Hard to believe it’s September already. These last few weeks in Lansing have been busy with Appropriations Committee meetings, House Session and bill negotiations taking up most of my time. I know many of you are still struggling due to the Coronavirus pandemic, uncertainty in schooling decisions and other daily concerns. I’d like to invite you to a Virtual Coffee Hour that I’m hosting on October 12 at 6 p.m. to share your concerns, ask me your questions and get a short legislative update.
This event will take place every second Monday of the month through December. To be able to ask questions via the Zoom platform, please register for this event. You can register for all coffee hours at once.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. This event will also be streamed live on Facebook. An ASL Interpreter will be interpreting and the recorded video will be available afterward on social media and my website https://housedems.com/john-cherry/.
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by our valiant first responders every day, and to remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. They may be gone, but their strength and patriotism will never be forgotten.
No Evictions for Non-Payment of Rent
On September 1, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order temporarily halting residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The moratorium is effective Friday, September 4, 2020, through December 31, 2020. In order to be protected from eviction under this order, renters must fall into one of the following three categories:
- You received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) under the Cares Act
- You expect to make $99,000 or less in 2020 ($198,000 if you file jointly with your spouse)
- You were not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS
Renters also must sign a declaration form stating that they have made their best efforts to seek available government assistance for rent or housing (including the state’s Eviction Diversion Program) and would likely face homelessness or have to move into a homeless shelter or residence where others are living in close quarters if evicted. A PDF version of the CDC approved declaration form is available here. Here is the official announcement that links to the order and approved declaration form. This order may protect renters from being evicted for non-payment of rent. This order does not stop evictions for reasons other than non-payment of rent.
Michigan Legal Help has compiled additional resources and guidance for renters to help them protect themselves from eviction during this time. You can read their full CDC eviction moratorium info and forms for tenants on their website by clicking here.
Unemployed Michiganders Will Get Additional $300 A Week
Recently, the Michigan House passed Senate Bill 745, which provides an additional $300 per week to individuals who are currently receiving a minimum of $100 in weekly unemployment benefits. This bill also includes $70 million to help the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency administer benefits. You can read more about this bill and see the full bill text here.
$65 Million of CARES Funding Allocated to Michigan Schools
On August 19, the governor announced that $65 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds will be allocated to K-12 school districts, higher education institutions, and other education-related entities that have been most impacted by COVID-19. The funding will target districts in economically disadvantaged areas that often have higher barriers to remote learning.
Governor Signs ‘Return to Learn’ Package
Gov. Whitmer recently signed the “Return to Learn” package, the back-to-school plan that was the result of bipartisan negotiations between the governor and legislative leadership.
This legislation bases the student count primarily on the student population from the 2019-2020 school year. Unlike the previous version of this package, these bills do not outsource online instruction to for-profit, private education management organizations. It also no longer requires in-person instruction for K-5 students. You can read more about the plan here: https://bit.ly/3h5b8YX
Manufactured Housing Reform
As some of you may be aware, an out of state manufactured home park owner purchased multiple communities in our district and in several other areas around the state. Unfortunately, this owner has proven themselves to be a bad actor and many of you contacted my office to share your experiences and concerns.
While I sent information to constituents living in the mobile home parks in question, alerting them to their rights as tenants, providing access to legal resources, and provided information about filing a formal complaint with the Michigan Attorney General, I also developed a six bill package to address these issues. This package is a bipartisan approach designed to address the biggest issues facing residents and operators today. On September 1, Rep. Mueller and I testified on House Bills 6003-6008, discussing why this legislation was needed, and how it would help protect Michigan residents.
You can watch the committee proceedings here. Our testimony begins at minute mark 8:15.
School Meal Help for K-12 Students
The COVID-19 crisis has shown us how critical our schools are to the well-being of Michigan’s families, especially the role schools play in the nutritional needs of our children. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would extend the ability of Michigan schools to use federal funding for key food programs that keep students fed during school closures.
The extension allows families to get meals on weekdays and weekends, and it allows parents to pick up the meals at one designated site rather than at each child’s school.
Schools have served roughly 80 million meals to students through this federal policy since the pandemic prompted the closure of schools statewide in March. This extension gives school districts flexibility through Dec. 31, or as long as the department can do so “legally and financially,” the USDA said in a statement. More information can be found here.
Food Assistance for College Students
Michigan’s Postsecondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) program provides funding to 28 community colleges, three public universities and one tribal college to support pathways to high-wage, high-skilled and in-demand careers that require less than a bachelor’s degree.
Now, for the first time, low-income college students in Michigan who are enrolled at least half-time in a CTE program can apply for food assistance, a change that could affect nearly 16,000 students.
Previously, making the decision to go to school full-time meant you could lose your food assistance. Our programs should support these educational pursuits, not make students choose between a meal and job training. This good news is particularly timely, as many students have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and may be in the difficult position of choosing between paying their rent or buying food. Further, many more Americans are facing greater food insecurity because of the pandemic.
Students are encouraged to apply for food assistance benefits at Michigan.gov/MIBridges.
Utility Bill Protections and Assistance During COVID-19
Are you worried about your utility bill?
The Michigan Public Service Commission encourages any customer in need of utility bill assistance to first contact their utility company to ask what kind of protections, funding, flexible payment options, or energy-saving tools and resources are available. Many utilities have created or enhanced programs in light of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond that, you may also call 2-1-1 or go to www.mi211.org for energy assistance information or to learn about agencies that can help you with your energy bill. You can also apply for State Emergency Relief (SER) through MI Bridges or by contacting your local MDHHS office. Households who qualify for SER also qualify for assistance through the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), which provides supplemental bill payment assistance and energy self-sufficiency services.
The State of Michigan has implemented changes to allow for faster processing of emergency requests and to make access to assistance benefits easier. Click here for more information about energy assistance.
Raising Awareness About Opioid Overdose
In honor of Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services launched a new program with emergency medical service (EMS) providers to further prevent opioid overdose deaths. EMS providers will give overdose survivors extra naloxone kits — the medication that reverses opioid overdoses.
Opioid overdose is a preventable cause of death. Michiganders can take steps to prevent overdose deaths by carrying naloxone, offering support to family and friends who use substances, and ending the stigma that surrounds substance use disorders.
Lifeline: Discounts for Broadband
Lifeline helps low-income consumers connect to the nation’s voice and broadband networks, find jobs, access health care services, connect with family, and call for help in an emergency. It provides discounts on monthly service for qualified customers.
Many telecommunications carriers in Michigan offer Lifeline. You may qualify if you have an income that is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level or participate in one of these programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Tribal Eligibility Programs
- Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit Program
I have other questions. Are you and your office still available?
To keep you and our staff healthy, we are working remotely until further notice. We’re still here by phone and email, but there may be a delay as we help
While in-person events have been canceled, for the time being, you can still follow my Facebook page for updates and to register for any of my upcoming Virtual Community Conversations. More information can be found here.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. If there is anything else I can do for you please reach out by phone at (517) 373-7515 or email at JohnCherry@house.mi.gov.