As we continue to navigate the changes we’re experiencing as a result of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, AFT Michigan will work hard to convey that information to members in many ways. We will be updating our website at aftmichigan.org/covid19 as soon as information is available, but working to send emails in a digest form a few times a week, as necessary. Of course, if there is vital, time-sensitive information to share, we will send out a special email as soon as possible.
Additionally, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This goes directly to several AFT Michigan staff members, so we can be sure a response is provided quickly.
In this digest, you will find the following articles:
- A Special Message from Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist to AFT Michigan members
- Gov. Whitmer Extends Stay Home, Stay Safe Order
- Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist to Chair Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities
- Michigan is First State to Provide Food to Families Affected by School Closings Caused by COVID-19
- Learning at a Distance Resources from MDE
- Best Practices for Safety for Schools Providing Meals During COVID-19 Outbreak
- MDE Issues Guidance on Waivers for Professional Learning Requirements for Certificate Renewal and School Counselors
- Implementation of Suspension of Federal Student Loan Payments and Interest
Special Message for AFT Michigan Members from Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, whose children attend Detroit Public Schools, recorded a message and asked us to share it with you. The work done by all school employees is not going unnoticed. LG Gilchrist makes it clear that he and Governor Gretchen Whitmer appreciate the work being done by teachers and school support staff to serve Michigan students — and that they’ve got our backs. Thank you to LG Gilchrist for taking the time to send this message. Click here to watch the video.
Gov. Whitmer Extends Stay Home, Stay Safe Order
Governor Whitmer signed executive order 2020-42, extending her prior “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order through April 30. As with the prior order, Executive Order 2020-42 limits gatherings and travel and requires all workers who are not necessary to sustain or protect life to stay home. Executive Order 2020-42 also imposes more stringent limitations on stores to reduce foot traffic, slow the spread of the coronavirus, and save lives.
“Michigan has the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, and we’re still on the upswing. We must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread and protect our families,” said Governor Whitmer. “Data shows that most Michiganders are doing their part by staying home and staying safe. That’s good, but we must keep it up. When we do, we can save lives and shorten the amount of time we’re working through this crisis, which will be good for our families and good for our economy in the long-run. We can also protect critical infrastructure workers like doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, and child care workers. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that people stay home and stay safe.”
AFT Michigan full supports the extension of the Stay Home order.
“Governor Whitmer is taking fact-based, decisive action to slow the spread of this disease and save lives,” said AFT Michigan President David Hecker in a statement. “We know this will create further financial hardship for Michigan residents, especially lower-income families. We commend Governor Whitmer and the state departments working so hard to provide unemployment insurance benefits and financial assistance programs to families. This public health crisis is disproportionately hurting people of color and people living in poverty, and we are glad Governor Whitmer is creating a task force to address these disparities.”
Click here to read the full Executive Order. https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387-90499_90705-525182–,00.html
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist to Chair Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities
On Thursday, April 9, Governor Gretchen Whitmer created the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force, chaired by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, will consist of leaders across state government and health care professionals from communities most impacted by the spread of coronavirus. The task force will hold it’s first meeting this week.
As of Thursday, over 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan are African Americans, but only 14% of Michiganders are African Americans. The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities will provide the governor with recommendations on how to address this disparity as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state.
“This virus is holding a mirror up to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in this country,” said Governor Whitmer. “From basic lack of access to health care, transportation, and protections in the workplace, these inequities hit people of color and vulnerable communities the hardest. This task force will help us start addressing these disparities right now as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.”
“We know that generations of racial disparities and inequality has a detrimental impact on the lives of people across the state,” Lt. Governor Gilchrist said. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown this inequity to be particularly true, especially in the Black community, where the health of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted. That’s why we are taking immediate action to assemble some of the greatest minds to tackle this racial injustice now and in the future.”
Michigan is First State to Provide Food to Families Affected by School Closings Caused by COVID-19
Michigan has become the first state in the country to gain federal approval of a program that will provide nutritious food to children who were affected by school closings due to COVID-19. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) provides temporary funding to address emergency food needs and avert financial hardship for families affected by the pandemic.
The food assistance benefits will go to Michigan families with students ages 5-18 who are enrolled in the Michigan Department of Education program for students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and will reach approximately 895,000 students. This includes families currently receiving Food Assistance Program benefits as well as those not currently enrolled in the program.
These additional benefits will fortify and supplement the important efforts that local school districts will continue to put forth, providing nutritious school meals to children at over 2,000 stationary locations and nearly 700 mobile sites throughout Michigan.
