Welcome to my monthly e-newsletter! As your state representative in the 102nd Michigan Legislature, I am happy to provide these regular updates on my legislative work, upcoming events and other news relevant to the district. In this issue, you will find information on my in-district coffee hours, legislative updates, an update on our summer activities and resources for how my office can assist you!
Neighbors and friends in House District 103 are encouraged to also sign up for these updates at my website, RepCoffia.com. You can reach my office by phone at (517) 373-3817 or by email at BetsyCoffia@house.mi.gov. Be sure to check out the latest on my social media platforms as well. As this legislative session continues, I welcome your continued feedback and encourage you to reach out, if my team and I can ever be of assistance to you!
House District 103
Monthly Legislative Coffee Hours
Please join me for my in-person coffee hours, where I give legislative updates and take your questions about the issues facing our state and our community! Every month, I hold a legislative coffee hour in each of the three counties located fully or partially in the 103rd District — Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau. These events are a great way to find out what policies I’m working on and to share your ideas and concerns with me!
August meeting information:
When: Monday, Aug. 14 from 9:05-10 a.m.
Where: Long Lake Township Hall
(8870 N. Long Lake Road, Traverse City, MI 49685)
When: Monday, Aug. 14 from 1-2 p.m.
Where: Red Door Coffee House
(19631 Maple St., Lake Ann, MI 49650)
When: Monday, Aug. 14 from 3-4 p.m.
Where: Leelanau County Government Center – Room CMR(8527 E. Government Center Drive, Suttons Bay, MI 49682)
103rd District Hosts Governor Whitmer for Signing of Historic 2023-24 School Aid Budget
We show what we value by where we invest. And I am excited to say that this year’s state budget very clearly invests in the children, families and schools of the 103rd District. I’m also proud our beautiful House District 103 was chosen as the site for the signing of the new School Aid budget. On July 20, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled to Suttons Bay in Leelanau County to sign the state School Aid budget bill, Senate Bill 173, into law. I, along with many education and community leaders, educators, parents, and advocates, was pleased to welcome and host the governor and other legislative leaders for the signing. I am deeply grateful for the governor, House and Senate leaders’ clearly demonstrated support for communities and students in Northwest Michigan.
Some highlights of the fiscal year 2023-24 School Aid budget include:
- $611 million to increase per-pupil funding by 5%, an additional $458 per student, for a total of $9,608 per pupil.
- $140.3 million to continue expanded support for special education students, providing a full foundation allowance plus required cost reimbursements for each student for the first time in Michigan history.
- $160 million to provide all 1.4 million public school children across Michigan with free breakfast and lunch, saving their families both time and money and ensuring no child goes hungry while trying to learn.
- $370 million to support teachers, including continued support for the MI Future Educator Program (which provides a tuition-free path for college students to become certified teachers) and funds to retain and develop existing teachers through mentorship programs.
- $328 million for school mental health and safety.
- $150 million for individualized tutoring or academic support through the MI Kids Back on Track program.
As I shared in last month’s e-news, I’m also proud to say that this budget now includes $125 million to help our school districts pay for high busing costs. Critically, the budget also includes a new school transportation equity funding formula.
Friends, this formula and funding has northern Michigan’s fingerprints all over it, as I and so many of you have advocated during the negotiations on the budget for School Aid Fund House and Senate chairs to equitably fund rural school transportation. Inclusion of the new transportation equity formula is a significant step toward closing the school transportation funding gap so more money goes into our classrooms, field trips, mental health supports and more, rather than into bus gas tanks!
Ways the Budget Is Helping Michiganders Save
Along with the omnibus budget bill, House Bill 4437, the “Make it in Michigan” fiscal 2023-24 budget will make key investments in local and statewide priorities to uplift all Michiganders while lowering their costs. It also invests billions in federal American Rescue Plan dollars into our communities where they can do the most good and avoids the feds clawing that money back.
How exactly is the state budget going to save Michiganders money? Here’s a quick overview:
Affordable Higher Education
Estimated Annual Savings: $5,000
Additional cash for career and technical training — and the Michigan Achievement Scholarship — will help lower the cost of community, private or public college by thousands of dollars for 80% of Michigan students, and make higher education free for about 65% of them. Another $70 million will allow the state to temporarily lower the eligibility age for the Michigan Reconnect program from 25 to 21, ultimately providing about 350,000 more Michiganders with access to a tuition-free associate degree or skills training or certification, in preparation for their future careers and path to higher earning potential. I strongly encourage all to click the provided links and learn more about accessing these programs, whether you’re just finishing high school or in the workforce looking to go back to school!
