Welcome to my final e-newsletter as your state representative. I am grateful to have served the people of the 35th District the past four years. Below are some final updates, along with a few helpful resources.
State Representative, 35th House District
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she will appoint Kyra Harris Bolden to the Michigan Supreme Court in January 2023 to succeed Justice Bridget Mary McCormack. Bolden will be the first Black woman to serve on the high court, and she is the governor’s first appointment to the supreme court.
“Today, I am honored to announce that I will be appointing Kyra Harris Bolden to the Michigan Supreme Court,” said Governor Whitmer. “A state representative from Southfield, former law clerk and litigator, Kyra is passionate about the law and will be the first Black woman ever to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court. She will bring a unique perspective to our high court as a Black woman — and as a new, working mom — that has too long been left out. Kyra is committed to fighting for justice for generations, and I know she will serve Michigan admirably, building a brighter future for her newborn daughter and all our kids.”
“I am incredibly honored to be chosen by Governor Whitmer for this appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court,” said Kyra Harris Bolden. “I will ensure equal access to justice, apply the law without fear or favor, and treat all who come before our state’s highest court with dignity and respect. I also know that this moment — becoming the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court — would not be possible without leaders like Judges Shelia Johnson, Debra Nance, Deborah Thomas, Cynthia Stephens and Denise Langford Morris. These are the Black women who blazed the path that I seek to follow. I hope that my voice on the Court will inspire future generations to pursue their dreams. I am humbled by this honor, and I am ready to get to work on behalf of all Michiganders.”
Rep. Bolden’s Farewell Speech
It has been the honor of my life serving the residents of the 35th House district. Thank you for entrusting me with the privilege of representing you. Here is my full farewell speech on the House floor: link.
COVID-19 Updates & Resources
COVID-19 Vaccine Help
If you know someone who doesn’t have access to the internet and they’re eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine or need help with vaccine translation services, call 2-1-1 and press ‘5’ for free, confidential assistance.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccines specifically in Oakland County, click this website. This website also has resources for testing and frequently asked questions about COVID-19.
Unemployment Agency Chooses Deloitte to Replace UIA’s Aging Computer System
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) announced it has chosen Deloitte to design and install a modern, innovative, user-focused unemployment insurance computer system that prioritizes ease of access for workers and employers while also streamlining jobless claims processing. UIA’s current aging architecture makes it difficult to efficiently process worker claims and employer payments, especially during quickly changing economic conditions such as the recent global pandemic.
The new system will replace the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS), first put into use nearly a decade ago under Gov. Rick Snyder. Workers use MiDAS’ Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) to file for jobless claims and certify for benefits; employers use MiWAM to pay unemployment taxes and file reports.
“The Unemployment Insurance Agency is working hard every day to improve all the ways that Michigan workers interact with our unemployment system, and that starts with a new computer system that is human-centered and easy to use,” said UIA Director Julia Dale. “Already, the UIA is in better shape than at any time over the last decade — but that’s not good enough. Michigan workers should be able to apply for benefits with confidence, so they can support their families without worrying about when or if they’ll receive benefits. I am committed to developing a robust and secure system that provides Michiganders with the help they need when they need it.”
The new system is expected to be fully operational in 2025. As UIA transitions to a new system that prioritizes ease of use and meets Michigan’s unique specifications, workers and businesses should not experience any interruptions in access to MiWAM or the services provided by UIA.
Winter Energy Appraisal Finds Growing Demand and Prices; Financial Help Available for Michiganders Struggling with Costs
Michigan energy customers have options to help with higher energy costs — and a new web page to make it easier to find — amid energy market volatility that the Michigan Public Service Commission’s 2022-2023 Winter Energy Appraisal finds is driving higher prices, all while there is an increasing demand across energy sectors.
Demand for natural gas is expected to continue to rise, while residential electricity demand stays essentially flat, amid continuing high costs. Michiganders struggling with home energy costs have options for help, and a new Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) energy assistance web page makes it easier for folks to find assistance.
The MPSC’s web page, brings together information and links regarding state and utility company programs that offer energy bill assistance to income-qualified households, including State Emergency Relief, the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, and the annual Home Heating Credit.
