February 4, 2021
This week, we returned to the Senate chamber only to see majority Republicans more concerned about disapproving appointments of qualified individuals to various state boards by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer than they are about passing COVID-19 relief legislation for Michiganders.
To say I’m frustrated would be an understatement.
I didn’t run for office so that I could waste my time arguing and playing politics. I didn’t come here to play games. I’m not a politician. I’m a computer engineer. We see a problem — we find a solution.
I am committed to finding more solutions for you and others in our district. We’ve worked so hard to get where we are in this pandemic, and I’m not about to let up. Whether that’s ensuring the health and safety of our students and educators, or helping the unemployed get the relief they need, I have been — and continue to be — ready to get to work.
APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE FOR TUITION-FREE SCHOLARSHIPS
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the launch of the $30 million Michigan Reconnect program, the largest effort in state history to ensure that more than 4.1 million Michiganders who are 25 or older, and who do not have a college degree, will have an opportunity to earn a tuition-free associate degree or skills certificate.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to unprecedented demand, the skills certificate component of this program is already closed to applications as of Feb. 3.
Reconnect scholarships are accepted by all Michigan community colleges and are even available to eligible adults who are already enrolled in their local community college. The program pays the remaining balance of tuition and mandatory fees after other state and federal financial aid have been applied. For those who choose to attend an out-of-district community college, Reconnect will pay the in-district portion of tuition.
To be eligible for Michigan Reconnect, you must:
Michiganders can submit applications at Michigan.gov/Reconnect. The application takes less than five minutes to complete and can be done on a mobile device.
The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity is administering Reconnect in partnership with the Michigan Department of Treasury.
INDOOR DINING, CONCESSIONS, PERSONAL SERVICES REOPENED
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently released a new epidemic order that began Monday, Feb. 1, allowing for:
This order will last until Sunday, Feb. 21.
Restaurants and bars can now admit patrons at 25% capacity with up to 100 people. Tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. Outdoor tents with four sides are permitted under these same rules. Bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. Additionally, contact information must be collected from diners for contact tracing purposes.
The voluntary MI COVID-19 Safer Dining program allows food service establishments to become certified by having their ventilation system inspected and submitting their inspection report to the state indicating they are optimizing airflow. Once certified, businesses will be featured on the Michigan.gov/COVIDSaferDining website and receive a copy of their certification to post at their establishment to alert diners of their participation.
Indoor residential and non-residential gatherings are still limited to 10 people and two households. MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings or to pick a single other household to interact with consistent with guidance already released by the department. Families are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to maintain momentum and to protect loved ones. Families are also encouraged to Mask Up, Mask Right, using guidance for what masks to wear and how to wear them.
The epidemic order continues to temporarily pause indoor contact sports and other venues and activities where participants have close physical contacts and are not consistently masked, like water parks. However, as of Jan. 22, stadiums can allow up to 500 people at venues that seat over 10,000 people and stadiums that seat less than 10,000 can be at 20% capacity, up to 250 people.
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.
>> Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine.
MICHIGAN’S COVID-19 VACCINATION STRATEGY
On Friday, Jan. 29, the Protect Michigan Commission, comprised of a diverse group of leaders from across the state charged with helping raise awareness about the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, hosted its first meeting and unveiled Michigan’s COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy.
The commission also discussed the state’s strategy to get 70% of Michiganders age 16 and older vaccinated as quickly as possible. The strategy is being guided by the following guiding principles:
The Protect Michigan Commission will also develop an outreach strategy to identify and work with communities around the state where there is hesitancy to the vaccine. They are expected to complete their work and submit a report to Governor Whitmer by Dec. 31, 2021.
>> More information about the commission, including a list of members, is available at MDHHS – Protect Michigan Commission.
GOVERNOR WHITMER PRESENTS RECOMMENDATIONS TO LOWER COST OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Housed within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Prescription Drug Task Force she created worked with bipartisan members of the legislature to recommend legislation to require transparency, hold accountable those profiting from skyrocketing prices, and help make necessary medications affordable for all Michigan families.
The Task Force recommended the following specific policies, among others:
Over the past six years, the average price of drugs prescribed to treat diabetes, heart disease, depression, and other common conditions has more than doubled. To address these issues among others, the Governor announced a Prescription Drug Task Force last year to develop policy solutions to lower prescription drug costs and create more transparency surrounding prescription drug pricing.
LEARN HOW TO PAY FOR COLLEGE AT ‘VIRTUAL FINANCIAL AID NIGHT’
Students and families looking for help paying for college are encouraged to register for an upcoming Virtual College Financial Aid Night hosted by Michigan Department of Treasury’s MI Student Aid team.
Sessions will be available from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday in February. All sessions are free and open to the public.
Participants will be able to gather information on the following financial aid topics:
Due to limited space, participants are encouraged to sign up for one session only. Registration can be completed by visiting the MI Student Aid website at Michigan.gov/MIStudentAid.
>> For more information, contact MI Student Aid at email@example.com, 1-888-447-2687 or @mistudentaid on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office by calling (517) 373-2417 or emailing me at SenRBayer@senate.michigan.gov, and be sure to keep an eye on the events listed on my webpage at SenatorBayer.com. I’d love to hear from you!
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