Wage Increases for Direct Care Workers
Estimated Annual Wage Increase: $1,800
With $140 million earmarked to boost health care offerings, direct care workers who provide Medicaid home- and community-based services will see an $0.85 per hour wage increase across the board as part of the latest state budget. Those employees include nurses, nursing assistants, home health care workers, and respiratory therapists, as well as housekeepers and dining room assistants.
Energy Efficiency Rebates
Another $212 million included in the budget offers Michigan homeowners additional rebates on the purchase of energy efficient home appliances, water heaters, heating and cooling systems, new windows, insulation, and other home efficiency improvements. Funding for the expanded rebates came from President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, and is set to be distributed to Michigan homeowners through the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the federal Home Energy Performance-Based, Whole-House Rebates (HOMES) and High-Efficiency Electric Homes Rebate Act (HEERA) programs.
Retirement Tax Rollback
Estimated Annual Savings: $1,000
Michigan’s retirees will see relief following the Legislature’s vote to phase out the state retirement tax. Rolling back the tax is expected to save a half-million households an average of $1,000 a year. This unfair retirement tax has denied Michigan seniors promised retirement benefits for more than a decade. Repealing the tax — which was put in place under former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder — has long been a priority for me and my Democratic colleagues. To learn more, visit this FAQ.
Working Families Tax Credit
Estimated Annual Savings: $3,150
Restoring and expanding the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 6% to 30% will help about 700,000 low-income working Michiganders by putting an average of $3,150 back in their pockets. This helps over 5,000 working families in the 103rd District and stands to infuse more than $3 million back into the local economy. The extra cash is poised to move about 26,000 Michigan families above the poverty line. The working families tax credit is a proven, bipartisan tool to lift working families out of poverty, countering inflation and helping small businesses struggling to retain staff. I was proud to vote for the tax credit expansion.
Health Care Coverage Expansion
Estimated Annual Savings: $2,000+
About $6.2 million is earmarked to reinstate the Medicaid Plan First! program, which is designed to fill a coverage gap for people who exceed the income limit for the Healthy Michigan plan, but lack insurance coverage for cancer screenings or family planning through other means. About 25,000 Michiganders are expected to see about $2,000 a year in savings on essential medical services under the soon-to-be expanded state health program.
Free Student Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Annual Savings: $850
It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach. This year’s budget recognizes that by including $160 million to provide all 1.4 million Michigan public school children with breakfast and lunch at no charge, and wipes out current school lunch debt (yes, that was a thing).
As a former TCAPS classroom employee and special education assistant, I know the need for meals extended well beyond those receiving free and reduced-price lunches, and I was very proud to vote to make Michigan the seventh U.S. state to implement universal breakfast and lunch programs. It’s a move estimated to save the average Michigan family over $850 every year. The expansion addresses the strain on family budgets caused by rising food prices, and a time-saver for parents who usually prepare breakfast and lunch in the morning.
Expanded Food Assistance
Estimated Annual Savings: $3,650
Food prices have been on the rise which leads to food insecurity among our neighbors. I have volunteered for local food pantries and learned that some of their former volunteers now need to access the food pantries themselves and that our seniors and families are especially feeling the pinch. That’s why I am glad to report our new budget includes a funding increase for the Double Up Food Bucks program, which helps Michiganders receiving food assistance access additional fruits and vegetables. The program offers residents a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $10 a day. The budget includes $4.9 million to operate that program statewide over the next two years. The expanded program will allow more families to save on healthier food options while simultaneously putting more dollars into the pockets of Michigan’s local farmers.
Since final approval of the budget in late June, the Michigan Legislature has been on an in-district work period, a time when we are not summoned to Lansing for committee or legislative session. I have taken this time to tour local businesses, volunteer in our communities, knock over 2,500 constituent doors to conduct a legislative survey, and engage in a variety of other ways with folks in Michigan’s 103rd district.