The web page includes links to contact info for all of the natural gas and electric utilities whose rates are regulated by the MPSC; many utilities offer payment programs, including those that help spread seasonal higher costs year-round. The page also has information on home weatherization and other ways to help lower energy use.
Anyone needing help is encouraged to reach out to their utility provider or contact Michigan 211 by calling 211 or going to www.mi211.org. Michigan 211 is a free, confidential service that connects Michiganders with a broad range of assistance programs and services and other resources, including help with food, housing, transportation and home energy bills.
Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) announced the state has been awarded a $7.6 million federal grant to launch a new initiative designed to reduce recidivism among justice involved citizens and increase their successful participation in employment and training opportunities.
LEO’s Office of Employment and Training will implement the Michigan Citizen Reentry Initiative (MiCRI) which initially will expand in-reach services — including individual needs evaluations, soft skills training, workplace skills development, job search skills and employment retention strategies — to hundreds of inmates at the Milan Federal Correctional institution who are nearing release from prison. MiCRI will ensure those individuals will continue to receive employment, training, and supportive services when they move to residential reentry centers in other parts of the state.
“The Michigan Citizen Reentry Initiative will help Michiganders find opportunity so they can support themselves, their families, and local small businesses,” Gov. Whitmer said. “MiCRI’s approach will help reduce recidivism by providing meaningful, individualized support to Michiganders as they reenter the workforce, and it will help employers fill critical job openings across the state to ensure we can continue growing our economy. These grants will make a real difference in people’s lives, and I will work with anyone to empower every Michigander to pursue their potential.”
“These employment and training supports, including the post-release assistance, are designed to make a significant difference in the lives of returning citizens,” said Stephanie Beckhorn, director of LEO’s Office of Employment and Training. “We are focused on educating Michiganders and growing the middle class by removing barriers to employment – and MiCRI ensures that our efforts are inclusive of all residents.”
Treasury Provide Special Benefits to Military Members and Families
Current and former military members may be eligible to receive:
- Military Pay Tax Exemption. Military pay is exempt from Michigan tax, including military retirement benefits and exit and separation pay.
- Children of Veterans Tuition Grant. This program provides undergraduate tuition assistance to the children of Michigan veterans who were totally and permanently disabled, missing in action or died while serving. Students may receive scholarship assistance for up to four academic years for a total of up to $11,200.
- Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption. A property tax exemption for real property used and owned as a homestead as outlined in state law.
- Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) for Active Duty Military Personnel. Property owners can retain a PRE while on active duty if their property is rented or leased.
- Property Tax Relief during Active Military Service. Property owned by a serviceperson cannot be sold to pay delinquent property taxes during a tour of active duty.
- Summer Property Tax Deferment. A serviceperson, veteran or widow or widower whose income outside of military compensation is no more than $7,500 per year may be eligible for a summer property tax deferment.
- Federal Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. The spouse of an individual in the military may not be subject to the state’s taxation if they are a nonresident of the state, the service member is present in the state due to military orders, the spouse is solely in the state to accompany the service member, and the spouse maintains a domicile in another state. This act was amended in December 2018 to alternately allow military spouses to elect the same state of domicile as their service member spouse, even if they are not present in that state.
Individuals with questions about tax relief and other benefits for current and past military members should go to Michigan.gov/Treasury and click on “Contact.” Program-specific phone numbers can be found on the “Contact” webpage.
Universal Human Rights Month
December is Universal Human Rights Month. On Dec. 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations outlined the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all are entitled. This month is a reminder for our state and our country to reflect on the way we treat others and what we can do in the fight for equality and justice for all Americans.
National Month of Giving
December is also the Month of Giving. As the holidays approach and we prepare to give presents to our loved ones and share our joy and love with them, we must remember those who are less fortunate than us and those who are in need. This December let us help our neighbors and our community through acts of service and kindness. Americans from all backgrounds are volunteering their time and giving of their resources to improve lives and the quality of living of others. I will continue doing my part in the Legislature, by doing what I can to make our state a better place.