Coronavirus Resource Center

We are proud of the work our members across the state do every day for our students, and we are grateful for the extraordinary commitment AFT Michigan members shown throughout this crisis to protect the health and safety of students, families, education professionals and our communities.

To that end, we want to continue to provide you with as much information as possible to guide you in the coming weeks as everyone works to slow the spread of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).  We will continually be updating this website with new information and resources as they become available. The National AFT also has resources on its website at AFT.org/coronavirus.

AFT Michigan is in frequent communication with the Governor’s Office, the Michigan Department of Education and members of the Legislature, as we work to support efforts to protect public health and ensure member rights are respected.

Below you will find information on various issues our members have raised, but is by no means exhaustive. Please contact your local union representative with any additional questions or concerns.

Message from LG Garlin Gilchrist to AFT Michigan Members

Thank You from LG Garlin Gilchrist

The COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing. We don’t know the extent of its ultimate impact, but it will continue to be a health as well as economic disrupter for some time. It’s important to understand the basics so you can take action to protect yourself, your family, your colleagues and community

AFT has prepared a document based on information from the Centers for Disease Control on:

  • Transmission and Symptoms
  • What to do if you get sick
  • What to expect during the pandemic

Click here to download AFT’s COVID-19: The Basics.

Guidance for AFT Members: What Are My Rights during a State of Emergency?

The U.S. Constitution vests the national government with a set of specific enumerated powers. The rest of the powers are reserved to states, with public health traditionally falling under a state government’s powers. In actuality, the federal government’s ability to bring together resources and technical expertise and work to scale on issues that cross state lines have made it an essential partner in responding to public health crises. And states have in many instances given local governments their own sets of powers and abilities to respond to public health crises. The result is that the policy response—coming from all three levels of government can appear confusing. But state governments have important and clear responsibilities apart from the federal government and set the parameters for local response.

When a state, city or county is hit by a natural disaster, a security threat or an infectious disease outbreak, all states have mechanisms that allow government officials to declare a state of emergency, thereby activating powers and resources that are unavailable in non-emergencies. Every state gives its governor the authority to declare one or more types of emergencies, and these emergency declarations have various implications for AFT members:

  • Activation of state emergency response plans and mutual aid agreements
  • Activation of a state emergency operations center and incident command system
  • Authority to expend funds and deploy personnel, equipment, supplies and stockpiles
  • Activation of statutory immunities and liability protections for those involved in response activities.
  • Streamlining of state administrative procedures, such as procurement requirements
  • Suspension and waiver of statutes, rules and regulations.

Click here to read “Guidance for AFT Members: What Are My Rights during a State of Emergency?”

On March 23, Governor Whitmer issued the Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives Executive Order, requiring all non-essential businesses to close and workers to stay home to prevent the spread of coroanvirus. The order takes effect at 12:01 am March 24 and is in effect through April 13.

Additionally, Gov. Whitmer extended the order for all schools to remain closed through April 13.

School employees who are needed to perform essential functions at school buildings, despite being closed to students, must still report to work if asked by their employer.

Governor Whitmer also issued a press release clarifying that schools providing food service to students and families is an essential function. Governor Whitmer’s Press Secretary Tiffany Brown made this statement: “Gov. Whitmer is committed to ensuring that Michigan students have access to the food they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the governor’s executive order, K-12 school food services are considered critical infrastructure and should continue. The governor deeply appreciates the vital work that our frontline school employees are doing every day to ensure that our kids have the food they need while the order is in effect.”

YOU CAN:

  • Go to the grocery store or pick up take-out food.
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up a needed prescription.
  • Engage in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, running, biking.
  • Go to the hospital or secure any care necessary to address a medical emergency or to preserve your health or the health of a loved one.
  • Fill your car with gas.
  • Return to Michigan to a home or place of residence from outside the State.
  • Leave the State for a home or residence elsewhere.
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian for needed medical care.

YOU MAY NOT:

  • Leave the home to work unless your employer designates you as a critical infrastructure worker.
  • Participate in any public gatherings.
  • Visit someone in the hospital, nursing home, or other residential care facilities (with limited exceptions).
  • Go to the mall or to restaurants.

