Senator Winnie Brinks Summer Newsletter

Dear Neighbor,

As the sun begins to set on another beautiful Michigan summer, I want to take a moment to update you on some of the work being done by the Legislature before heading into the fall. In this newsletter, you will find updates on the state budget, important developments from the Legislature, and a few issues I will be working on through the end of the year.

As we continue to try to contain the spread of COVID-19 and work through the new uncertainties associated with it, it is important we remain committed to each other and stay patient with our neighbors. I hope this newsletter finds you, your family, and your friends in good health. If you are experiencing difficulties related to the pandemic, I have included a list of resources I hope you will find helpful.

Sharing updates with you and hearing the perspectives of my constituents is the most important part of my job, and I do my best to ensure your voice is heard. I am humbled to serve as your State Senator, and I hope you will continue to contact me by phone at (517) 373-1801, or by email at SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov about issues that are important to you.

Warmest Regards,

Sen. Winnie Brinks
29th District

Toll-free: (855) 347-8029
Email: SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov
Website: SenatorBrinks.com



Making Unemployment ACCESSIBLE FOR ALL

COVID-19 has exposed many significant issues in our state’s preparedness for life-altering crises. One example of that is Michigan’s current unemployment system, where arbitrary rules and policies from the previous administration have resulted in a disastrous, burdensome system for those who need it most.

Prior to the current administration, the former governor signed into law policies that made it more difficult for people to obtain the unemployment assistance they need during normal circumstances, which has only been exacerbated this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, thousands of Michigan families went without pay for weeks — if not months — with no income for daily necessities.

On June 25, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I introduced a comprehensive plan to boost Michigan’s unemployment system by expanding benefits for unemployed individuals effective July 25, the last day of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for those who became unemployed due to the pandemic.

PUA allowed unemployed Michiganders access to an increased amount of unemployment compensation beyond what the state affords in non pandemic times. Typically, the standard unemployment rate in Michigan, under a 2011 law, is $362 per week for 20 weeks, one of the lowest rates in the country.

Our bill package would:
• Increase the maximum weekly benefit of $362 to $602 per week, and increase the allowable weeks from 20 to 26 weeks for benefit payments.
• Allow those who are unemployed to access loans and grants while they wait for unemployment payments.
• Allow workers to collect unemployment during pandemics.
• Lower the earnings eligibility requirement and increase the weekly benefits amount.
• Expand the definition of workers who can file for unemployment.
• Expand cost-sharing by ensuring only the separating employer will be used to determine non-monetary disqualification for benefits.

If you continue experiencing an issue with the Unemployment Insurance Agency, please visit my website at senatedems.com/brinks/unemployment to get more help. Filling out this form is the most efficient way for us to help you resolve those issues. Please be sure to include your name and address.


Funding for Universities, K-12 Schools, and Teachers

This summer, I introduced a resolution that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support urging the United States Congress to allow more flexibility in Michigan’s use of its emergency funding for our schools and our local governments to address revenue shortfalls from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a bipartisan vote, the state Legislature also appropriated federal COVID 19 relief money to plug a $2.2 billion hole for the current 2019- 20 fiscal year budget. This agreement between Gov. Whitmer and Republican leadership in the state House and Senate was a first step

The appropriation allocated most of the federal assistance provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act, which included $3.1 billion for Michigan. Of the emergency funding, $512 million will go to K-12 schools, $200 million to universities and community colleges, and $150 million to local governments. An additional $53 million will be used to provide hazard pay for teachers who return to work amidst the pandemic.

The Legislature and Governor Whitmer continue to work on a state budget for the upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins October 1.


Expanding Postpartum Care

Tragically, more than half of maternal deaths are deemed preventable, and with the U.S. currently ranked 55th in maternal mortality among developed nations, we must improve the quality and duration of prenatal and postpartum health care that mothers receive.

But there’s more to this story than statistics – we have actual, lived experiences to show racial disparities in health care. Black women, especially, report that they do not feel heard when it comes to maternal care, nor do they feel as though they are being counseled appropriately. And Medicaid enrollees are at higher risk of postpartum disruptions in insurance because pregnancy-related Medicaid eligibility ends only 60 days after delivery.

The governor included expanded coverage for those on pregnancy-related Medicaid in her executive budget recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year. In order to codify her action into law, I have introduced legislation to expand the pregnancy-related Medicaid program from 60 days to one year postpartum. This should ensure new mothers will not have to weigh costs when making postpartum health care decisions.

