan laws to protect workers’ pay haven’t been updated in almost 40 years, and the system is clearly broken.
Our plan to fix it includes:
- Increasing the criminal penalty and fines for employers who, with the intent to defraud, fail to pay the wages and fringe benefits due an employee.
- Updating the sentencing guidelines to reflect the new felony penalty, punishable by up to two years in prison.
- Increasing the civil penalty for employers who violate wage payment laws.
- Increasing the penalty for employers who retaliate or take disciplinary action against whistleblowers from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine for each violation.
- Doubling the number of staff who investigate allegations of wage theft.
Help Available for Those in Need during Michigan Winter
As freezing temperatures 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.
Flu Season is Here- Protect Yourself and Get Vaccinated Today
Influenza (flu) has already been detected in Genesee County for this flu season. The flu is a contagious respiratory infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle ache, runny nose and sore throat. Some people, such as older adults, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease, are at a high risk for serious flu complications. Vaccination remains the best protection against flu illness and is particularly important for people who are high-risk. The Genesee County Health Department strongly recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a flu shot to reduce the spread of flu this holiday season and beyond.
People with the flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. The flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. Less often, a person might get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
Protect yourself and loved ones by taking action to prevent the flu. The Genesee County Health Department recommends the following:
- Get vaccinated each year. The flu vaccine is widely available, including at the Genesee County Health Department.
- Stay home when sick. Remain home until fever-free for at least 24 hours, without using fever reducing medication. A fever is defined as 100°F (37.8°C) or higher.
- Wash hands often with soap and warm, running water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth. Doing so can allow the virus to enter your body.
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects. The flu virus can “live” on some surfaces up to 24 hours.
Most people recover from the flu at home without medical assistance. If your symptoms persist or are severe, consult your family physician.
Emergency Warnings In Adults:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Not drinking enough fluids or not urinating
- Severe or persistent vomiting
Emergency Warnings Signs In Children and Infants:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids or not urinating
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and a worse cough
- Fever with a rash
The Genesee County Health Department wants you to stay healthy this flu season. Visit their website at www.gchd.us or call (810) 237-4569 or (810) 237-4540 to make your flu shot appointment.
Hepatitis A Outbreak Update: GCHD Encouraging Vaccination and Handwashing
The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) has joined a growing list of counties that are part of the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in Southeast Michigan that started Aug. 1, 2016. Statewide, there have been more than 583 cases associated with the outbreak, including 20 deaths. In 2017, eight confirmed cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Genesee County. Seven of the cases have occurred since Oct. 1. To date, seven cases from Genesee County have been linked to the outbreak. As there are indications that the outbreak could spread, GCHD wants to remind residents that the most effective way to prevent Hepatitis A infection is through vaccination and proper hygiene, including thorough handwashing.
GCHD recommends that the following individuals, who are known to be at high risk for Hepatitis A, get vaccinated:
- People who use injection or non-injection illegal drugs.
- People who are homeless.
- People incarcerated in correctional facilities.
- People who work with the high-risk populations listed above, including first responders and health care providers.
- Men who have sex with men.
- People who prepare food for others, such as food service employees and restaurant workers.
- People who have close contact, care for or live with someone who has hepatitis A.
- People with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
- People with clotting factor disorders.
Hepatitis A, a vaccine-preventable disease, is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) and is most commonly spread from person to person through the fecal-oral route (i.e., ingestion of something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person). One can get HAV by eating contaminated food or drinking water, during sex or just by living with an infected person. Symptoms of HAV infection include sudden abdominal pain, dark urine, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, headache, fever, loss of appetite and vomiting followed by yellowing of the eyes or skin. Symptoms typically appear about one month after exposure, but may appear within two to six weeks of being exposed. The risk of infection is highest for individuals who live with, have sexual contact with, or share injection or non-injection illegal drugs with someone who has hepatitis A.
How to prevent hepatitis A infection:
- Vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent HAV infection and is safe for all individuals including those with liver disease or weakened immune systems. One dose is at least 95 percent effective at preventing infection if given before or within two weeks after exposure to the virus. Hepatitis A vaccine is available at local pharmacies, through some healthcare providers, or at local health departments.
- Good hand hygiene is integral to prevention. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating meals.
- Use your own towels, toothbrushes and eating utensils, and do not share food, drinks, drugs or cigarettes with other people.
- Do not have sex with someone who has HAV infection.
Please speak to your health care provider about your risks for HAV infection. Seek medical attention if you develop signs or symptoms of hepatitis A. Suspected and confirmed cases of hepatitis A should be reported to GCHD at (810) 257-1017. For any questions or concerns in general about hepatitis A, call the GCHD Hepatitis A hotline at (810) 257-3048.
GCHD wants you and your family to stay up-to-date on the most recent information and surveillance regarding hepatitis A. For more information about hepatitis A please go online to www.gchd.us. Additional information and current recommendations can also be found at http://www.michigan.gov/hepatitisaoutbreak and https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm.
Speak Your Health!
Genesee County residents have the opportunity to again participate in a survey about their own health and the health of their community. The survey, called the 2017 Speak to Your Health! Community Survey, is sponsored by the Genesee County Health Department and a wide variety of partners. This is the eighth time that the survey is being conducted in an ongoing effort to monitor the health of Flint and Genesee County residents. This year, Genesee County residents have two ways they may participate in the survey: an online survey which is mobile friendly and is available on the Genesee County Health Department’s website www.gchd.us/speak or a hard copy. Those interested in completing the online survey can visit www.gchd.us and click on the Speak to Your Health! Community Survey located on the left side of the home page. Hard copies of the survey can be requested by calling (810) 768-7970.
Results of the survey are available to all Genesee County residents and can be analyzed by gender, race, age and across time, and mapped geographically to determine trends by neighborhood, ZIP code or county. Results from the survey can be used for health program planning and evaluation, grant proposals, community education, and policy development.
Survey topics include physical and mental health, neighborhood safety, physical activity, nutrition, health care access, cancer, diabetes, sexual health and smoking. Results of previous surveys are available on the Speak to Your Health! Community Survey website: http://speak.gchd.us.
We encourage every Genesee County resident 18 years or older to take the time to Speak to Your Health! The Community Foundation of Greater Flint is generously providing financial support for the 2017 survey. For more information visit the Genesee County Health Department website at www.gchd.us/speak.
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 in the 48th District
BIRDING HIKE: CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
Saturday, Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon
For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum, 2142 N. Genesee Road in Burton
Each year, the National Audubon Society enlists countless birders and outdoor enthusiasts all over the United States to help with the annual Christmas Bird Count, an opportunity to help monitor winter bird populations. Help contribute to one of the longest running community conservation projects when you help in identifying and counting the birds that call For-Mar home. For more information, check the National Audubon Society webpage. Free for families, all ages and abilities; pre-registration not required.
Christmas Party for Children
Saturday, Dec. 16, from 2-3 p.m.
Davison Area Library, 203 E. 4th St. in Davison
Join for food and fun at the annual holiday blast, sponsored by the Davison Area Library Board. For more information, please call (810) 653-2022 or visit the Genesee District Library website.
The Michigan House of Representatives, along with many other federal, state and local offices, will be closed on the following dates in observance of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays:
Friday, Dec. 22
Monday, Dec. 25
Friday, Dec. 29
Monday, Jan. 1, 2018
Best wishes for memorable times with family and friends and a safe and healthy start to the New Year!
“One of the very best reasons for having children is to be reminded of the incomparable joys of a snow day.”
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