Since COVID-19 first made its appearance in our state in early March, many Michiganders have faced immense medical, economic, and emotional hardship. During this difficult time, my office has been doing everything we can to protect the health, safety, and economic well-being of my constituents. I have introduced legislation to prevent foreclosures and evictions, supported a pay increase for direct care workers, and worked with my colleagues to allocate more than $880 million to the COVID-19 response. My team has been working to connect people to unemployment, volunteering at food distribution sites, and trying to answer the complicated questions about how the Governor’s orders affect the affairs of Washtenaw residents.
It is thanks to the hard work and heroic dedication of countless individuals on the frontlines in hospitals, grocery stores, childcare centers and more, as well as the sacrifices of every person who has socially distanced and stayed home, that we are persevering through this pandemic. Now that we have successfully flattened the curve, I am focusing more of our efforts on recovery. In this phase, I will continue working with my colleagues to revitalize our economy and bring about a new normalcy in the safest and fastest way possible. I will also fight for many of the critical reforms we have made during COVID-19 to be implemented moving forward to ensure that protections for vulnerable populations are always available, not just during times of emergencies.
Our state has come a long way in the last several months and I am confident that we will emerge from this crisis if we continue to work together. As always, my office is open and I am available to answer any questions you have during these uncertain times.
Toll-free: (855) DIST018 or (855) 347-8018
Lansing: (517) 373-2406
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SENATE BILLS 945, 992, 993
SB 945 requires all police officers to receive training in implicit bias, violence de-escalation techniques, and mental health screening before they can be certified as an officer. Also, the bill requires, for the first time in Michigan, that police officers obtain continuing education credits to continue serving. This bill is an important first step in preventing police brutality and reducing violent interactions with police, and I was happy to see it pass the Senate unanimously on June 4th. SB 992 and 993 are also important reforms requiring independent investigations for police misconduct and that police officers intervene to protect people in custody.
Vote at Home
SENATE BILL 909
I believe we need to make voting easier for every person in our state. For this reason, I introduced SB 909, which implements a Vote at Home system in Michigan. This has already been done in five states: Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii. In these places, voter turnout has increased since Vote at Home was introduced, and, under this system, it will become much easier for voters to be informed about the candidates on their ballot. This will increase voter engagement and participation in the democratic process. My bill also preserves the ability for voters to deliver their ballot in person at a clerk’s office or at a secure site designated by local clerks. SB 909 will save millions of dollars for the State of Michigan and our local communities, and will be crucial in protecting our most vulnerable residents from the threat of COVID-19.
Safe Gun Storage
SENATE BILLS 953-955
We must do more to protect our children from accidental and unnecessary gun violence. A recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study found that passing safe gun storage laws reduces firearm fatalities in children. Together with Senators Bayer, Chang, and McMorrow, I introduced legislation to require owners to keep their firearms in a securely locked box or container in a safe location. Failure to safely store a firearm that results in injury or death is now a felony. These bills also exempt firearm safety devices from the sales and use tax through the end of 2021.
SENATE BILL 687
Currently, it is legal for landlords to discriminate against renters who receive income from child support, military service-related disability payments, or housing assistance. I believe this is wrong. An individual’s income source should not influence their ability to secure adequate housing. This bill will prohibit housing discrimination based on an individual’s source of income for veterans, single parents, and families receiving child support.
Emergency Rental Relief Act
SENATE BILLS 912-916
I was proud to join my Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation to create an Emergency Rental Relief Act, which would prohibit foreclosures and evictions in the event of any public health emergency, epidemic, pandemic, or natural disaster. These bills would also prevent late payment or non-payment penalties, and allow tenants to terminate a lease during a declared emergency.
This legislation is crucial to protecting our most vulnerable citizens during any crisis our state might face.
STATE OF MICHIGAN BUDGET
The effects of COVID-19 have put a severe strain on our state’s budget, influencing every sector including education, transportation, and health and human services. The economic loss that has occurred since the virus first hit Michigan is simply unprecedented.
As your State Senator and a member of the Senate Appropropriations Committee, I have worked diligently over the last several months to support our state through this difficult time and ensure that all of our citizens have the resources they need. On May 13, Senate Bill 690 advanced through the Senate, allocating more than $880 million in federal funds for the COVID-19 response.
In addition to this aid, the Michigan Legislature passed House Bill 4729, which appropriated $125M for emergent response activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, with $50M allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services and $75M to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
Moving forward, I believe we can, and should, do even more to support Michigan families. This crisis highlights the importance of public health
and labor protections that I have been advocating for, including: extending unemployment benefits, and requiring all employers to provide earned sick leave and a reasonable minimum wage for low-income Americans who are doing work that is essential.
This pandemic and our response to it has exposed fundamental weaknesses in our economy. When 40% of Americans struggle to survive a $400 emergency, we have a broken economy. I will continue advocating for policies that rebuild the middle class and strengthen our economy by rewarding work before wealth.
Senate Bill 690 Relief Funds
AGRICULTURE & RURAL: $1
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: $193.1
LABOR & ECONOMIC: $214
Licensing & Regulatory Affairs: $1.4
*Funds in Millions
All over Michigan, seniors and disabled residents want to stay at home as long as possible. Home health aides are essential to helping these residents stay safe and out of nursing homes. Governor Whitmer and the legislature recently worked together to pass a new $3-per-hour wage increase for direct care workers for April, May, and June. This increase will be applied to those who provide Medicaid-funded in-home and long-term care services. I have been fighting to increase payments to these workers, who are consistently underappreciated for their hard work. I wrote about this in my last newsletter and I was extremely glad to vote for this policy. COVID-19 has made these jobs even more difficult and dangerous for essential
workers who are putting their lives on the line to help our neighbors and fight the virus.
I believe this raise is long overdue. These workers tirelessly serve their communities for low wages and long hours, and I support continued pay increases for them after the COVID-19 crisis. Last year, I made a budget amendment to boost the pay of every direct care worker to $15-per-hour. While this amendment did not make it in the final budget, I will keep advocating for direct care workers so they receive fair wages for the extremely important work they do.
Across Michigan, we have faced an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims due to COVID-19. My office has been working hard over the last several months to help every constituent who is struggling to receive their benefits. I also recently introduced SB 1000 to make unemployment benefits more generous for every person in our state and will continue to advocate for expanded unemployment in the Senate.
If you or anyone else you know has not yet received benefits owed, or is having issues with receiving them, please contact us using the unemployment page on our website: senatedems.com/irwin/unemployment.
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