I am encouraged by the strong evidence that shows a direct correlation between spending on pregnancy-related health programs and the reduction of the maternal mortality rate among Black mothers. Studies show that pregnancy-related health program spending narrows the disparities between Black and white mothers.

I will continue to advocate for using state dollars for these kinds of impactful programs in my role as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Community Health/Human Services. We should not be adding to the long list of reasons women do not seek medical treatment for postpartum complications, and no infant or child should lose a parent because of insufficient access to health care.


COVID-19 RESOURCES

SENATE DISTRICT 13 RESOURCES
Information from my office about COVID-19
SenatorMcMorrow.com | 1- 855-347-8011
AREA AGENCY ON AGING 1-B
Coronavirus resources for seniors
aaa1b.org/coronavirus 1-800-852-7795
SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
michiganbusiness.org 1-888-522-0103
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL How to protect yourself and what to do if you are sick
cdc.gov | 1-800-232-4636
REPORT CONSUMER SCAMS
Michigan Attorney General Consumer Protection
1-877-765-8388
TESTING LOCATIONS
and more information on Michigan’s response:
michigan.gov/coronavirus
1-888-535-6136
MI HELP LINE
For health-related questions Available every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1-888-535-6136
OAKLAND COUNTY COVID RESOURCES
Local COVID-19 resources
www.oakgov.com/covid/Pages/default.aspx | 248-858-1000

For updates and more information, visit my Facebook page at Facebook.com/SenatorBrinks and visit SenatorBrinks.com to sign up for my e-newsletter.

Thornapple River over flood stage, Ada, Michigan, as it passes beneath the covered bridge. I’d appreciate knowing how you use this photo. Thanks.

PFAS UPDATES

Michigan PFAS Standards Adopted

Michigan’s new rules on PFAS standards have been adopted by the Office of the Great Seal.

These rules allow municipalities to integrate PFAS testing into their existing water quality monitoring, and allow the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to redeploy staff and financial resources to other PFAS and emerging-contaminant investigations throughout the state.

In 2018, EGLE tested every municipality, school, and tribal water system in the state, and has maintained quarterly and monthly monitoring over the past two years. With the adoption of these new standards, quarterly sampling requirements of drinking water supplies will be phased in.

A system that exceeds any of the maximum contaminant levels for PFAS according to the rules would immediately be out of compliance under the new law. The provider must then issue a public notice within 30 days, including mandatory language that explains possible adverse health effects to its population. Community water supplies must also report violations in their consumer confidence reports.

To help systems reach compliance, EGLE will enter into an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) with drinking water systems and establish a timeline for achieving compliance. The ACOs will also impose fines if compliance deadlines are missed.

The approval of these rules is a significant win for our state’s residents, especially those whose drinking water contains toxic ‘forever chemicals.’ It is my greatest hope — after years of constant struggle in solidifying these standards — that those residents who have been harmed can begin their healing process. We must continue to exercise diligence as lawmakers to ensure we remain at the forefront of drinking water standards, and do all we can to protect our water resources and the public’s health.

AFFF Firefighting Foam Collection

This June, the state House and Senate passed House Bill 4389, which requires a fire department to immediately report any use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS or Class B foams. This foam is the source of contamination at the Grand Rapids Airport site, along with many other sites across the state. The federal government still requires this foam to be available for use at airports.

The bill also requires the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to establish a collection program for Class B foams.

After years of advocacy from our communities and my push for legislative action on PFAS, I was glad to see my colleagues join me in taking action on PFAS chemicals, and even happier to see it become law with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature in July.

Restitution for Victims of PFAS Contamination

It’s encouraging to finally see action being taken on PFAS, and it’s important for us to remember the reason we have gotten to this point. While we have taken significant steps forward in combating PFAS contamination for future generations, we have friends and family who are still living with uncertainty about their health and financial future because of their exposure to these ‘forever chemicals.’

That is why my office has been working on a solution for those seeking restitution. My legislation would protect anyone with personal or property injuries, and/or damages from emerging contaminants, by creating a discovery rule. This rule still includes a time limit for individuals to bring claims, but it starts at the date the claimant knew (or should have known) the claim accrued, as opposed to current law that starts when the release of the substance happened, even if it was not known to be hazardous at the time.


More news:

Senator Brinks Introduces Bills Strengthening Legal Options to Support PFAS Victims, Hold Polluters More Accountable State Senator Winnie Brinks Justice Equality Opportunity Newsletter Sen. Brinks Introduces Legislation to Improve Postpartum Care, Reduce Health Disparities Among Mothers of Color

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