June 11, 2021
As we continue to work on our state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, I’m advocating for adequate and appropriate funding for our educational systems. From preschool through high school graduation and beyond, we need to ensure our students are prepared to compete in this ever-changing world and global economy.
In this e-news, you’ll find information about recent legislation I’ve introduced, as well as COVID-19 updates in Oakland County, how to help you report work search activity if you’re unemployed, improvements coming to Secretary of State branch offices, and more.
If ever my office can be of assistance to you or your family, please call me at 517-373-2417, or email me at SenRBayer@senate.michigan.gov.
High-Speed Internet Access
Widespread internet access is not a luxury, it’s a necessity in this 21st-century economy — and it’s something I’m deeply passionate about attaining here in Michigan. In fact, I recently introduced legislation to take the first steps in expanding high-speed internet access in Michigan, as internet availability becomes more and more intertwined with the daily functions of modern life.
Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also announced the creation of the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office to deal with infrastructure issues pertaining to widespread broadband access for all Michigan residents. I’m glad to see it!
Among other things, the bill package I sponsored and co-sponsored would:
• Appropriate $400 million to the Connecting Michigan Communities grant program to allow more municipalities and educational institutions to qualify for grants.
• Allow broadband expenses to be an allowed DHHS eligible expense when applying for State Emergency Relief.
• Appropriate $35 million for statewide broadband mapping and community high-speed internet surveys and planning grants.
• Codify Governor Whitmer’s recent Executive Order to create a state High-Speed Internet Office.
With the millions of dollars coming to Michigan through the American Rescue Plan, we finally have the money to make bold changes and ensure high speed internet access is affordable and available to everyone in Michigan. Hear more below:
Promise Zones for Education
A good education should be a right, not a privilege. Earlier this year, I introduced a bill to allow Promise Zones to pay for on-campus room and board for their scholarship awardees. Currently, those expenses are not allowed.
Promise Zones are communities designated through state law that make college scholarships available to all students in a locality, and in our district, that includes Pontiac. Michigan currently has 11 Promise Zones committed to sending more young people to college and working to build stronger communities by attracting new families and new business investments.
By expanding allowable expenses, this bill makes college an affordable, attainable option for those who would otherwise be unable to attend. My bill has been voted out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and I hope it will be put to a vote on the Senate floor soon!
COVID-19 UPDATES: GRANTS AND VACCINATIONS
Oakland County has ongoing COVID relief grant programs, including the Veterans COVID-19 Emergency Financial Relief and the COVID-19 Rent, Mortgage & Utility Relief Program. Information and links to both can be found at the Oakland County website.
As of June 7, nearly 60% of residents age 16 and older have received at least one dose of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Oakland County is faring slightly better than the rest of the state, as nearly 65% of residents are vaccinated, according to state data.
It’s not too late to get vaccinated! If you live, work, or study in Oakland County, and are at least 12-years-old, you can be vaccinated. The county has a wonderful website full of resources on where to get a vaccine and how. Oakland County has also partnered with numerous organizations to make getting a vaccine as easy and accessible as possible.
For those who may need transportation to get to and from their appointment, the County is teaming up with the SMART transit system. Simply call 1-800-848-5533 to schedule your transportation to and from the clinic when you receive your confirmation email for a scheduled vaccine appointment. Health Division staff will then contact SMART to arrange transportation directly with the client.
For those who may get overwhelmed easily at a large vaccination site, those who require a barrier-free environment, and/or people who speak ASL, the Oakland County Health Department has partnered with JARC, a Jewish organization which seeks to empower people with disabilities.
Homebound residents of Oakland County can also receive a free Johnson & Johnson vaccine by calling FNP Collaborative Solutions at 248-629-0448, 7 days per week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
More information about vaccine providers and clinics in Oakland County can be found at oaklandcountyvaccine.com/appointments. If you need help getting an appointment, please also feel free to call my office at 517-373-2417 and we will help.
PRESCHOOL FUNDING PROPOSAL TO GIVE 22,000 MORE KIDS EARLY ED
On Tuesday, June 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her plan to fund preschool education to ensure all eligible children in Michigan have access to high-quality, affordable early education opportunities that prepare them for success.
The Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), the state-funded preschool program for 4-year-old children, has not been able to meet demand. Currently, only 66% of eligible children statewide are served by GSRP or federal Head Start programs. Under the governor’s proposal, funding for GSRP would be increased by an additional $255 million in federal dollars and $150 million in state dollars over the next three years to ensure all eligible 4-year-olds are served.
