Saturday, September 5, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is developing very quickly, and I know many people have questions and concerns. I will try to answer some of them below.
These are incredibly stressful times for all Michiganders. I am working, along with my staff, around the clock, seven days a week to answer your questions, provide community resources and provide up-to-date, accurate information. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office anytime by calling (810) 238-8627.
Governor Whitmer extended the state of emergency and disaster-related to coronavirus through October 1, 2020. More information can be found here.
The Governor issued executive orders adding new workplace safeguards for sports and exercise facilities and allowing for organized sports competitions to resume and gyms and pools to reopen across the state, in accordance with safety protocols.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) approved Michigan’s application for funding to provide an additional $300 per week payment to Michiganders receiving unemployment benefits. Eligible claimants will be paid benefits retroactive to August 1. It is currently unclear how long funding for the program will last. At this time, claimants do not have to take any action to receive the additional benefit amount provided by the program. More information can be found here.
Under the Safe Start Order, which started July 31, 2020, statewide indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and bars will be closed for indoor service across the state. Also, the Governor strengthened her previous order requiring all Michiganders to wear a mask in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces. More information can be found here.
The Governor has acted to ensure working families in Michigan have access to clean water for handwashing and sanitation by extending protections for Michigan residents who have had water service shut off through December 31, 2020. More information can be found here.
On August 20, Governor Whitmer signed the bipartisan “Return to Learn” bills, which outline new, more flexible instructional requirements and provide significant financial stability to districts for the 2020-21 school year. These bills will help districts implement their safety plans in accordance with the Governor’s MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, a comprehensive document to help districts create local plans for in-person learning in the fall.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE RESOURCES UPDATE
In Michigan, the last federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit was paid on July 25. For those eligible, Michigan’s weekly regular state unemployment benefit of up to $362 will continue. Eligible claimants should continue to certify as scheduled. More information can be found here.
On May 1, I introduced The Strengthening UI for COVID Impacted Workers and Students Act to expand unemployment insurance for American workers, which was included in The Heroes Act. For more information, visit here.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Unemployment eligibility has been expanded to include those who are sick or caring for a family member as well as self-employed, contracted, and gig economy workers. Individuals should apply online at www.Michigan.gov/UIA or call 866-500-0017 and are encouraged to follow a filing schedule based on last name and use off-peak times (8 p.m. – 8 a.m). The UIA offers resources to help workers resolve online technical issues with their account. More information can be found here.
Governor Whitmer has expanded the state’s workshare program. More information can be found here.
Unemployment Insurance Scam: On May 27, the UIA warned residents of attempts by criminals to file fake unemployment insurance claims. The U.S. Secret Service recently issued a national alert regarding an international criminal ring exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to commit largescale fraud against state unemployment programs. Because of this, some existing claimants may have received “Stop Payment” notices on their accounts and have been sent instructions on how to submit the additional information. More information can be found here.
Suitable Work and Refusal to Work: The UIA expanded the good cause exemptions that allow individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits to refuse “suitable work” in light of COVID-19. More information can be found here.
Governor Whitmer created the Eviction Diversion Program, which outlines a process for renters to get fast rental assistance or establish a manageable payment plan to help them stay in their homes. The program also includes assistance to landlords. More information can be found here.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have a website to help renters and homeowners understand their housing assistance options. This includes information on mortgage and rental relief as well as resources for additional help that may be needed. More information can be found here.
COMMUNITY RESOURCES UPDATE
The Governor announced low-income residents, seniors, schools and homeless shelters will benefit from the MI Mask Aid partnership that is part of the Mask Up Michigan Campaign. More information can be found here.
All registered voters in the state of Michigan have the right to vote by mail. More information can be found here.
Meijer, Kroger and other grocers that accept aluminum cans and plastic containers have reopened their bottle return services. More information can be found here.
Small Business Assistance: The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has announced a grant program for small business that meet specific criteria and have experienced an income loss due to the coronavirus. Using money from The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March, these funds are distributed to economic development organizations throughout the state. These organizations will distribute funding to approved businesses. More information can be found here.
Personal Protective Equipment: The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has launched a platform to help re-opening businesses acquire PPE. More information can be found here.
Michigan’s Virtual Food Bank: Seniors in need of food support can sign up for assistance, including meal delivery, delivery of non-perishable food items, and daily wellness-check calls, through the MDHHS coronavirus website, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging. More information on the virtual food bank can be found here.
Flint Cares Help Centers: The city of Flint is offering resources and services including bottled water and food assistance. Services will continue to be provided from two semi-trailers staged in church parking lots across the city to distribute items directly to cars as residents drive through. For more information please call 810-410-2020 or visit here.
Map of Coronavirus Cases in Michigan: An up-to-date map of coronavirus cases in Michigan, provided by the Michigan State Police, can be viewed here.
On August 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Delivering for America Act, to fund the U.S. Postal Service and prohibit changes to operations until the pandemic has ended. More information can be found here.
On May 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Heroes Act. The Heroes Act includes a number of key policies I have advocated for, including additional direct payments to families and seniors, expanding unemployment insurance, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and funding to prevent water shutoffs. More information can be found here.
On May 15, I introduced a bipartisan bill, The Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund for Main Street Act (RELIEF for Main Street Act), with Reps. Evans (D-PA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Upton (R-MI). The bill creates a $50.5 billion Small Business Local Relief Program to provide direct federal support to cities, counties and states in order to seed and scale local relief funds and target small businesses with 20 employees or fewer, or with 50 employees or fewer located in low-income neighborhoods. More information can be found here.
Congress has also passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, The CARES Act, Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to help families and health care facilities respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
CORONAVIRUS TESTING UPDATE:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a website and app with a coronavirus screening tool and resources to help people protect their health. The website can be found here and the app can be accessed here.
More information regarding testing in Mid-Michigan, including an additional site announced for Tawas County, can be found here and here.