State Senator Winnie Brinks

Hello Neighbors,

It’s back to school time!  

There’s no higher priority for me than education; supporting our schools and our great educators is the issue that originally inspired me to come to Lansing to serve as a legislator. I care deeply about the challenges that our educators face today and am working hard to address them. You’ll see some of those priorities reflected in this newsletter, as well as some resources that may be helpful to you as we start a new school year. 

Today and every day, I am proud to serve as your State Senator in Lansing. I thank you for sharing thoughts and concerns with me, and let’s continue to make our community better together.  

As always, please continue to look out for your friends and neighbors and be patient with one another. For the latest updates, please follow me on Facebook.


Warm Regards,   

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Winnie Brinks
State Senator
29th District


In This Issue

    • Teacher retention bill package 
    • Millions for mental health in schools
    • Arbor Circle
    • Kent County Welcome Plan
    • Absentee ballot applications now available for Nov. 8 general elections 
    • Beware of scammers trying to take advantage of federal student loan debt forgiveness 
    • Where to get Monkeypox vaccine in Michigan  



Teacher Retention Bill Package 

It’s time to be proactive about the teacher shortage.  

Back in June, Sen. Polehanki and I introduced a package of bills (SB 1092-1101) designed to attract and retain teachers in Michigan to address the educator shortage that has been many years in the making. This bill package has been referred to the Education Committee, where it has not yet received a hearing. I will continue to push for movement on these bills, because we simply cannot wait to address these pressing issues. 

In February 2020, just before the pandemic, the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers released a report finding that newly issued teacher certificates were down nearly 25% between the 2013-2014 and 2017-2018 school years. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, and now, teachers are retiring faster than they can be replaced. I’m grateful to all the teachers who have gone back to the classroom this year, the new teachers who are starting out their career, and those who have retired who are coming back to assist during this unprecedented time. School districts across the state are coming up with innovative solutions to recruit and retain educators; we need to back them up here at the state level, because this is an issue in every county in Michigan. 

Budget Boosts Mental Health Programming in Schools 

We know that schools need immediate support to address the ongoing mental health impacts of the pandemic.  

I worked hard to include funding in this year’s state school aid budget for just that. The fiscal year 2023 budget includes: 

  • $50 million in funding over the next four years for a program called TRAILS (Transforming Research Into Action to Improve the Lives of Students). The program teaches children practical skills to manage their emotions and learn about mental health. 
  • $150 million in funding for other mental health grants. 
  • $25 million for school-based health centers. 

Schools are a primary access point to services for children who are suffering from grief, loss, social isolation, trauma, and the many lingering mental health impacts of the pandemic. This funding is a step in the right direction to addressing those needs.  

Count Day Adjusted for Yom Kippur  

I stood alongside my colleague Sen. Jeremy Moss in requesting that the Michigan Department of Education update its guidelines regarding Count Day, since the day that had been scheduled (Oct. 5) was the same day as the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.  

On count day, all public schools in Michigan tally the number of students in attendance so they ca
n access the $9,150 per pupil that the state’s budget this year has allocated for each student. It’s a matter of practicality, but also of respect, to allow for school districts to plan Count Day around religious holidays. 



Arbor Circle’s Revamped Greenspace and Mural 


Congrats to Arbor Circle on their beautifully rejuvenated courtyard space at The Bridge, their shelter for youth experiencing homelessness. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, it was fun to hear from the artist, Edwin Anderson, whose mural brightens up this basketball court. Thanks for all you do to promote both physical and mental wellness for our community’s kids, Arbor Circle! 


Kent County Welcome Plan

I Voted Yes to Invest in our Community

Did you know that Kent County is home to more than 55,000 immigrants? 

My staff was part of this week’s enthusiastic celebration of the Kent County Welcome Plan, which has been in the works for more than three years and has gathered stakeholders from government, business, nonprofit, education, and more—all working together to make our community more welcoming for New Americans.



