Hello, and welcome to my e-news. I would like to take this moment to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you in House District 95 and to act as your voice in the Capitol. In this issue, I will provide you with updates on:
- Committee Assignments
- Food Assistance Recipients to Move Toward Self-Sufficiency Under Federal Requirements
- SRO Closure Opposition
- Charter Communications Now Offering Low-Cost Broadband
- Refugee Ban and Sanctuary Cities
As your representative, I am most effective at my job when acting on your input, and I encourage you to reach out to me and my staff with any questions, comments or concerns you may have about issues in the district, or legislation that will impact our state. You can contact me toll-free at (855) 347-8095, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my website guerra.housedems.com. I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you for your commitment to the community we both call home.
House Speaker Tom Leonard and House Democratic Leader Sam Singh have appointed me to serve on the House Judiciary and Law and Justice committees, and as well as the Democratic vice chair for the Elections and Ethics committee. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues on creative, bipartisan legislation that will benefit Michigan.
SRO Closure Opposition
Earlier this year, the School Reform Office announced that several schools in Michigan were slated for closure. The information outlined in the SRO’s letter to parents and academic administrators was less than clear and included mentioning that the schools could remain open if closing them would create an “undue hardship” without further explaining what constituted a hardship.
The communication did nothing more than create worry and fear for parents, and did not provide adequate details on what the SRO process for a potential closure would look like. Further, it did not provide any legitimate options for parents in the event their school were to close. The SRO included a list of potential schools parents could choose from that were anywhere from 5 to 29 miles away from the schools the students currently attended. Many of our students walk to school or rely on public transportation, thus it was especially troubling that the SRO provided no information for parents who do not own a vehicle and will not be able to transport their child such distances.
While there are three schools in our district slated for potential closure — Martin G. Atkins Elementary in Bridgeport and Jessie Loomis Elementary and Saginaw High in Saginaw — know that I am fighting to see these schools remain open so that they can continue the positive changes they have made and ensure our students receive the education they deserve.
Food Assistance Recipients to Move Toward Self-Sufficiency Under Federal Requirements
Michigan has begun a process of moving thousands of adult food assistance recipients toward greater self-sufficiency as a result of renewed federal work requirements and the state’s improving jobless rate.
In late November, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) notified 16,000 able-bodied adults without dependents in Kent, Oakland, Ottawa and Washtenaw counties that they will be required to meet certain federal work requirements to continue receiving food assistance. Beginning Jan. 1, they have a three-month limit for receiving assistance from the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program without meeting these work requirements.
These changes will be rolled out to all Michigan counties by October 2018 or sooner. These apply to able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without dependents who do not meet federal exemptions to the requirements.
Beginning in 2002, Michigan received a federal waiver from this requirement because of the state’s high unemployment rate. The federal government is ending its waiver because the state’s jobless rate has improved dramatically in recent years.
MDHHS has assured me they are committed to providing assistance to these recipients in finding employment during this transition so that they can continue moving toward self-sufficiency. MDHHS employees in the various counties will be working with the Michigan Talent Investment Agency and Michigan Works! Agencies to help these individuals become self-sufficient.
Under the new requirement, recipients must do one of the following:
- Work an average of 20 hours per week each month in unsubsidized employment
- Participate for an average of 20 hours per week each month in an approved employment and training program
- Perform community service by volunteering at an approved nonprofit organization
This waiver is being rolled out in stages — rather than all at once — to allow MDHHS and Michigan Works! Agencies to more effectively handle this transition and train their staff. Kent, Oakland, Ottawa and Washtenaw counties were selected to begin the process because they have lower unemployment rates.
I will keep you updated as further developments occur with this important transition. More information is available at www.michigan.gov/foodassistance under “Work Requirements for Food Assistance.”
Charter Communications Now Offering Low-Cost Broadband
The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has announced that Charter Communications is now offering a low-cost broadband program — Spectrum Internet Assist — for eligible low-income families with K-12 students and low-income seniors on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Spectrum Internet Assist is available in Charter’s legacy service area and will continue to be rolled out market by market in the rest of the company’s service areas by mid-2017.
The addition of this program means that our state now has at least four such low-cost broadband programs. In our increasingly interconnected, technological age, internet access has become critical, whether it’s to help a child effectively finish a homework assignment, or to ensure that rural residents have access to critical updates and information from local government entities.
MPSC Chairman Sally Talberg encourages individuals and families to contact their internet service provider to find out more about the programs for which they might be eligible. The MPSC, in its public-private partnership with Connect Michigan and Connected Nation, is working with local governments, businesses and citizens to increase broadband access, adoption and use.
For more information about the MPSC, please visit www.michigan.gov/mpsc.
Refugee Ban and Sanctuary Cities
I was proud to co-sponsor a resolution denouncing the recent executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven countries, as well as calling on the president to reverse the order. This ban is fueled by fear, not fact, and I will always stand in opposition to rhetoric or action that condones discrimination in any form. I was also proud to stand beside my colleague, state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), when she spoke out against legislation that has been introduced to roll back sanctuary city policies, legalize racial profiling and turn local police officers into immigration officials. This legislation is deeply flawed for a number of reasons. It helps to exacerbate tensions between law enforcement and immigrants, despite evidence that sanctuary city policies actually strengthen relationships between the two groups and lead to fewer crimes and greater reporting when crime does occur. It is also an overextension of local law enforcement’s already limited resources. We are a proud nation of immigrants, and this kind of legislation has no place in inclusive, 21st century governance.
State Representative Vanessa Guerra
95th House District