Michigan Legislature Still at Recess; Active Conversations to Provide Clarity Ongoing
We have called on Legislators to forgive the days and hours requirement for schools during the closure period, but the Legislature was unable to make the needed changes during session last week. Given the importance of preventing the spread of the disease, we understand the challenges presented by holding Legislative session.
AFT Michigan, along with our allies at MEA, AFSCME Council 25, and school management organizations are actively working with legislators, Governor Whitmer, and the Michigan Department of Education to provide a clarity to issues raised for PreK-12 schools given the necessary order that schools be closed to students to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
AFT Michigan participated in a conference call convened by Senate Majority Leader Shirkey which included dozens of representatives of labor and education groups, along with members of the House and Senate of both parties, the Governor’s office, and the Michigan Department of Education. Several issues were discussed during the call, including: School Calendar/Accountability, Student Learning/Testing, School Personnel Matters, and Meal Distribution/Other Non-Instructional Support. We are optimistic that all parties share the goal of addressing these issues efficiently to provide a clear path forward for students, education professionals, and school districts.
Because of the disparity in technology and internet access, and differing abilities of students and families in learning outside of a classroom setting, AFT Michigan supports counting the days and hours schools are closed due to the governor’s closure order as days and hours of instruction, while encouraging districts and educators to provide at-home learning engagement opportunities to students with a focus on equitabilty and quality.
MDE Discusses K-12 On-Line Learning
State Superintendent Michael Rice and Michigan Department of Education staff are working with education stakeholders and virtual learning experts to figure out how best to proceed awith on-line learning. Specifically, MDE is working to establish guidance for state expectations and identifying what supports do some teachers need. MDE staff are also wrestling with the digital divide amongst students and families, given the estimates that up to one-third of students do not have the equipment or connectivity for on-line learning. As the digital divide will take time to address, educators are continuing their phenomenal work of developing and distributing education packets to families. The Governor’s office is an important part of these discussions — how to provide hardware and connectivity and addressing the challenging of reaching ALL students.
As a reminder, we encourage members and families to use AFT’s Share My Lesson repository of education materials. Additionally, Share My Lesson contains a section with links to a host of free online learning tools and resources, available here.
We ask that members with questions and suggestions related to providing quality online learning opportunities for students to please share them with us.
UIA Offers Update on Unemployment System, Provides Tips to Get Help as Soon as Possible
The State of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) today provided updated information for workers affected by COVID-19. Workers are encouraged to apply online at Michigan.gov/UIA or over the phone at 866-500-0017, but due to the tremendous call volume, certain callers may receive a busy signal.
“The UIA is working hard and fast to handle the influx of applications for unemployment benefits as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis. While an unprecedented number of calls and clicks has challenged the system, particularly during peak hours, we want to assure Michiganders that the system is providing emergency financial relief,” said UIA Director Steve Gray. “Our website may be operating a little slower, and phone queues are full resulting in busy signals for some callers, so the UIA is urging patience and recommending that workers go first to the online system at Michigan.gov/UIA.”
In addition, applying online in off-peak hours will expedite the process. The 24-hour website operates faster when there are fewer people on the site at any given time. The UIA also urges Michiganders using the website to expect longer load times. It may take several minutes for a page to load at this time. Users are asked to be patient and not click more than once to reload a page. Filing online remains the fastest way for Michiganders to apply for unemployment benefits.
Off-peak hours: 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Applicants with questions can also access information on the website Michigan.gov/UIA, including frequently asked questions about the process and current challenges due to COVID-19. Checking the website for answers may help alleviate pressure on the phone line. A downloadable handout on the filing process can be found here
“Though it is best to file your claim as efficiently as possible, and we understand residents are eager to receive their checks quickly, the UIA wants to remind Michiganders that the eligibility window to apply has been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date of their work stoppage,” added Gray. “The UIA is shifting as many resources as possible to handle the increase in applications and is exploring further solutions to help Michiganders get the assistance they need as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time.”
State Seeks Financial and Material Donations for Medical Supplies
The State of Michigan is collecting and managing financial, material, and in-kind donations to be used to meet the most pressing needs of Michigan residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All donations will be tracked by the Michigan Community Service Commission, the state’s lead agency on volunteerism.
Donations will support the delivery of critical community-based services and interventions that address and mitigate the impacts created by COVID-19.
- Material donations needed include:
- Hospital gowns
- Sanitizer (hand/wipe)
- Surgical Masks
- Maksa N95-N100
- No-touch thermometer
Donations and questions can be directed to the Michigan Community Service Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 335-4295.
AFT Michigan Coronavirus Resource Center
AFT Michigan is in constant communication with the Governor’s Office, the Michigan Department of Education, and lawmakers about unfolding crisis response efforts. Additionally, the national AFT is working very hard with federal officials and lawmakers. Our union is working hard to support efforts to protect public health and advocate for our education workers, students, families, and communities.
We are updating AFTMichigan.org/covid19, our Coronavirus Resource Center, on a regular basis.
Thank you for all you’re doing to support your families, students, and communities. Please let us know if there are additional ways we can support you or ideas you have for the website by emailing us at email@example.com.