Families not currently receiving food assistance benefits will receive an EBT card. Eligible families not currently receiving food assistance benefits will receive in the mail a pre-loaded Electronic Benefits Transaction (EBT) card – known as a Bridge Card – issued under the name of the oldest student in the household.
Families currently receiving food assistance benefits will receive additional benefits on their EBT Bridge Cards. Eligible families currently receiving food assistance benefits will be issued a supplement to their existing benefits. Supplemental benefits can be used as families would typically use their EBT card. Families who already receive food assistance benefits should begin receiving their additional benefits next week – with the payments being staggered over a 10-day period.
Learning at a Distance Resources
The Michigan Department of Education developed and produced a resource guide for educators – Learning at a Distance Resources – written largely by Michigan educators. The document’s creation was led by MDE and a task force of education leaders in the state, including AFT Michigan President David Hecker.
Best Practices for School Food Service Providing Meals During COVID-19 Outbreak
The Michigan Department of Education and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development released a guidance document on best practices for preventing disease spread while providing food service to families.
The recommended best practices are intended to:
- help school nutrition and transportation personnel make informed decisions about COVID-19
- minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure to staff
- minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure to children and families receiving meals
- assist school districts and community partners as they continue to operate essential nutrition services for children and families
Click here to read the document. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Best_Practices_SFSP_686195_7.pdf
MDE Issues Guidance on Waivers for Professional Learning Requirements for Certificate Renewal and School Counselors
On Thursday, MDE announced waivers of required district professional learning and professional learning hours required for certificate renewal for educators and professional learning for school counselors in response to Executive Order 2020-35.
For all educators:
- The requirement for any teacher within his or her third year of employment to receive at least 15 days of professional development within the teacher’s first three years of employment if the requirement could not be completed due to COVID-19 or accompanying response efforts has been waived.
- The requirement for a district to provide five days of teacher professional development for the 2019-2020 school year has been waived.
- The total number of hours required for renewal for educator credentials expiring June 30, 2020 is reduced from 150 to 120 hours. This ensures that educators who were unable to participate in scheduled district provided professional learning due to the COVID-19 emergency may still renew or progress toward certificates and licenses.
For school counselors:
- Individuals who hold a School Counselor License (SCL) or teaching certificate with a School Counselor (NT) endorsement expiring June 30, 2020 may renew their credential regardless of whether they have completed at least 25 hours of professional development covering counseling about the college preparation and selection process and at least 25 hours of professional development covering career counseling.
- This reduces the total number of hours required to renew or progress toward school counselor credentials expiring June 30, 2020 renewal to 100 instead of 150.
The Michigan Department of Education is working diligently to determine how best to change procedures to implement these directives. The mechanisms to allow individuals with credentials expiring June 30, 2020 with reduced professional learning hours will take time to enact. More information about the process will be provided when it becomes available.
Implementation of Suspension of Federal Student Loan Payments and Interest
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) — a law aimed at providing emergency relief to mitigate the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic —provides several protections for federal student loan borrowers including suspending all payments and reducing interest rates to zero percent through September 30, 2020.
- Protections offered under the CARES Act only apply to federal loans owned by the Department of Education (i.e., Direct Loans and ED-held FFELP Loans). Commercially held FFELP loans, Perkins loans, and private student loans are not covered under the law. Below, you can learn more about what types of loans you have.
- If you have federal student loans covered under the CARES Act, you will receive the following protections through September 30, 2020:
- All payments will be suspended on covered federal student loans. Your student loan servicer will automatically suspend all payments due for the next six months. You are NOT required to take any action to have the payment suspension applied to your loans. HOWEVER, if you are enrolled in an automatic payment program, it is recommended that you ensure you turn off any automatic payment feature.
- Borrowers will continue to receive credit towards loan forgiveness, including those enrolled in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) loan forgiveness, as long as you meet all the other requirements to receive credit. For example, a borrower pursuing PSLF would still need to be working full time for a qualified employer during the suspension period.
- Interest rates on eligible federal loans will be reduced to zero percent. The interest rate on all of your eligible federal student loans will be reduced to zero percent, and this interest rate reduction will be backdated to March 13, 2020. Any payments made after March 13, 2020 will be applied to any previously accrued interest, and then to your principal balance.
For more information, click here to download the AFT’s document on student loan information or visit forgivemystudentdebt.org. (http://www.forgivemystudentdebt.org/covid-19-student-borrower-resources/)