Welcome to my Capitol & Community Update e-newsletter! As the back-to-school month is ending, I wish the best of luck to all of our students who are returning to school. I hope everyone has a happy and safe Labor Day, and I encourage you to take some time to appreciate the contributions of laborers who fought for the worker protections we enjoy today.
As always, please encourage neighbors and friends in House District 41 — Troy and Clawson — to also sign up for these updates at kuppa.housedems.com and let us know if you have any thoughts on any state-level issues or requests for scheduling. My office can be reached by phone at (517) 373-1783 or by email at PadmaKuppa@house.mi.gov. Be sure to also check out the latest on my social media platforms — @PadmaKuppaMI41 (Twitter) and @MIRepPadmaKuppa (Facebook)!
House District 41
Monthly Community Conversations
Please join me for my in-person office hours where I will be giving legislative updates and taking your questions about the issues facing our state and our community! They are a great way to find out what policies I’m working on and share your ideas and concerns with me. Please refer to the policy of the venue regarding masks and physical distancing. Our September meeting information is as follows:
When: Monday, Sept. 26, from 4:30-6 p.m.
Where: Troy Community Center (3179 Livernois Road in Troy)
The following are highlights from recent legislative developments. All of my sponsored legislation and co-sponsored legislation from this term are available at the provided hyperlinks. You can also see my press releases page for additional updates and information.
Student Loan Forgiveness
I recently joined a bipartisan coalition of legislators in introducing a package of bills related to student loan forgiveness and establishing protections for student borrowers by increasing transparency, affordability and accessibility around student loans. My bill in the package, House Bill 6265, establishes funding for student loan forgiveness for those who are employed in high-demand jobs in rural counties. With the current labor shortage, we need to be active in filling the gaps in our workforce, and one way we can do that is by reining in the student loan debt problem that keeps these jobs out of reach for many. More information on the package, which has been referred to the Committee on Education, can be found here.
Upcoming Session Days
The Michigan House has not met since June 30. As your state representative, I believe we’ve had sufficient time in district this summer and that it’s time for the majority party to call us back to Lansing for legislative session to get back to work on your behalf. We still have plenty of federal funds to allocate to schools, small businesses and local community support programs. However, we are only scheduled to meet again for two days before we reach November. As a taxpayer and a legislator, I want to see more legislative work accomplished — let’s pass House Bills 4159-60, or “Justice for Allie,” and protect vulnerable adults from online sexual predators, for starters!
Local Investments from State Budget
I am happy to share with you that we were able to secure the following local investments in the 2022-23 state budget:
- $2 million for economic development site validation in Oakland County.
- $250,000 for the Oakland County Sheriff’s office.
- $2.48 million for the Oakland County child welfare day treatment pilot program.
- $225,000 for the Memorial Grove All Abilities Park in Oakland County (Rochester).
- $100,000 for the Clara Miller Park Playground in Oakland County (Wolverine Lake).
- $68,000 for the Martin Road Park Walkways and Pavilion in Oakland County (Ferndale).
- $750 million for local pension system grants.
- $500,000 for the Ascend Foundation.
These investments will lend tremendous support to our community development and will help uplift local residents of all ages.
The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has secured a second approval from the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) to suspend certain collection activities for nearly 400,000 workers who applied for federal unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suspension stops new wage garnishments and state of Michigan tax refund intercepts. This is the second time the UIA has worked with the U.S. DOL to grant the suspension to provide relief for Michigan workers. An earlier suspension expired in May.
I am excited to see this approval realized, as the suspension of these collections will put money back in the pockets of people who needed pandemic unemployment benefits and followed the rules when they asked for help. This federal action will provide the UIA with the time they need to evaluate claims for overpayment waivers. So far, over 62,000 waivers have already been granted.
UIA has 12 local offices across Michigan that are open by appointment. UIA offices are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Benton Harbor, Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Marquette, Muskegon, Saginaw, Sault. Ste. Marie, Sterling Heights and Traverse City. UIA’s revamped website at Michigan.gov/UIA includes a link on the homepage to make it easy for claimants to schedule an appointment with UIA staff.
Trained staff at local offices can often address a claimant’s issue more quickly and conveniently than a legislative office, as the latter does not have access to confidential unemployment account information. However, my office is always available to you as a liaison to any state department or agency!
Michigan Education Trust Tuition Giveaway
More than 36,000 Michiganders have signed up for the Michigan Education Trust (MET) 35th Anniversary $1.5 Million Giveaway, a random, statewide drawing that families and friends can enter on behalf of a child for a chance to win one of 100 $15,000 prepaid tuition prizes. Administered by the Michigan Department of Treasury, MET lets families pay today’s prices for future higher education costs.
Under MET’s giveaway, Michigan residents 18 years or older on Aug. 31, 2022, are eligible to enter on behalf of beneficiaries ages birth to 5 years old by the same date for a chance to win $15,000 in prepaid tuition. A person may enter only once, but multiple people may enter on behalf of the same child. The prepaid tuition prize may be used to pay for future tuition and mandatory fees at a community college, college, university or technical school, in accordance with MET terms and conditions.
