Welcome to our May e-newsletter!
Included in this edition are some important COVID-19 updates, legislative updates, and other 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 Coffee Hour
Please join me for our monthly Virtual Coffee Hour. This is an opportunity to chat, ask me questions and share how I can best represent you in Lansing. I will be hosting my coffee hour this Saturday, May 22 from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Zoom and Facebook live. You can join using the Zoom link, or you can like my Facebook page and tune in for the livestream. I hope to see you there!
Extending the Family Independence Program
I recently introduced legislation that would increase the lifetime limit of the Family Independence Program (FIP) to 60 months. FIP operates under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) but is primarily funded through federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grants to provide cash assistance to low-income families. TANF contains various hardship exemptions and permits a 60-month lifetime limit for benefits, while FIP in Michigan provides no hardship exemptions and permits only 48 months—a full year less than the federal limit. My bill would align our state with the federal lifetime limit, provide exemptions for minors, and provide a hardship exemption for those who are battered or subject to extreme cruelty. Families who are young or out of work are depending on these benefits more than ever during the pandemic, and harsh time limits on government assistance only leave our most vulnerable residents behind.
Universal Background Checks
Recently, I introduced a bill package with my colleagues, Reps. Brenda Carter and Regina Weiss, that would require a background check for all firearm purchases in Michigan. Our state currently only requires a background check when purchasing a pistol. Universal background checks have wide support in Michigan and are one of the most basic steps we can take to diminish the gun violence we’ve witnessed in our state and throughout the nation. We know that requiring background checks on all firearm purchases will not be a silver bullet in solving a multifaceted problem, but this legislation is a step in the right direction.
Fiscal Year 2022 Budget
Recently, the House Appropriations Committee approved several fiscal year 2022 budgets. As a member of the committee, my colleagues and I offered several amendments to the budgets, including a permanent $2 per hour wage increase for direct care workers and a 2% increase in funding for our state’s higher education institutions. While every amendment I proposed failed in committee, these budget bills were approved and sent to the House floor for a vote. I offered many of these same amendments on the floor. With many crucial amendments offered for our budgets this week and most being voted down, I ultimately voted against most of the budgets on the House floor. Crucial funding, including that for our farmers, frontline workers, police, schools and families, was turned down by House Republicans in the name of partisan politics. The Senate passed their own budget too, which included a 2% increase for higher education, which I was pleased to see. Both House and Senate budgets will now head to a conference committee for further negotiations.
Various supplemental bills containing billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funding were recently sent to the House floor for a vote. Unfortunately, many portions of funding in these bills were tied to conditions that would affect our schools and other government operations. One example of this can be seen in HB 4421, which holds millions of dollars from schools unless the school districts offer a certain number of hours of in-person instruction. Similarly, HB 4419 allocates nearly $4.7 billion in federal COVID relief funding to various state departments on the condition that the funding not be used to stipulate the use of masks for children ages 2 to 4 years old. I voted no on the supplemental bills because now is not the time to limit the authority of DHHS or loosen restrictions that have been shown to work. The return of taxpayer dollars to the hands of Michigan taxpayers at a time when many residents are struggling financially should not be conditional. We must come together to ensure that all of the funding available for Michigan is allocated while ensuring our state health experts can continue to keep us safe during this pandemic.
Vaccination Approved for 12-15 Year-olds
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is recommending that providers begin vaccinating adolescents 12 to 15 years of age following a vote by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices supporting that recommendation. It is also recommended that the COVID vaccine can now be administered at the same time, or on the same day, as other vaccines in both children and adults.
Minors ages 12 to 17 will need a parent or legal guardian to provide written consent for COVID-19 vaccination. As with any vaccination for adolescents, it is recommended that adolescents have eaten and are well hydrated prior to their vaccination. More information is available in Teens and COVID-19 Vaccines. Michigan residents seeking more information about the COVID-19 vaccine can visit Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine. Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
Nominate an Essential Worker!
Each month, I 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 “Essential Worker of the Month”. If you know someone that should be acknowledged for their service and sacrifice to the community, please fill out this form here.
Apply for the Home Heating Credit Today!
Michiganders who need help with their energy bills can now apply for the Home Heating Credit.
Low-income, deaf, disabled or blind persons, disabled veterans and senior citizens may qualify for the Home Heating Credit. Applicants are not required to file a Michigan individual income tax return to receive the credit.
Individuals can apply for the Home Heating Credit electronically through the e-File system.
Forms and instructional materials are available on the internet at Michigan.gov/IncomeTax or by calling (517)636-4486. Forms are also available at many libraries, Northern Michigan post offices, and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) offices across the state.
All applications for the credit must be received by Sept. 30, 2021.
Additional information can be found on the Home Heating Credit website. For more information about resources available for heating assistance, go to Michigan.gov/HeatingAssistance.
Felicia A. Brabec
House District 55