Throughout this pandemic, I have remained committed to distributing helpful information to our community members and advocating for COVID-19 relief that would assist seniors, workers, and businesses in combating this virus. As we continue vaccination efforts, it is critically important that we work together and maintain social distancing best practices.
Please remember to wear a mask, practice social distancing and limit gatherings, and stay home — if you can — to protect yourself, your family, friends, and neighbors. Hope is on the horizon and I believe that we will get through this difficult time.
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Health care professionals and public servants have been hard at work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure that everyone has access to important information and resources. Do your part to stay safe and stop the spread of this virus by wearing a mask when you go out, staying at least six feet apart from others, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and washing your hands often.
Visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus to find the latest information, a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and testing sites near you, or call the COVID-19 Hotline at (888) 535-6136.
For more information specific to Kalamazoo County, contact the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department at (269) 373-5200 or visit kalcounty.com/hcs/covid19.php.
Download the MI COVID Alert app
As part of the state’s continued efforts to slow the increasing spread of COVID-19, the free and voluntary MI COVID Alert app can let you know whether you’ve been recently exposed to COVID-19. The app works in conjunction with traditional contact tracing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing, but is not a replacement for these precautions or participation in contact tracing.
When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they receive a randomly generated PIN from the local health department or State of Michigan that allows them to anonymously share their test results on the app. A notification from the app means you were possibly within six feet of the positive person for at least 15 minutes.
Every Michigander is encouraged to download MI COVID Alert, which is available in the Apple and Google app stores.
‘Be Kind to Your Mind’ and seek help
This year has been a difficult year for many Michiganders, which is why the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging people to Be Kind to Your Mind. Confidential counseling is available 24/7 by calling 888-535-6136 and pressing “8”, or residents can visit Michigan.gov/StayWell for more information and resources.
On Dec. 11, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced a vaccine distribution plan that follows recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and established a goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders by the end of 2021. Health officials estimate that by late Spring, enough COVID-19 doses will be available for everyone who is recommended to receive it.
Distribution of the vaccine will be in a phased approach — with an emphasis on both ensuring the continued functioning of the health care system and essential services in the community, and protecting people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
Michiganders should continue to wear masks, social distance from those not in their household, and wash their hands often, even after receiving the vaccine.
For more information, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine.
COVID Relief Legislation
$465M Supplemental Budget Bill Passed
On Friday, Dec. 18, the Senate passed Senate Bill 748, which allocates $465 million in state funding to address needs related to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
I voted in support of this bipartisan, supplemental budget bill that will support COVID-19 treatment and testing efforts, and provide relief to Michigan’s small businesses, workers, and those still struggling with unemployment. While this provides some help, there is much more that needs to be done and we must have meaningful relief out of Washington in the coming days.
Some distributions allocated in SB 748 include:
The bill was sent over to the House of Representatives for a vote on Monday, Dec. 21, where it was also approved, and now heads to the governor’s desk for signing.
Kalamazoo County is a resilient community, and we stick together in difficult times. Here are just a few ways to get help or connect people you know to resources in a time of need:
Self-isolation information and resources from KPL
Kalamazoo Public Library has gathered a central listing of many resources available in our local community including food, childcare, student learning tools and more.
Dial 2-1-1 for help navigating through available emergency resources.
School districts around Kalamazoo County are continuing to distribute free lunch to students while school buildings are closed. The Kalamazoo Gazette has a round-up here.
Small Business – Administration Loans
Gov. Whitmer is seeking an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration for the state and has begun the process to receive the declaration from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Once granted, small businesses in qualifying areas will be able to access low-interest loans through the SBA. In the interim, small businesses that could benefit from those loans are encouraged to start collecting the information they’ll need to complete and submit their application. That information can be found here.
Small Business – Tax Payments
On March 18th, the Michigan Treasury Department announced that places scheduled to make monthly sales, use and withholding tax payments on March 20th can postpone until April 20th. All penalties and interest will be waived for 30 days.
HELP WITH UTILITIES
If you are having a problem paying your heating or electric bill, Consumers Energy and Indiana Michigan Power (AEP) have developed plans to assist you. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, both companies are suspending all shutoffs for non-payment for low-income customers effective immediately. Consumers Energy customers in the Senior Winter Protection Program will have their end dates automatically extended to May 3rd.
For Consumers Energy customers, if you are unsure if you qualify for a payment assistance plan or have any questions, please call 1-800-477-5050.
Indiana Michigan Power customers in financial distress should call 1-800-311-6424 for guidance.
We know that many around our state and country are struggling with unemployment caused directly or indirectly by COVID-19. If you are struggling to access unemployment benefits, please use this Unemployment Assistance form to contact my office so that we can begin an inquiry on your behalf.
POSTPONEMENT OF PUBLIC EVENTS & OFFICE CLOSURES
In response to the spread of coronavirus and out of an abundance of caution to protect public health, my legislative office locations are closed and staff are working remotely to assist constituents. I conduct monthly Virtual Coffee Hour events, which you can follow on my Events page or by signing up for my E-Newsletter . We are working hard to liaison with state departments to help answer questions you have about the state’s disaster response. You can still contact me and make your voice heard.
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