Welcome to my e-newsletter! I’m honored and humbled to serve as our community’s voice at the Capitol in Lansing. Included in this edition of my e-newsletter are some important COVID-19 and unemployment updates, along with resources and information I hope will prove helpful during these uncertain times.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by phone at (517) 373-0857 or email at MaryCavanagh@house.mi.gov for questions about this or any other state-level issue.
State Representative, 10th House District
Upcoming Virtual Event
Please join me at my next Community Conversations event for an opportunity to have a chat, ask me questions, and share how I can best represent you in Lansing. Join me for February’s meeting on Friday, Feb. 19 from 6-7 p.m. via Zoom and Facebook Live. You can register here. We will be joined by special guests Chelsea Neblett, the Financial Empowerment Managers for Mayor Duggan, and a representative from the United Community Housing Coalition to highlight tax foreclosure prevention efforts and various property tax resources to assist homeowners. Hope to see you there!
Each month I will be hosting these Community Conversations, so please save-the-date for the 3rd Friday of the month to check-in with me about what is going on in Lansing. You can also like my Facebook page to stay updated.
First Bill Introduction: Incentive to Hire Unemployed Veterans
This week I was proud to introduce my first bill, House Bill 4221 to incentivize Michigan employers to hire unemployed veterans. The legislation would allow eligible businesses with less than 50 full-time employees to receive a $1,000 tax credit for each unemployed veteran hired during the tax year.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic impacts, unemployment rates have fluctuated significantly and placed many Americans and Michiganders under financial strain through no fault of their own. Already vulnerable populations have been hit especially hard by unemployment, including veterans; the number of unemployed veterans climbed to more than 552,000 nation-wide during the last quarter of 2020. As thousands across our state continue to struggle to provide for their families, we must ensure that we are doing everything we can to support our most vulnerable populations.
This legislation serves as a reintroduction of HB 5233 of 2019, previously sponsored during the 2019-2020 term by former state Rep. Robert Wittenberg. HB 4221 was referred to the House Committee on Tax Policy for further consideration. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support both small businesses and retired service people in the state of Michigan.
COVID Relief Bills Pass House
Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives voted on three bills to distribute federal COVID-19 relief funds. Unfortunately, the bills passed last week in the Michigan House fail to use all the federal resources to which Michigan residents are entitled. This money has already been designated for Michigan via legislation signed late last year by President Trump.
The School Aid Supplemental was tie-barred to House Bill 4049, meaning that both bills would either pass or fail together. That bill would prevent the MI Department of Health and Human Services from closing schools to in-person learning or prohibiting sporting events.
My House Democratic colleagues and I attempted to bring our COVID Relief Funding Plan (House Bill 4039) up for a vote, but these efforts were shot down by the majority party. I am proud to have co-sponsored HB 4039, which would provide the full $5 billion in available federal funding for vaccine distribution, education and the economy. Some of the highlights of our plan included:
House Democrats also attempted to make amendments to House Bills 4019, 4047 and 4048 that would utilize the full federal funding mentioned above. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues rejected these efforts and left more than $1 billion in Michigan taxpayer dollars on the table in Washington, D.C., instead of bringing them back home.
Updated MDHHS Epidemic Order
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its current epidemic order to allow contact sports to resume as of Monday, Feb. 8, provided masks are worn during practices and competition. If masks cannot be worn, participants must be regularly tested for COVID-19 consistent with guidelines issued by MDHHS, which are available online at Michigan.gov/coronavirus. Sports organizers are encouraged to administer a testing program even if it is not required. Safety protocols like wearing masks and testing will help keep kids, coaches and families safe, and allow our schools to remain open for in-person instruction. The order remains in effect through Monday, March 29.
In addition to the update, MDHHS also created several helpful graphics to explain the changes in the order:
MDHHS has been closely monitoring three metrics for stabilization or declines over the past several weeks, and Michigan continues to see improvements.
All remaining Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claimants whose claims ended when CARES Act programs were interrupted in December can now either reopen, certify or apply for benefits available under the Continued Assistance Act (CAA). Claimants were notified from the UIA with information and instructions regarding the changes.
The CAA allows PEUC and PUA claimants an additional 11 weeks of benefits payable for the week ending Jan. 2 through March 13, 2021. Payments also include the additional $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) weekly benefit.
Eligibility Expanded for COVID-19 Vaccinations at TCF Center
Mayor Duggan announced early this month that vaccine eligibility will expand to include the city’s food service workers living or working in Detroit, in addition to guards and janitors. This week, the city of Detroit also announced that disabled residents and home health care providers are eligible for vaccinations.
The full list of eligible individuals now includes:
Eligible residents and employees can call (313) 230-0505 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Friday to make an appointment. As of yesterday, the average wait time for callers who made it through the initial prompts to determine their eligibility was about 15 minutes. Detailed information on the TCF testing site is available at www.detroitmi.gov. As additional independent vaccination sites at pharmacies and elsewhere come online in the city, a map of locations will be added to the website.
Wayne County Vaccine Update
Greater Wayne County is currently in Phase 1A of the distribution schedule and no public sites are released at this time. Please visit the Wayne County Health Department website for more information as it becomes available.
Recently, Gov. Whitmer announced Michigan is beginning the second phase (1B) of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, which allows doses to be made available to seniors age 65 and older. Wayne County is still vaccinating essential health care workers, EMS first responders, and nursing home residents. These individuals are still in the first phase (1A) of the vaccine distribution.
Wayne County has partnered with hospital systems throughout the County to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to our senior residents. Contact the hospital system online to learn if and when you can receive your vaccination. Your hospital will schedule with you directly a time for your shot. Ask someone you trust to help you find the right hospital. Hospital Systems in Wayne County include:
Michigan Department of Treasury: Don’t Delay, Complete your FASFA Today
Students interested in priority consideration for the state of Michigan financial aid programs should submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or before March 1, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. The FAFSA is a critical step when applying for grants, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance. FAFSA submissions received at the federal processor on or before March 1 are given priority consideration for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and Michigan Tuition Grant. Students who wait to complete their FAFSA after the March 1 deadline may not receive all the financial aid they could have been entitled to receive.
Prior to completing the FAFSA online, the student and at least one parent or guardian must obtain a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) at www.fafsa.gov. This ID serves as a legal signature and confirms an applicant’s identity when accessing financial aid information through certain U.S. Department of Education websites.
To get started with the FAFSA, go to www.fafsa.gov. To learn more about State of Michigan scholarships and grant programs, visit MI Student Aid’s website at michigan.gov/mistudentaid.
I am also looking for you to share how I can stay connected with our community. If you would like your business recognized or event featured in my next newsletter please fill out this form.
March is Reading Month and I am looking for your help to recognize our local teachers that have taken the challenges of the pandemic head-on and have adapted to keep our students on track. Please nominate a local teacher and our office will provide a special tribute to the person selected. Click here to complete the nomination form. Also, be on the lookout during March is Reading Month for videos, tips and trivia to help our reading learners.
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can ever be of any assistance.