I want to especially highlight our efforts to survey constituents. My team and I have been knocking on doors as well as calling hundreds of constituents for input on their priorities for the state, which can also be submitted using this survey. When session resumes in September, my team and I will review what we have learned from you all. This feedback will be crucial for crafting my legislative agenda for the fall and going into 2024! I encourage you to make your views known by taking the survey online.
So far this session, the Legislature has passed policies to reduce tax burdens for working families and seniors, strengthen workers’ rights, promote responsible gun ownership and suicide/violence prevention safeguards, expand LGBTQ+ Michiganders’ protections from discrimination, support students’ learning needs, implement voter-approved reproductive health care rights and promote individual freedoms. We have worked, and will continue to work, on crucial needs for the 103rd and Michiganders as a whole such as access to housing, child care and mental health.
As always, you can find legislation that I have sponsored here or by going to legislature.mi.gov and clicking “Legislators” and then selecting “Sponsored Legislation” under my name. My co-sponsored legislation — which another legislator has sponsored and championed, but to which I have added my name in support — can be found here. The above infographic of my first six months in office also gives a helpful visual snapshot of ways I am working to stay connected to the people of the 103rd and serve you.
Watch your Mailbox to Ensure Your Medicaid Eligibility!
If you receive Medicaid coverage, keep an eye on your mailbox for redetermination paperwork! This is absolutely crucial so you don’t lose health care coverage, which can lead to disruptions in needed treatment.
Starting in June 2023, for those who participate in Medicaid or MIChild, the next time you renew your coverage, you will once again have to fill out redetermination paperwork to prove you are eligible for benefits. This is true even if you have qualified before. Redetermination paperwork requirements were paused because of the COVID-19 public health emergency and are restarting due to recent changes in federal legislation.
Here are the steps that Medicaid beneficiaries should take, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS):
- Make sure your address, phone number and email address are up to date at Michigan.gov/MIBridges. You can also call your local MDHHS office. If you do not have an online account for MI Bridges to access your Medicaid case or report changes, visit Michigan.gov/MIBridges to sign up for an account. You can also locate organizations that can help you by searching for community partners.
- Report any changes to your household or income. You can report changes at Michigan.gov/MIBridges or by calling your local MDHHS office.
- If you get a renewal packet, be sure to fill it out, sign the forms, and return it by the due date with any proof needed. Renewal packets are due 30 days after you receive them. NOTE: If you do not complete and return the renewal, you may lose Medicaid coverage.
IMPORTANT!!! If you receive notice that you or a family member are no longer eligible for Medicaid or MIChild benefits, don’t worry — you have other options for low- or no-cost coverage. But it is still extremely important to take action as soon as possible to reduce the risks that come from a lapse in coverage. More information is available at Michigan.gov/StayCovered.
For questions about purchasing a health plan on HealthCare.gov, visit Michigan.gov/HealthInsurance, or call the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) at (877) 999-6442, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More information about changes to food assistance and Medicaid benefits connected to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency can be found at Michigan.gov/2023BenefitChanges.
Finally, if you lose or do not have health insurance coverage, please contact one of the federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in our region. According to Healthcare.Gov, FQHCs are “Federally funded nonprofit health centers or clinics that serve medically underserved areas and populations. Federally qualified health centers provide primary care services regardless of your ability to pay. Services are provided on a sliding scale fee based on your ability to pay.”
I didn’t know about this option in the many years I was working jobs that didn’t provide health insurance. So, I try to spread the word as far and wide as possible, so please join me in letting your neighbors know about FQHCs!
Apply for State Boards and Commissions
As you may know, Gov. Whitmer makes appointments to nearly 250 statewide boards and commissions. These appointments are opportunities for Michiganders to engage with their state government on the issues they care about and represent their expertise and communities at the state level.
Vacancies can be viewed online. Each board listed includes the number of total members, number of vacant seats and specifications for each vacancy. If you match the descriptions and are interested in applying, please visit Michigan.gov/appointments.
E-News Archives, Publications, & Recognitions
My e-news archive is available on my website here.
State publications on various topics are also available on my website here. Physical copies of any of these publications can also be mailed to you by emailing my office with your request!
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 and local small businesses. If you would like to request any of these materials for yourself or others, please fill out this form or email my office at BetsyCoffia@house.mi.gov. Please provide as much information as possible on the requested recognition, and we will work with you to arrange delivery or presentation of the recognition!