Welcome to our February e-newsletter!
Included in this edition of the e-newsletter are some important COVID-19 and unemployment updates, along with resources I hope will prove helpful. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by phone at (517) 373-1792 or email at FeliciaBrabec@house.mi.gov for questions about these or any other state-level issues.
State Representative, 55th House District
Upcoming Virtual Events
Please join me for this month’s Virtual Coffee Hour co-hosted with Representative Rahbi. This is an opportunity to chat, ask us questions and share how we can best represent you in Lansing. We will be hosting the virtual event on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 10-11 a.m. on Zoom and on my Facebook Live. Please make sure to register in advance so you can receive the zoom link.
Unemployment Town Hall
Please join me for an Unemployment Town Hall on Monday, March 8 from 6-7 p.m. We will be joined by Rep. Pohutsky and a Special Guest from Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) to do a general overview of the new federal unemployment expansion and talk about how it affects new and existing claimants. Follow my Facebook Page for more info!
First Bill Introductions
One of the first bills I introduced would require schools in Michigan to employ one school counselor for every 450 students enrolled. This legislation would apply to school districts, intermediate school districts, and public school academies. Our students’ mental health must be made a higher priority. School counselors are charged with providing critical guidance and support on post-secondary education and preparation, including skilled trades, but they also work with students to address struggles with mental illness, stress, and bullying. These are all factors that greatly impact the success of students in school.
Michigan lags behind in recommended student-counselor ratios and is well below the national average. According to data released by the American School Counselor Association, Michigan had the second-worst student-counselor ratio in the country for the 2018-2019 school year, with one counselor being responsive to 691 students. This legislation would help to ensure that students have the resources they need to succeed in school.
Allowing Local Plastic Bag Bans
Currently, in Michigan, communities that want to reduce their overall plastic waste aren’t allowed to institute a plastic bag ban. Recently, I introduced legislation that would give local governments the opportunity to regulate the use of certain plastics, should they wish to. Plastic bags are sources of pollution that scientists say can take hundreds—if not thousands—of years to completely degrade in natural environments. Michigan should be doing everything it can to encourage our local communities to fight for a more sustainable future, and this legislation will empower them to do so.
House Supplemental Appropriation Bills
Back in December, the federal government made available billions of dollars in stimulus funding to states like Michigan. I was disappointed in my Republican colleagues’ decision to only call for a vote on a portion of this funding- leaving $2 billion on the table. Our state will lose out on these much-needed dollars if we do not come to an agreement soon.
Earlier this month, I joined my Democratic colleagues in announcing a pandemic recovery plan that would immediately unleash $5.6 billion in federal dollars to help Michigan workers, small businesses, families, and schools. Michigan House Republicans introduced a plan as well, but it fell gravely short of providing the relief that Michiganders need. My Democratic colleagues and I proposed several amendments to their bills, including:
- $90 million in federal stimulus for vaccine distribution throughout Michigan
- $575 million in federal stimulus to expand COVID-19 testing
- $2.1 billion in federal stimulus to provide food assistance
- $661 million in federal stimulus to help with rental assistance and utility bills
- $240 million in direct relief to small businesses
- Extending unemployment assistance from 20 to 26 weeks
Unfortunately, none of these amendments were adopted, but I will continue to do all I can to advocate for the full deployment of Michigan’s federal stimulus dollars. Families, businesses, and entire communities are hurting, and we need to utilize all the money available to us and bring these funds back to Michigan.
Last month, Michigan also entered a new phase of vaccine distribution, beginning to offer vaccinations to Michiganders ages 65 and older; frontline essential workers including public safety officers, frontline state and federal workers and jail and prison staff; and pre K-12 educators, support staff and childcare providers.
Due to a limited amount of vaccine supplies in Michigan, eligible individuals with a vaccination scheduled in Washtenaw County may have their appointment rescheduled. It may take months to schedule everyone eligible. If you are on the Washtenaw County Health Department’s list, they will be in contact as soon as possible. WCHD has respectfully requested that you- don’t call or email asking for updates if you have already submitted an appointment request.
- If you are currently eligible, please use this link to request an individual appointment and this link for organizational requests. A completed request does NOT mean an appointment is available. Scheduling everyone eligible may take months. You will receive a registration link (or call) when an appointment is available. Since supplies are week-to-week at this point, WCHD cannot provide better timelines.
