This crisis is a defining moment for our community, our state and our country. These may be uncertain times for all of us, but I am confident that we will respond with the same strength and resilience that Michiganders always have.
In this issue, you will find information on:
- K-12 Education
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Small Business Resources
This ongoing public health crisis has left all of us with questions we’ve never had to face before; but today, our students, teachers and parents are getting some much needed answers.
As Gov. Whitmer said, the health, safety and well-being of our students and educators is the top priority. We know that despite the crisis, education must continue, and we have an obligation to provide our students opportunities to learn during this pandemic. Instead of thinking about strict compliance, the governor encourages us all to focus on other “c” values – communication, common sense, compassion, creativity, and collaboration.
During this time, meals will continue to be provided to students. Families of students can find free meal pickup locations for their children by clicking here.
Below you will find information on Gov. Whitmer’s latest order to address the immediate needs of our K-12 students and teachers.
Critical Elements of Gov. Whitmer’s K-12 Education Order
School Closure: School facilities are closed for the remainder of this school year, unless the Governor indicates it is safe to do so and restrictions are lifted.
Days and Hours during Mandated Closure: Forgives 13 days due to state mandated closure, above and beyond “snow days”. Allows another 5 professional development days to count toward instructional time to help educators transition to new modes of instruction delivery.
Attendance: Waives the 75 percent attendance rule since the state emergency was declared.
Facilities: District facilities may be used by public school employees and contractors for the purposes of facilitating distance learning while also practicing social distancing (in compliance with Stay Home/Stay Safe and CISA list)
School Calendar: Allows districts to adopt a balanced calendar for the 2019-2020 school year and/or to begin the 2020-2021 school year before Labor Day without having to seek additional approvals.
Continuity of Learning & COVID-19 Response Plan
In order to waive additional day/hour seat requirements, school districts must submit a “COVID-19 Seat Time Waiver Application” that includes the following components:
- Description of how districts will continue to provide instruction, by any type of delivery method.
- Commitment to continue providing food distribution.
- Commitment to paying all school employees.
- Commitment to continue providing mental health services.
- Commitment to support efforts related to disaster relief child care centers.
- If the school district’s plan relies on some online instruction, the district should ensure every student has access to an appropriate device with an ability to connect to the internet.
- Students and families should not be penalized for an inability to fully participate in the plan.
- Districts may partner with each other or with external organizations/vendors in order to implement the plan.
- All content/curriculum decisions are decisions made locally.
Assessment/Reporting: Cancels spring assessments and suspends all statutory requirements that utilizes assessment data (A-F, Read by Grade 3, educator evaluation, Partnership District goals) for one year only. For rising seniors, postpones SAT until the Fall. Allows other high schools students to take PSAT in the fall.
High School Graduation/Michigan Merit Curriculum: Districts must develop a plan/process to give grades to seniors, award credits needed for graduation, certify transcripts, and confer diplomas. Districts encouraged to award credit for prior learning/content mastery and/or utilize project based learning, a portfolio/resume approach, or a culminating activity.
Special Education: Utilizes guidance from the US Department of Education. Supports students and their IEPS to the fullest extent possible, but recognizes that districts will need to provide compensatory services to students with special needs when the emergency is lifted. Encourages MDE to seek additional guidance, flexibility, and waivers from the US Department of Education related to students with IEPs and 504 plans.
Teacher Certification and Continuing Education: Gives Superintendent additional flexibility to issue initial educator certifications and renewals due to barriers caused by COVID-19.
MPSERS: School closures will not affect contributions or accrual of service credits for MPSERS.
Collective Bargaining: This order will be implemented in a way that is consistent with existing collective bargaining agreements.
PPE and Supplies: Permits and encourages districts to donate unused PPE, cleaning supplies and other materials to their local emergency management program.
COVID-19 represents one of the greatest challenges Michigan has faced in our recent history, leaving thousands of Michigan workers displaced or out of work. We are doing everything we can to ensure that every Michigander can stay on their feet as we fight the spread of this virus. If you or anyone you know has been affected by this crisis, below you will find some helpful information about the assistance now available.
Expanding Unemployment Benefits
Michigan is temporarily expanding unemployment benefit eligibility to those affected by COVID-19. Benefits will be extended to:
- Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, like child care due to school closures or caring for a loved one who is ill;
- Workers who are sick, quarantined or immunocompromised, and do not have access to paid leave time or are laid off; and
- First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined.
