Senate District 29 Update

March 19, 2021

Hello Neighbors, 

On the one-year anniversary of the pandemic’s arrival in Michigan, there is much to be hopeful for. Families now have the option to send their children safely back to school, and the Biden administration just sent a large COVID-19 relief package our way. Also, three COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized and available in limited supplies in West Michigan and throughout the U.S. 

Michiganders 50+ are now eligible to be vaccinated, and those 16+ will be eligible for a vaccine beginning April 5th, so please visit VaccinateWestMichigan.org for information on the vaccines, and how to get them. 

It is still important to mask up when in public when not eating or drinking, wash your hands, physically distance and avoid large gatherings, even after you are vaccinated. 

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

Warm regards,

Winnie Brinks
State Senator
29th District


In This Issue 


Legislative Update 

Expanding Pregnancy-related Medicaid 

Close to 50% of births in Michigan are covered by Medicaid, which insures pregnant women with incomes up to 195% of the federal poverty level. Among those births covered by Medicaid, 75% of the deaths related to pregnancy complications occurred at the end of Medicaid coverage, or after coverage expired. This is why this week, I reintroduced my bill to extend pregnancy-related Medicaid from 60 days postpartum to one year postpartum. 

According to the Kaiser Foundation, while postpartum care has traditionally centered around one clinical visit six to eight weeks after delivery, there has been a paradigm shift to emphasize that postpartum care is an ongoing process that typically requires multiple visits and follow-up care that may last a year or longer. This is particularly important for those who experience pregnancy complications or have chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes. 

Mental health is also a major concern during and after pregnancy. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends screening during the postpartum visit — and initiation of treatment or referral to a mental health provider when a woman is identified with depression — the need for this kind of care often exceeds the 60 days of postpartum coverage currently covered by pregnancy-related Medicaid. Senate Bill 252 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.


Making Amusement Parks Safer 

I also introduced a bill this week to improve oversight of Michigan’s amusement parks.

Senate Bill 253 puts more teeth into the permit that owners must have, like the requirement that they maintain records showing employees have been trained in both the operation of the equipment and emergency response procedures. These clear guidelines must be met, or the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) can deny, suspend, or revoke a permit. 

This legislation was developed in response to the story of Rachel Gibbs, who in August 2015, went to AJ’s Family Fun Center in West Michigan with her family and needed medical intervention after the scarf she wore got caught in a go-kart’s wheel and snapped her windpipe. She was not adequately warned about the danger her scarf posed, and staff were also not adequately prepared to treat such a medical emergency after it happened. First aid was attempted, but the injury left her without higher brain function. Rachel passed away this past January. Court and state records indicated an ill-prepared park and a perfunctory review after the accident. Management at the park never even expressed remorse until contacted by the press. 

This legislation is an important step toward preparing amusement park owners for emergencies and helping ensure situations like what happened to Rachel are prevented in the future. Senate Bill 253 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform.


Deadline Approaches for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans 

State officials and leaders from the Michigan Bankers Association, Community Bankers of Michigan, the Michigan Credit Union League, and the National Business League are urging Michigan’s minority-owned or underserved businesses to apply for forgivable loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) before the March 31, 2021 deadline. Participating banks, credit unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions are available to support new and existing small business customers as they navigate through the PPP process. 

Small business owners may wish to pursue a PPP loan through a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which provides access to financial products and services for residents and businesses in low-income communities to expand economic opportunity. CDFIs offer specialized customer service to underserved communities, including those customers with limited or no credit history or those that require additional support. 

To find a participating lender, small businesses should visit the SBA’s Lender Match or search for a participating lender in their area. Consumers are encouraged to call or check the website of the lender before visiting to learn about additional steps being taken to protect consumer and employee safety during the pandemic, including offering services by appointment or online.


Deadline Approaches for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans 

State officials and leaders from the Michigan Bankers Association, Community Bankers of Michigan, the Michigan Credit Union League, and the National Business League are urging Michigan’s minority-owned or underserved businesses to apply for forgivable loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) before the March 31, 2021 deadline. Participating banks, credit unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions are available to support new and existing small business customers as they navigate through the PPP process. 

Small business owners may wish to pursue a PPP loan through a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which provides access to financial products and services for residents and businesses in low-income communities to expand economic opportunity. CDFIs offer specialized customer service to underserved communities, including those customers with limited or no credit history or those that require additional support. 

To find a participating lender, small businesses should visit the SBA’s Lender Match or search for a participating lender in their area. Consumers are encouraged to call or check the website of the lender before visiting to learn about additional steps being taken to protect consumer and employee safety during the pandemic, including offering services by appointment or online.


Apply for Home Heating Credit by Sept. 30 

Michiganders who need help with their winter energy bills can now apply for the Home Heating Credit, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. Low-income, deaf, disabled or blind persons, disabled veterans, and senior citizens may qualify, and applicants are not required to file a Michigan individual income tax return to receive the credit. In 2020, the state Treasury Department processed more than 270,400 Home Heating Credit claims, totaling more than $58.3 million. The average credit was $216. 

Individuals can apply for the Home Heating Credit electronically through the e-File system and all applications must be received by Sept. 30, 2021. 

Forms and instructional materials are available on the internet at Michigan.gov/IncomeTax or by calling (517) 636-4486. Forms are also available at many libraries, Northern Michigan post offices, and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) offices across the state. 

Additional information can be found on the Home Heating Credit website. For more information about the resources available for heating assistance, go to Michigan.gov/HeatingAssistance.


Free Wi-Fi in Select Grand Rapids Parks 

Just in time for the warmer weather, the City of Grand Rapids has added free Wi-Fi at the following 10 parks: Ah-Nab-Awen, Belknap, Briggs, Fish Ladder, Garfield, MacKay-Jaycees, Martin Luther King Jr., Richmond, Riverside, and Roosevelt Park. 

Each Wi-Fi device can reach up to 900 feet and can handle between 30 and 50 devices at a time. Read more about the pilot program on the Grand Rapids Parks and Rec Facebook page. The equipment purchase and installation were offered to local townships and cities by Kent County, and the program is currently funded through December. Following the pilot period, the City will determine whether to continue the program based on funding availability, usage and community support. 

More information can be found here.


Virtual Coffee Hour TODAY 

I hope you can join me for a virtual coffee hour today, March 19, between noon and 1 p.m., on Zoom. This is a great opportunity to discuss important issues in our district from the comfort and safety of your own home. 

To register, please email my office at SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov and be sure to put “Virtual Coffee Hour” in the subject line. We will send you the link to the meeting before the start of the event. 

I look forward to chatting with you and hope to see you online! 

CONTACT US

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 SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov, as you normally would, and we will do our best to avoid any interruption of service. 

I am still working diligently and engaging with folks in our community, but all in-person events have been canceled for the time being. You can follow me on Facebook or check my website at SenatorBrinks.com for more information on any future events.


HELPFUL LINKS 


More news:

Senate District 29 Update Senate District 29 Update Sen. Brinks Introduces Legislation to Protect Public Health Officials

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