December 10, 2021
This holiday season looks much different from last year. With the widespread availability of effective vaccines, testing, and what we know about the protection wearing a mask affords us, we are all better equipped to safely gather for the holidays if we choose to. If you still need a COVID-19 vaccine, including a booster, please visit vaccines.gov to find a vaccine location near you.
This will be my last e-news of 2021, so I’ve included some information I think you’ll find useful, as well as an update on some of the bills I’ve been working on. These last few weeks of the year will be extra busy as we work to make progress on our legislative priorities. In my next e-news, I’ll do a deeper examination of the work we’ve done on these issues, which will include a breakdown of any supplemental budgets we’ve made progress on.
As always, please continue to look out for your friends and neighbors, and be patient with one another. I wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. For the latest updates, I’d encourage you to follow me on Facebook.
Protecting Our Public Health Officials
This week, I introduced legislation to protect public health workers from rising threats of violence amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by increasing penalties for anyone who threatens to assault, or assaults, a public health official. Senate Bills 781 and 782 would make it a misdemeanor to threaten physical harm, and felonies for an assault and an assault causing serious impairment.
Throughout the worst pandemic in a century, Michigan’s public health officials have been working tirelessly to carry out their constitutional duty to protect the public. This brave work should be celebrated, not derided. However, like many public servants, their jobs have become increasingly difficult due to misinformation campaigns and threats of physical harm to them and their families. Earlier this year, the Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department was nearly run off the road hours after issuing a mask mandate for the school year.
Unfortunately, recent reports indicate this problem is not limited just to Kent County, and that many public health officials have even gone so far as to resign because of the seriousness of threats associated with doing their job. A clear message needs to be sent that “enough is enough”.
Adding a Seat to the Kent County Probate Court
This week, I introduced a bill to add a seat to the Kent County Probate Court. This need was identified in the latest State Court Administrative Office report, which examines changes in judicial workloads and makes recommendations for the most efficient use, and necessary number of, trial court and Court of Appeals judges across the state. Seats must be added through legislative action, and so I was proud to take sponsor this legislation. This addition will make a big difference in keeping our courts efficient and judicious.
On Monday, Dec. 6, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced the launch of MI Benefits Center, an innovative approach to assist Michiganders in applying for much-needed food assistance, connecting families to benefits, and lowering costs for Michigan families.
The MI Benefits Center will have a team of highly trained benefits specialists provide personalized phone-based application assistance to remove barriers that prevent some Michiganders from accessing food support. In the next year, the MI Benefits Center will invest up to $1.2 million to support Michiganders through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and philanthropic organizations.
Recently, the MI Benefits Center began mailing letters to older adults and others who are likely eligible for food assistance benefits but who are not enrolled in the program. The letters will direct individuals to call a toll-free phone number for free assistance or to apply directly at Michigan.gov/MIBridges. When people who receive the letter call into the MI Benefits Center, they will be connected with a benefits outreach specialist who will screen them for benefits, offer to assist with the collection of required application documents, and submit applications on their behalf. This personalized attention may help relieve pressure for people who struggle with the application, streamline the process and increase the success rate of those applications.
It is important to note that the phone number is only for people who receive letters from the MI Benefits Center. Michiganders who don’t receive a letter can apply for food assistance and other public assistance benefits at Michigan.gov/MIBridges.
On Tuesday, Dec. 7, Kevin Clinton, the director of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) sent a letter to Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) Director Anita Fox, detailing the anticipated refund of $3 billion of its $5 billion projected surplus, resulting in refunds of $400 per vehicle to Michiganders who had purchased auto insurance.
The MCCA’s analysis determined that approximately $3 billion of the surplus could be returned to policyholders while ensuring continuity of care for auto accident survivors. The refund plan submitted to DIFS Monday by the MCCA will return money to every Michigander with an auto insurance policy in force as of 11:59 p.m. on October 31, 2021. Eligible consumers do not need to take action in order to receive a refund.
The surplus funds will be turned over by the MCCA to the insurance companies operating in Michigan by March 9, 2022, and the insurers will be responsible for issuing checks to eligible policyholders. DIFS will direct insurers to issue refund checks to consumers as expeditiously as possible, but in no event later than 60 days after the transfer of funds.
Additional information about the auto insurance reform law, including the uninsured driver amnesty period, which expires before January 1, 2022, can be found at Michigan.gov/AutoInsurance. Frequently asked questions, tips for shopping for insurance, and an insurance locator to help find licensed agents are also available.
This week is National Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson encourages residents of all ages to take advantage of state resources for safe driving at Michigan.gov/AgingDriver, which was designed to help aging drivers find information about the following topics:
Recognized for excellence by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the website was developed through a collaboration of public and private agencies to promote safety and mobility for Michigan’s aging adults. It regularly includes the following resources:
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 SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov, as you normally would, and we will do our best to avoid any interruption of service.
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