Absentee Ballot Applications Now Available for The Nov. 8 General Election 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is reminding Michigan residents they can now apply to vote absentee in the Nov. 8 general election. Voters choosing to vote by mail are encouraged to s
ubmit their application as soon as possible to avoid postal delays.  

All voters registered in Michigan are eligible to vote absentee. They can apply online at or print an application form from the site and mail, email, or hand deliver it to their local clerk. Voters can find their clerk’s contact information at  

Voters with disabilities may apply online for an accessible electronic absent voter ballot at or The accessible ballot can be completed electronically, printed, and returned to their clerk.  

Clerks will begin mailing out absent voter ballots by Sept. 29. They will be available for early, in-person voting in clerks’ offices on that date as well.  

A ballot-tracking tool on the site allows voters to check when their clerk received their absentee ballot request, when they mailed out the ballot and, when they received the ballot back from the voter.  

For more information on absentee voting, or to register to vote, go to   

Beware of Scammers Taking Advantage of Student Loan Debt Forgiveness 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wants to warn Michiganders to be on the lookout for potential scammers seeking to take advantage of borrowers pursuing new sweeping student loan debt relief recently announced by the Biden Administration.  

Here are the highlights of the announced loan debt relief:   

  1. The current student loan repayment pause has been extended to Dec. 31, 2022, with payments resuming in January 2023.   
  2. The U.S. Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households.   
  3. The previously announced limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program waiver is still in effect until Oct. 31, 2022. It forgives the remaining balance on your federal student loans after 120 payments working full-time for federal, state, tribal, or local government; military; or a qualifying nonprofit. The limited PSLF waiver allows borrowers to receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF. For more information on eligibility and requirements, go to  

AG Nessel encourages residents to follow these tips to avoid scams seeking to take advantage of borrowers’ eagerness to obtain debt relief: 

For more information about this relief, visit the Federal Student Aid website and/or their loan servicer.   

  1. Do not provide your personal or financial information in response to unsolicited emails, phone calls, or texts either from the federal government or a company claiming to be able to assist you with obtaining the announced relief.  
  2. Do not agree to pay anyone for assistance in obtaining this relief.   
  3. Don’t be rushed. To get you to act fast, scammers say you could miss qualifying for repayment plans, loan consolidation, or loan forgiveness programs if you don’t sign up right away. Take your time and check it out.   
  4. Don’t give away your FSA ID. Some scammers claim they need your FSA ID to help you, but don’t share your FSA ID with anyone. Dishonest people could use that information to get into your account and steal your identity.  

Those who wish to make a report about potential scams can do so with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team by filing a complaint online or by calling 877-765-8388. 

Where to Get Monkeypox Vaccine 

Cases of monkeypox in Michigan continue to increase. As of Wednesday, August 31, there are now 186 confirmed cases in the state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Since the start of the outbreak, the federal government has distributed 670,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine to states from the national stockpile, and Michigan has gotten 7,600 vials of the vaccine so far. 

As vaccine doses arrive in Michigan, they are being delivered to hubs established at health departments across the state, including in Kent County. For more information, visit the Kent County Health Department’s website.  


Here are a few reasons to contact my office:

Comment on Legislation: If you want to express your opinion about legislation or learn more, my office can answer your questions and keep me informed of your comments. Your opinion matters!

If You Need Help: If you have a problem dealing with any department of state government, such as accessing unemployment benefits, my office can help you resolve it. While we usually cannot assist with local or federal issues, we will always do our best to help direct you to the appropriate person.

There’s No “Wrong” Reason: Any comment, question or concern is welcome. If your issue would be more appropriately addressed by a different unit of government, I will help direct you. Remember, I am here to serve YOU and your family.

I have other questions. Are you and your office still available?

To keep you and my staff healthy and safe, we are working remotely until further notice. Please call our office at (517) 373-1801 or send me an email at, as you normally would, and we will do our best to avoid any interruption of service.


As an elected representative, I believe in being readily available and transparent because my office is your office.

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