- NEW pharmacies (updated 2/15): Under a federal program, Meijer and Rite Aid are now offering the vaccine. Rite Aid to adults 65 and older and Meijer to anyone currently eligible under state guidance. Both have online registration processes, and Meijer offers phone assistance: Meijer https://clinic.meijer.com/ and Rite Aid eligibility survey http://bit.ly/3qca7Tg. See more about the federal partnership.
- Other health providers: Based on initial state distributions, we planned for local health providers to vaccinate their patients 65 years and older. Supplies have decreased this week for these providers and are unclear moving forward. The Health Department has not received any increases. Everyone eligible can request a Health Department appointment, and we will continue to provide as many vaccinations as we can to eligible individuals. We continue to meet regularly with our healthcare partners to coordinate as much as possible.
- If you cannot complete the link online, call WCHD at 734-544-6700 or call 211. Please reserve phone lines for those who cannot use online resources.
- Please DO NOT share registration links.
- Individuals are offered appointments based on state guidelines and local vaccine availability. Out of each weekly supply, about half is required for 2nd dose. For the remaining amount the WCHD works to offer roughly 2/3 of appointments to older adults and 1/3 to currently eligible essential workers (and after any needed health care worker/1A doses)/based on state guidance. Health conditions or more advanced age are not currently considered under state guidance. Everyone 65 years and older is eligible by age.
- All vaccination is by appointment. Please don’t show up at any vaccination site without an appointment. (No doses are wasted. Don’t show up to request an unused dose.)
- Vaccine doses are allocated to local health systems and health providers at the state level. The Health Department does not control these supplies but is working with health partners to coordinate the delivery of vaccination to those eligible.
- See more information about signing up here
- Recent WCHD press releases
- COVID-19 Vaccine Sign Up Information
- COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
- COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization Guidance
Updated MDHHS Epidemic Order
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its current epidemic order to allow contact sports to resume as of Monday, Feb. 8, provided masks are worn during practices and competition. If masks cannot be worn, participants must be regularly tested for COVID-19 consistent with guidelines issued by MDHHS, which are available online at Michigan.gov/coronavirus. Sports organizers are encouraged to administer a testing program even if it is not required. Safety protocols like wearing masks and testing will help keep kids, coaches and families safe, and allow our schools to open or remain open for in-person instruction. The order remains in effect through Monday, March 29.
In addition to the update, MDHHS also created several helpful graphics to explain the changes in the order:
MDHHS has been closely monitoring three metrics for stabilization or declines over the past several weeks: percent of adult inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, COVID-19 cases per 1,000,000 residents, and percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive. Fortunately, Michigan continues to see improvements.
All remaining Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claimants whose claims ended when CARES Act programs were interrupted in December can now either reopen, certify or apply for benefits available under the Continued Assistance Act (CAA). Claimants were notified from the UIA with information and instructions regarding the changes.
The CAA allows PEUC and PUA claimants an additional 11 weeks of benefits payable for the week ending Jan. 2 through March 13, 2021. Payments also include the additional $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) weekly benefit.
- New PUA claims can now be filed online at michigan.gov/uia.
- PUA claimants who exhausted their original entitlement of benefits prior to Dec. 26, 2020 can also now reopen their claim to receive an additional 11 weeks of benefits, payable retroactively, beginning with the week ending Jan. 2, 2021. Claimants have or will receive notification by email, through their MiWAM account or by mail alerting them to the availability of the additional weeks.
- A new provision under the CAA requires PUA claimants to submit proof of employment or self-employment to maintain eligibility. For example, claimants need documentation showing their employment or self-employment for the tax year prior to when they filed their original claim for benefits. Individuals who filed their original PUA claim in 2020 need documentation to support employment in 2019. New PUA applications filed in 2021 should include supportive documentation of employment in 2020.
- Appropriate documents can include tax documents, paycheck stubs, state or federal employer identification numbers, business licenses, business receipts or a signed affidavit.
- Claimants should not submit this documentation until they receive a notice instructing them where to upload it and the timelines for doing so.
- PEUC claimants who exhausted their previous entitlement will be able to reopen their claim to receive an additional 11 weeks of benefits, payable retroactively, beginning with the week ending Jan. 2, 2021. Claimants have or will receive notification by email, through their MiWAM account or by mail alerting them to the availability of the additional weeks.