GSRP is a proven preschool program that provides full- or part-day services to children from families at or below 250% of the poverty line, which is $66,250 for a family of four. In tandem with the Head Start program, GSRP currently provides preschool to 43,100 kids across Michigan. An estimated 65,400 students are eligible for the program.
UIA UNVEILS TOOL TO HELP REPORT WORK SEARCH ACTIVITY FOR UNEMPLOYED
The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has reintroduced a call-in schedule to assist all claimants who certify their eligibility for benefits by phone. The call-in schedule, based on the last two digits of an individual’s Social Security Number (SSN), will help ease incoming call flow and prevent extended wait times while reporting work search activity by phone.
Claimants who receive unemployment benefits are required to search for work and report at least one work search activity per week when they certify for benefits. Failure to report a work search activity will result in a loss of benefits for that week.
All claimants who certify by phone will need to call using MARVIN (866-638-3993), according to the schedule. If unable to certify on their scheduled day and time, all claimants may certify on Thursday or Friday of their certification week, regardless of their SSN. Claimants who need to report their work search activity must complete the automated certification questions and remain on the line to connect with an agent to report their work search activity for each week. MARVIN is available from 8 a.m. through 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, but is no longer available on Saturdays.
For faster processing, UIA recommends claimants certify and report their work search online using the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM). MiWAM is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Claimants may sign up for a MiWAM account at Michigan.gov/UIA.
A waiver of the work search requirement may be granted due to certain COVID-19 related reasons, but you must apply and be approved for the waiver before certifying for benefits for the biweekly certification period.
For more information on the work search requirement, visit Michigan.gov/UIA.
SECRETARY OF STATE MAKES CHANGES TO INCREASE SERVICE
On Tuesday, June 8, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced her offices are adding appointments to serve 350,000 more Michiganders, greeters at office doors to assist in scheduling visits, and priority service for residents needing a disability placard.
The three changes Benson announced were:
• Appointment timeslots will be increased by 25% between now and the end of the fiscal year. The department released half of the more than 350,000 new appointments Monday, June 7, and the remaining half will be split up and released every weekday at 8 a.m. and noon between now and Sept. 30 as next-day appointments. Appointments can be booked online at Michigan.gov/SOS or, for people with internet limitations, by calling 888-SOS-MICH.
• Residents will now be able to book in-person appointments. When visitors arrive without an appointment, greeters will tell them if any staff are available to serve them or assist them in scheduling a return visit.
• Residents needing disability placards can now be served as soon as possible after arrival at any office. While these residents are still encouraged to schedule their visit, appointments are no longer required to receive a disability placard.
JUNE 5-13 IS GREAT LAKES AND FRESH WATER WEEK
To raise awareness of Michigan’s water resources, Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week — June 5-13 this year — will celebrate our lakes and rivers around the themes of “Appreciate, Educate and Recreate.” Throughout Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will offer Michiganders an opportunity to show their appreciation of our state’s lakes and rivers, highlight programs that educate residents to become lifelong water stewards, and provide information about how to enjoy recreational activities responsibly on or near lakes and rivers.
Here are ways that you can participate in Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week:
• Post photos on social media of your favorite lake, river or water experience and use the hashtag #MIGreatLakesWeek.
• Watch and share themed videos throughout the week: Appreciate our water resources, educate residents about stewardship and recreate responsibly.
• Fish for free June 12-13. On these two days, the DNR will waive the need for a fishing license, as well as off-road vehicle license, trail permit and the Recreation Passport requirement for state parks and boating access sites.
• Take your blanket to the beach and read the 2020 State of the Great Lakes report.
• Check out the Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week webpage at Michigan.gov/GreatLakesWeek, where you’ll find links to local events, education resources, videos, MICorps volunteer sign-up, invasive species identification and how to properly dispose of old medications.
• Open the From Students to Stewards toolkit, which is full of place-based educational resources for teachers that will instill in youth a desire to learn about water resources and how to be protective of lakes and streams.
As you decide how to enjoy the outdoors, follow these tips on recreational responsibly on the water, in the water and while fishing, as well as resources to consult regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, June 14, I will be hosting a virtual coffee hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Grab your computer, your coffee and come chat with me from the comfort and safety of your own home or office. I’ll fill you in on the latest happenings in the state legislature and around our community. No need to register!
For more information on the event, please visit the event page. You do NOT need to have a Facebook account to participate in this event. Hope to see you online!
Sign up to be the first to know what I'm doing to build a thriving community and fight for you.
First Name is required
Last Name is required
Email Address is required
Zip Code is required
We take your privacy seriously.