Benefits will also be extended from 20 to 39 weeks, the application eligibility period would be increased from 14 to 28 days, and the normal in-person registration and work search requirements will be suspended.
For more information or to apply for unemployment benefits, visit Michigan.gov/UIA or call (866) 500-0017.
Benefits Extended to Self-Employed, Low-Wage, and Other Workers Affected by COVID-19
Under the recently approved federal CARES Act, individuals who are not already eligible for Michigan’s unemployment programs will now be provided a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months on top of the state benefit. Benefits are available for up to 39 weeks. These newly eligible individuals include self-employed workers, independent contractors, low-wage workers and those with a limited work history.
Benefits Increased for All Unemployed Workers
The federal CARES Act also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months. This applies to workers already in the unemployment system and eligible employees about to apply. These workers do not need to reapply and those about to apply do not need to take additional steps and should file as usual.
New Unemployment Filing Schedule
The number of Michigan workers displaced by this pandemic has resulted in significantly increased online and phone traffic to Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). While UIA mobilizes its entire team to respond to claims and hires additional staff to assist, they encourage workers to follow a new filing schedule to streamline the process.
Online Filing Schedule — Michigan.gov/UIA.
Workers are encouraged to go online during off-peak times between 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
- Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays.
- Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
- Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
Call Center Filing Schedule — (866) 500-0017
- Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Fridays between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether a worker receives benefits or their benefit amount. Additionally, claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19. The eligibility window to apply has also been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date of their work stoppage.
UIA appreciates the patience Michigan residents have shown with the unemployment system over the last few weeks and is committed to ensuring every eligible worker who needs to apply for unemployment benefits receives them.
Department of Health and Human Services
As you may know, Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that DHHS has closed its lobbies to visits from the public, except for appointments, and has stopped requiring residents to visit offices in order to receive state assistance benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you or your family need assistance during this time, please contact your caseworker or DHHS at 855-275-6424 between the hours of 8AM – 5PM or https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs
Small Business Resources
Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and supporting them throughout this crisis is critical to the long-term success of our state. Below, you will find some useful resources to help Michigan’s small business owners overcome the unprecedented challenges caused by COVID-19.
Michigan Small Business Call Center — (888) 522-0103
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) call center is ready to answer questions about assistance available to small businesses through existing state programs by calling (888) 522-0103.
Small Business Administration Loans
Michigan small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and nonprofits that have suffered substantial economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak can now apply for low-interest loans as part of $1 billion in funding due to the statewide Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration. The application for disaster loan assistance can be found on the Small Business Administration’s website by clicking here.
Michigan Small Business Relief Program
The Michigan Small Business Relief Program authorizes the MEDC to provide up to $20 million in support for small businesses. The funding is divided between $10 million in small business grants and $10 million in small business loans to support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce.
The $10 million in grant funding will be provided to local or nonprofit economic development organizations throughout the state to provide grants up to $10,000 each to support certain small businesses that have realized a significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 virus.
For more information visit the MEDC’s website by clicking here.
Federal Small Business Rescue Plan
The recently approved federal CARES Act includes $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and non-profits, allowing them to maintain their existing workforce and helping to pay for other expenses like rent, mortgages, and utilities.
The package also includes SBA emergency grants up to $10,000 for immediate operating costs, and funding to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
For more information visit the SBA’s website by clicking here.
Tax Assistance for Small Businesses
The Michigan Treasury Department is providing small businesses that have experienced disrupted operations due to the COVID-19 additional time to make their sales, use and withholding tax monthly payment. Small businesses scheduled to make these payments on March 20 can postpone filing and payment requirements until April 20. Penalties and interest penalties will be waived for 30 days. Learn more about penalties and interest online or by calling the Treasury Business Tax Call Center at (517) 636-6925.
Wayne County Small Business Resources
- $3.1 million Detroit Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Fund: This fund is available thanks to the quick actions of the Mayor, City Council, the Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit (EDC) and the DEGC. It will give eligible Detroit businesses cash to help keep them afloat until they can resume normal operations.
- $1.6 million Detroit/Wayne County Grant Relief Fund: The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, through the Michigan Strategic Fund, granted Detroit and Wayne County $1.6 million for small businesses. This is part of the MEDC’s $20 million Michigan Small Business Relief Program, of which $10 million is dedicated to grants.
Please click here for more information on resources for Wayne County small businesses.
Additional Resources for Small Businesses
The Michigan Small Business Development Center offers several resources for small business owners trying to navigate this public health crisis including loan application guidance and webinars.
State Representative, 6th House District