Welcome to my first e-newsletter! As a life-long resident of the 13th House District, I’m honored and humbled to serve as our community’s voice at the Capitol in Lansing. 2020 was a year unlike any other; as we continue on into the new year and new term, rest assured the challenge families in our community and state are facing are at the top of my legislative priorities.
Included in this edition of my e-newsletter are some important COVID-19 and unemployment updates, along with resources I hope will prove helpful. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by phone at (517) 373-0845 or email at TullioLiberati@house.mi.gov for questions about this or any other state-level issue.
State Representative, 13th House District
Updated MDHHS Epidemic Order
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its epidemic order to allow for the re-opening of additional activities where Michiganders can remain masked and socially distanced, including indoor group exercise and non-contact sports. The new order took effect Saturday, Jan. 16 and will last until Sunday, Jan. 31.
Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households. MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings or pick a single other household to interact with. Families are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to maintain momentum in fighting the spread of COVID-19 and protect loved ones.
Under this updated epidemic order, indoor dining in bars and restaurants continue to be temporarily paused, but outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery remains available. As of now, the tentative plan is to open indoor dining with mitigation measures, capacity limits and a curfew on Feb. 1, but the ultimate decision depends on data continuing to stabilize, with additional details expected next week.
Additionally, colleges and universities can have students return to campus for the winter semester and restart in-person courses as of Jan. 18.
As before, employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, while employees who can work from home should continue to do so. Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; and personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment.
For the latest information regarding COVID-19 in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced they would grant Gov. Whitmer and eight other governors’ request to release millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Michigan also entered a new phase of vaccine distribution, beginning to offer vaccinations to Michiganders ages 65 and older; frontline essential workers including public safety officers, frontline state and federal workers and jail and prison staff; and pre K-12 educators, support staff and childcare providers.
K-12 In-Person Guidance from MDHHS
Earlier this month, Gov. Whitmer announced the state’s goal of having every school in the state offer an in-person learning option by March 1, 2021. State medical experts and epidemiologists believe that schools can create a safe learning and work environment if everyone wears a mask and follows the necessary safety protocols. Additionally, a large segment of the education workforce is expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine within the next month. While this March 1 deadline is strongly encouraged, school districts are not required by the state to return to an in-person option.
Unemployment Insurance Update
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has started issuing $300 weekly Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) payments to an estimated 365,000 claimants on regular state unemployment insurance (UI) and Extended Benefit programs this weekend.
The PUC supplement, which is payable from Dec. 27, 2020, through March 13, 2021, provides an additional $300 per week to all eligible unemployment recipients who receive at least $1 for the week. Claimants do not need to take any action to receive this additional weekly benefit, it will be paid automatically after they certify. The additional payment comes from an extension of the federal COVID-19 relief package passed in December.
Workers who were on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) continue to have no actions to take at this time. They will not be able to complete certifications and payments will not be issued for weeks after Dec. 26 until the technical updates to the UI system are completed per the recently received guidance from the U.S. Dept. of Labor (USDOL). This will only be a disruption and claimants will be made whole once the extensions are fully implemented.
If you have any questions or concerns about your unemployment benefits, please reach out to my office.
Secretary of State Update
Along with so many other impacts, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has required the Secretary of State’s branch offices to reduce their in-person capacity to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers alike. Starting this spring, residents will be able to do even more from self-service stations and from the comfort of their homes.
New procedures will also be implemented:
- An electronic lien and title program will begin, making lien and title information available online for lienholders in lieu of a paper certificate of title.
- The graduated driver licensing process will be simplified to reduce customer visits to the branch.
- Mechanic testing registration will be available online only to mechanics with a Michigan driver’s license or state ID. Also, while the new system is installed, from January 15 to March 15, online registration for mechanic tests will not be available at all, and mechanics will need to make appointments at their branch offices to register for a test.
Additional details and customer conveniences made possible by the technology rehaul will be announced closer to the launch. Visit Michigan.gov/SOS to access online services and to find a self-service station near you.
Small Business Resources
On Jan. 14, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved two grant programs totaling $58.5 million in relief to help meet the urgent needs of small businesses and live event venues impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program will provide $55 million in grants to meet the urgent need of Michigan small businesses that have experienced significant hardships due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants of up to $20,000 will be awarded to businesses that are fully closed, with grants of up to $15,000 awarded to businesses that have been partially closed, or otherwise are open and can demonstrate an impact.
The Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program will provide up to $40,000 in one-time grants to eligible Michigan live music and entertainment venues that have experienced a significant financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for a total of $3.5 million in grants.
Click here for more information and eligibility requirements for these important measures to support Michigan’s small businesses and event venues.