Happy Spring! My office is excited for the warmer weather and the increased vaccinations happening across Michigan. We are hopeful that this means we will be able to gather together soon.
Thank you to everyone who has continued to reach out to our office to share their thoughts on a variety of issues. We have been receiving your calls and emails, and my staff and I are working hard to respond to every comment, question and concern.
If we can assist in any way, please do not hesitate to contact our office! My office is reachable by phone at (517) 373-2575, and by email at RanjeevPuri@house.mi.gov.
State Representative, 21st District
Proudly serving Belleville, Canton and Van Buren Township
In this Edition:
UPCOMING TIME WITH RANJEEV
As noted in previous e-newsletters, due to COVID-19 and out of an abundance of caution, we will be meeting virtually for the time being. My office will be exploring options for future meet-ups and town halls, including outdoor, socially-distanced options once weather permits in the Spring. Most importantly though, we will continue to follow all guidance from the CDC and MDHHS and will be excited to meet again in person when it is safe to do so. Please let us know what times work for you!
Virtual Coffee Hour
Monday, April 12, 12-1 p.m.
Live Streamed via YouTube and social media
Tuesday, April 13, 7 p.m.
The state Legislature is not meeting in Lansing for the next week, and we are focused on in-district work time. We will return to Lansing on April 13.
Package Lowering Cost of Prescription Drugs Passes Michigan House
On March 24, in what was one of the best days of this term thus far, the House was able to work together to pass bipartisan legislation to help lower health care costs in Michigan. It was a long day, but the House delivered on the promises that were made last year. The 15-bill package curbs health care costs, increases transparency and expands access for patients.
Included in the legislation are bills that would limit insulin and oral chemotherapy co-pays to $50 a month for insulin and $150 for oral chemo.
The legislation also includes bills that would regulate and license pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the middlemen between drug manufacturers and pharmacies. This role was created to negotiate with manufacturers and keep drug costs low, but in reality much of the drug price inflation occurs among PBMs.
Despite a few close votes, the entire 15-bill package passed the House and will now move to the Senate for further review.
This was a historic day to show what can happen when we are able to come together and find solutions for the people of Michigan.
Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month
I had the honor to introduce House Resolution 74, which designates April Sikh Awareness and Appreciation month. Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, but the community is often ignored, misunderstood and under-represented. Sikh-Americans are often the target of hate and violence—and it is my belief that when one community is knocked down, we all are.
You can view my speech here.
For those who have not heard, it was announced last week that another variant of COVID-19 is now present in Michigan—there has been a confirmed case of the “Brazil variant” in a Bay County resident. The Brazil variant—or the P.1 variant—was first identified in travelers from Brazil during routine airport screening in Tokyo in early January, and it’s been associated with increased transmissibility and concerns that it might affect both vaccine-induced and natural immunity, according to the state’s recent press release.
In addition to this new variant, Michigan currently has increased cases tied to two others—the one discovered in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7 variant), and the South Africa variant (B.1.351).
It is so important that we continue to be vigilant and follow all guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and also the CDC. Please be patient. Our supply of vaccinations is increasing, and we are making great progress in getting all eligible Michiganders vaccinated as quickly as possible.
While you wait, stay safe:
Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the White House if they would send additional vaccines to address the surge in cases. This request was granted, and this week Michigan’s direct allocation will increase by 66,020 doses, for a total of 620,040 vaccines—a weekly record high for Michigan. Millions of additional doses will be sent to federally partnered retail pharmacies in the U.S., which include numerous locations in Michigan.
Michigan has administered more than 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since mid-December when they first became available. As of March 28, 32.5% of the state’s population 16 years and older have received their first dose, and 19.2% have been fully vaccinated.
With that said, today is a BIG day in Michigan! Starting today, April 5, COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands to every person aged 16 and older.
We know that this news comes with a lot of questions—most importantly, where you can get your vaccine. Here are some tips for getting an appointment:
At this point, retail pharmacies are the number one provider of vaccines to those starting the process. However, many places are only scheduling appointments a week or two in advance because of uncertainty about how many doses they will have available in a given week. Here is how to register with a pharmacy:
For hospital systems: To check vaccine availability at your local hospital, Google “COVID vaccine” and the hospital’s name. Most hospitals will require you to create an online account or download an app to get on a waitlist.
Veterans Affairs: Veterans Affairs facilities are vaccinating veterans, spouses and veteran caregivers. Those enrolled in the VA health care system get priority; additional appointments go to others based on additional eligibility requirements. Sign up with the VA to get updates on vaccine availability and to be notified when you can make an appointment.
Ford Field Mass Vaccination: The state and federal governments have set up a mass vaccination clinic at Ford Field in Detroit, where 8,000 people will be vaccinated a day. The site will operate from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week, through mid-May. There are interpreters on-site at Ford Field for 130 different languages.
Sign-up is available through options below. After the registration process is completed, people who have registered will receive an invitation either by call or text when it’s their turn to schedule the appointment. Vaccine appointments will be scheduled a few days in advance.
MDHHS – Internet / Vaccine Help: If you know someone who doesn’t have access to the internet and they’re eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, or maybe they need help with vaccine translation services, call 2-1-1 and press ‘5’ for free, confidential assistance.
For statewide vaccine distribution information, visit the State of Michigan COVID-19 Vaccine website.
The expansions to temporary state unemployment provisions ended last week on March 31.
According to state law, some temporary expansions in unemployment eligibility and cost-sharing applicable to state unemployment claims were set to expire on March 31, 2021. The expansions that will be expiring are:
If a claimant was determined to be eligible for benefits based on a claim filed prior to March 28, 2021, they will continue to be eligible. Individuals who are disqualified for state unemployment benefits based on these reasons may qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
If you find that you are in need of assistance with your unemployment claim, you can contact my office using this form.
Reporting Hate Crimes
If you or someone you know has been affected by a hate crime, please contact the Michigan Attorney General Hate Crimes Unit at (313) 456-0200. If you have questions about civil rights or believe you have been discriminated against, call the Michigan Department of Civil Rights discrimination hotline at (800) 482-3604.
Naloxone Distribution Programs
If you or someone you are close to is experiencing difficulties with opioid addiction you can request Naloxone (a drug used to reverse the effects of the opioid in case of an overdose) at this website.
If you are struggling with addiction, call (800) 662-HELP (4357) to reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) Hotline.
Family Support Program (not government run)
Families looking for assistance paying for childcare or summer care for children 0-14 can apply for scholarships through the Family Support Program by visiting their website.
Claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit
It’s estimated that each year, thousands of Michiganders who are eligible for both the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) do not claim them. If a federal EITC is granted, the state of Michigan will provide a 6% supplemental EITC when the taxpayer files his or her state income tax return.
To learn how to claim this credit can visit here.
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
During this challenging time, it is more important than ever to stay in touch. I want to hear from you. What do you need? How can we help you? My office is here to assist you or answer any questions you may have. Please, reach out to me at RanjeevPuri@house.mi.gov.
Communications from my office will be available via bi-weekly email updates or social media. Otherwise, please feel free to reach out to our office directly and do not hesitate to reach out for assistance.
I hope that this information has been helpful and that we can be together again soon in person.