- Workers on regular state UI benefits will no longer receive the PEUC extension automatically. The CAA now requires workers to submit an application. Once a worker has exhausted their state UI benefits, they will need to log into their MiWAM account and click on, “Additional Information Required – click here to file an extension.”
Michigan Department of Treasury: Don’t Delay Complete your FASFA today
Students who want to be given priority consideration for state of Michigan financial aid programs should submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or before March 1, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. The FAFSA is a critical step when applying for grants, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance. FAFSA submissions received at the federal processor on or before March 1 are given priority consideration for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and Michigan Tuition Grant. Students who wait to complete their FAFSA after the March 1 deadline may not receive all the financial aid they could have been entitled to receive.
Prior to completing the FAFSA online, the student and at least one parent must obtain a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) at www.fafsa.gov. This ID serves as a legal signature and confirms an applicant’s identity when accessing financial aid information through certain U.S. Department of Education websites.
February’s Essential Worker of the Month: Holly Downey
We are delighted to recognize Holly Downey as February’s Essential Worker of the Month. During her time as a Food & Beverage Manager for the University of Michigan, she has been a role model in our community due to the time and energy she dedicated to her job every day.
Working in the dining unit during these unprecedented times is no small feat and we commend Holly for carrying out her tasks phenomenally.
Over this past year, Holly has gone above and beyond in all her endeavors and has worked to create a COVID-19 safe dining unit for students and employees of the University. She made it her duty to ensure everyone was always fed while keeping them safe and providing for any dietary needs. She not only made sure that all were well fed, but also actively worked to ensure that each individual was connected to every available resource in the community to
further support their needs. Beyond that, Holly is recognized for her warm and gentle heart, always looking out for others. Many students struggling due to the pandemic, would be known to seek her out as a confidant and for emotional support. In addition, she always lent an ear to staff members who may have been struggling managing work with being a single parent or with other concerns. This compassion has continued to follow her even outside of the workplace, where she spends her free time sewing handmade masks for her staff and students.
Holly has been and will continue to be an advocate for safety and shown unwavering support for her staff and students. Her generosity and work ethic are contagious and inspire everyone she interacts with. In a time filled with uncertainty, she has been a constant in the lives of her students and staff. We are so grateful to have such an extraordinary figure living here in our community. Many thanks are due to Holly for the impact she continues to have on our community!
Each month, we will be featuring an essential worker who is a resident of the 55th House District! Community members can nominate various individuals that they feel deserve the recognition and honor of being known as the “55th House District Essential Worker of the Month”. If you know someone that should be acknowledged for their service and sacrifice to the community, please fill out the form here.
Upcoming Community Events
Southeast MI Pullover Prevention
Interactions with the police can mean the difference between life and death for many folks. Vehicle maintenance increases your chance of avoiding these interactions but can be a nuisance or expensive. This event provides vehicle maintenance–and so much more–for FREE. Services include repairs for brake lights, headlights, taillights and turn signals. Volunteers can check and refill tires and other fluids. Other maintenance can also be offered, and trained mechanics will be available for consultations. There will be free food, childcare, and information about community resources. The event will take place Saturday, March 13 from 12– 4 p.m. at Masjid Ibrahim (315 S. Ford Blvd, Ypsilanti, MI 48198). To learn more, click here.
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy: Politics of Pipelines
Join leading scholars to discuss the politics associated with oil and gas pipeline construction in Canada and the United States. André Lecours (University of Ottawa) and Daniel Béland (McGill University) will present findings from their paper, “Federalism and the Politics of Oil and Gas Pipelines in Canada and the United States.” Amy Janzwood (University of British Columbia) and Kate J. Neville (University of Toronto) will present findings from their paper (co-authored with Sarah Martin of Memorial University of Newfoundland), “Pipeline Purgatory and the Social Construction of Commercial Viability.” These presentations will be followed by a discussion featuring questions from audience members. The online event will take place Thursday, Feb. 25 from 4–5 p.m. To learn more, click here.
Michigan United: Inmates to Entrepreneurs Virtual Course
Inmates to Entrepreneurs (I2E) hosts a free online course for anyone with a criminal background who has started or is interested in starting their own low-capital business. The course will cover everything you need to know in order to start, run, and grow a business quickly. The training will take place Tuesday, Feb. 23 from 6–7:30 p.m. To learn more, click here.
If you have a community event you would like featured in our E-Newsletter please email FeliciaBrabec@house.mi.gov. We would love to help spread the word!