I hope you and your family are enjoying the summer. My team and I remain committed to helping constituents with their questions and issues, keeping residents up to date on what’s happening at the Capitol and providing useful resources. Please contact us at (517) 373-0822 or at RachelHood@house.mi.gov if we can be of assistance.
State Representative, 76th House District
School Aid Budget
On July 13, Gov. Whitmer signed House Bill 4411, the School Aid budget, into law. This budget makes the largest investment in preK-12 schools in Michigan’s history. The signing of HB 4411 marks a historic moment for the state by reaching the goal of eliminating the funding gap between districts. The bill finalizes the fiscal year 2022 School Aid budget, which totals $17.1 billion, including $85.4 million from the state’s general fund, and provides cost adjustments and supplemental funding for the current 2021 year.
The fiscal year 2022 School Aid budget also increases access to early education through the Great Start Readiness Program, which provides preschool to families at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. The new investment includes $121 million in federal funding and $47.5 million from the School Aid Fund, for a total investment of $168.5 million. The full-day per child allocation is increased from $7,250 to $8,700, and additional funding is provided to expand the program.
In addition to closing the gap and increasing access to preschool programing, the 2022 School Aid Budget makes strategic investments in the following:
Important Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Information
Following recent U.S Department of Labor guidance, the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has changed the qualifications necessary to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The UIA is now reevaluating claimants’ eligibility based upon a new list of approved reasons. There are four reasons that no longer qualify, and claimants who selected one of those reasons during certification will need to reestablish their eligibility for PUA. The following reasons may no longer be used:
If you received the letter “Notice of Expanded Eligibility Reasons for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)” and have been paid PUA benefits, you must submit a new reason (self-attestation) for unemployment within 20 days in order to continue your eligibility for those benefits. To resubmit your self-attestation, log into your MiWAM account and click on the “Requalify for PUA” link under the “Alerts” tab. When providing your self-attestation, you may select more than one COVID-19 related reason. Select as many reasons as apply to your situation, and do not select reasons that do not directly apply to you.
Once your updated self-attestation of eligibility is received and processed, it will be evaluated, and a determination will be issued to notify you of your eligibility. If you are eligible for benefits, you will be paid. If it is found that you are not eligible, you can file an appeal of the determination.
If it is determined that you do not qualify for PUA and you owe restitution for benefits improperly paid to you, UIA will also evaluate the overpayment to determine if the overpayment should be waived so that you do not have to pay the restitution. If you owe restitution and are granted a waiver, UIA will issue a separate determination notifying you of both. The UIA will waive any improper payments due to these changed eligibility requirements so long as they find no issues of fraud or misrepresentation on the filer’s behalf.
Increasing Access to Affordable, Reliable Broadband
Over 1.2 million Michiganders today do not have reliable internet connections. As we have seen living during a pandemic, the need for reliable and affordable high-speed internet has never been greater. My colleagues and I have also introduced a high-speed internet package that will strengthen our broadband infrastructure, create jobs, grow our economy and improve education access. Currently, there are federal programs that are instrumental in expanding access to critical 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.
Broadband Infrastructure Grants Available Through NTIA
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.
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, 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.