The giveaway is not being funded by state tax dollars. A prudent investment strategy over the last decade has resulted in a record surplus for MET, which can now be used to invest in Michiganders and provide more Michigan children with access to higher education that will help them prepare to compete in a modern workforce and solve future challenges.
Giveaway entry began May 26 and ends on Aug. 31, 2022. Winners will be announced in a series of drawings beginning Sept. 12. Michiganders can enter the giveaway and review rules and eligibility criteria at www.METgiveaway.com.
Small Business Support
Michigan is deploying the first round of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) 2.0 funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Through this initial round of funding, up to $72 million will be available to support loans to small businesses through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Access to Capital programs. SSBCI 2.0 is designed to increase the availability of capital to small businesses through loans and equity investments. The programs are designed to allow private sector lenders to provide loans to small businesses that would otherwise not be available under conventional terms. The program requires partnership with private sector lenders, which in turn provide the new lending including through SSBCI 2.0 support.
Within the next 60 days, funding also will be available for loans of $250,000 or less for small businesses, with a focus on businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals or businesses with fewer than ten employees, to apply for through specified lenders.
The Michigan Small Business Venture Capital Program (SBVCP) will utilize $75 million in SSBCI 2.0 funds to increase the availability of capital to early-stage, technology-based businesses aligned with the MEDC Strategic Plan. The program will invest as a limited partner in venture capital funds operating in the state that, in turn, fund qualified for-profit early-stage, technology-based businesses helping to support those businesses and continue to grow Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem overall.
Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Opportunity
Gov. Whitmer has announced an estimated 148,000 Michiganders may qualify to have their student loans forgiven under a federal program. Michiganders who are working in public service are encouraged to review the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program to see if they qualify for federal student loan relief, no later than Oct. 31, 2022. Recent temporary changes to this federal program have broadened the eligibility for applicants to receive loan forgiveness.
The recent changes to the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program allow previously ineligible borrowers — those with a non-direct loan, who are not enrolled in an income driven repayment plan, who have missed a repayment or made a partial repayment in the past — to receive credit toward loan forgiveness for the years they worked in government or a qualifying non-profit.
To apply for the PSLF waiver, borrowers should:
- Visit studentaid.gov/pslf/mployer-search/search-tool to verify their employer qualifies for PSLF.
- Submit a certified copy of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification form to the U.S. Department of Education before Oct. 31.
If borrowers have questions regarding their individual situation, they can visit studentaid.gov/pslf/ or call FedLoan Servicing at (855)-265-4038.
Reproductive Health Resources
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has taken actions recently to support reproductive health. They include:
- Seeking and receiving approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to extend the postpartum coverage period for Medicaid in Michigan from 60 days following pregnancy to a full year, starting in April 2022.
- Updating Medicaid policy to provide coverage of up to a 12-month supply of prescribed contraceptives for enrollees at either family planning clinics or pharmacies.
- Proposing policy that would establish Medicaid coverage of doula services, contingent upon approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Doulas are trained birth workers who provide non-clinical emotional, physical and informational support to pregnant people and their families before, during and after birth.
- Expanding access to evidence-based home visiting programs to better address health, housing, food security, and safety during pregnancy and postpartum.
Contraception is widely used to treat medical conditions such as endometriosis and to treat certain symptoms of menstruation, as well as for family planning purposes for people who do not wish to become pregnant or those for whom pregnancy may pose a medical risk. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), non-exempt health plans must provide, with no out-of-pocket cost, at least one type of each of the 18 contraceptive methods currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as prescribed to women by a health care provider. Related health services, such as an office visit for a contraceptive shot, must also be covered.
Though contraception is provided without cost by most health plans, there are certain circumstances where you may have to pay for these treatments, including:
- If you prefer a type or brand of contraceptive that is not currently covered by your insurer.
- If you use a health care professional that is not in your plan’s network.
- If your health insurance is provided by an exempted institution or company.
- If your health plan is considered a “grandfathered” plan, generally those sold before the ACA was enacted on March 23, 2010. Grandfathered plans are not required to provide coverage for contraception.
For information about low- or no-cost reproductive health services provided by the state of Michigan, including under the state’s Medicaid program, visit the MDHHS’ Family Planning Program website. DIFS can help consumers with health insurance questions and complaints. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/HealthInsurance or call DIFS at (877) 999-6442, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Community Recognitions and Resources
Small Business of the Month
Each month, I recognize two small businesses in the community, one in Troy and one in Clawson, as our small businesses of the month. To nominate a business for this recognition, please fill out this form on my website.
Tributes, Letters, and Certificates
Do you know someone in the district who is retiring and would like a legislative tribute to celebrate their years of service? Has a local team or group reached a milestone that they would like to be acknowledged with an official certificate for each member? Our office can provide legislative tributes, letters and certificates on a wide range of recognitions for constituents. If you would like to request any of these materials for yourself or others, please email my office at PadmaKuppa@house.mi.gov with as much information as possible on the requested recognition and we will work with you to arrange delivery or presentation of the recognition!
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