BUSINESSES THAT REMAIN OPEN FOR IN-PERSON WORK MUST TAKE AGGRESSIVE STEPS TO MINIMIZE THE VIRUS’S SPREAD. THEY MUST:

  • Promote remote work to the fullest extent possible.
  • Restrict the number of workers present in-person on the job.
  • Keep employees at least six feet from one another to the maximum extent possible and enabling social distancing for customers who are standing in line.
  • Any other social distancing practices and mitigation measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Higher Education school closures and moves to online learning vary by institution. If you are unclear on the plan at your university/college, most institutions have posted the steps they are taking on the homepage of their website and communicated these directives through emails to employees. Union leaders are working with administration on these policies. You should contact your union representative if you are not getting communications from your institution’s administration or the union concerning the implementation plans at your institution. 

AFT Michigan has compiled guidance on many issues arising from this sudden change in working conditions for local leaders. Members should work through their local union representatives and leadership on their individual concerns given the significant variance between institutions and departments. 

Some of the issues being addressed include:

  • No penalty/no sick deductions for days missed because of the coronavirus policy
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Online training resources
  • Virtual office hour options
  • Voiding of evaluations for this semester:
  • Extra pay or flex time when moving to online classes requires more work.
  • Avenues for online-experienced members to be paid “mentors” in online instruction
  • Assurance that necessary technology and internet access are available for all

AFT and AAUP partnered to create this guidance document: Principles for Higher Education Response to COVID-19.

AFT FAQ Available for International Workers and Students

The response to the global coronavirus pandemic has upended all of our lives, but it is especially difficult for those of us who are international workers and students. The effort of dealing with suspended classes, closed campuses and the move to online coursework is complicated by a tangle of shifting immigration requirements put in place by several different departments of a xenophobic and racist Trump administration. 

We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions that will be useful for both international students and international workers in higher education. Please note: Events are moving rapidly, and the answers to these questions are changing even as we are writing this document. To address the fluidity of the situation, we are creating this as a Google Doc that the legal and higher education staff at the American Federation of Teachers can update in real time as events warrant. Please bookmark this document and check back in as you hear about changes in immigration requirements. If you have questions or concerns that are not currently addressed in this document, or have information you think we should add, please email us at highered@aft.org, and we will update it as soon as we can.

Upfront we want to flag that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has put out various guidance documents (many of which are cited below) that provide important information on how it will interpret current rules and regulations and which requirements it will waive due to the COVID-19 crisis. These documents can be found here under the last section, “Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-Certified Schools.” ICE has said that it will continue to post new guidance on that site.

Click here to read the FAQ document.

Executive Order 2020-35: Closing School Buildings for Face-to-Face Instruction

Governor Whitmer ordered the closure of all PreK-12 school buildings, beginning March 16. On April 2, she extended that order through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Main Components of Executive Order No. 2020-35

  • Closure: School building are closed for the remainder of the year, unless the Governor indicates it is safe to reopen.
  • Days/hours Forgiveness: 13 days are forgiven due to state-mandated closure, above allowable “snow days” and allow an additional 5 professional development days to count toward instructional time.
  • Continuity of Learning Plans: Districts must develop a plan for the remainder of the school year to provide at-home learning opportunities for students, and submit an application for approval by the district’s ISD or charter school authorizer. Upon approval by the ISD/Authorizer, will submit plans to MDE and the “waiver” for remainder days/hours will be automatically granted. The plan must include:
    • Description of plan and type of delivery for continued instruction
    • Commitment to continue providing food distribution, pay all school employees, continue providing mental health services, and support efforts to provide childcare for essential workforce
    • If the plan relies on some online instruction, the district should ensure every student has access to an appropriate device with an ability to connect to the internet. Students and families should not be penalized for an inability to fully participate in the plan. Districts may partner with each other or with external organizations/vendors in order to implement the plan.
    • Districts must involve teachers and staff in development of the plan.
  • Staff Pay and Benefits: The Executive Order requires ALL staff be paid, and continue receiving their health care and retirement benefits through out the closure period. The EO provides the necessary funding for districts to pay ALL staff from the day the school closure order began (March 11) through the end of the school year.
  • Attendance: Waive 75 percent attendance rule since the state emergency was declared.
  • Facilities: District facilities may be used by public school employees and contractors to facilitate distance learning and meal delivery, with only absolutely necessary work being done in-person, and social distancing guidelines are followed
  • School Calendar: Districts are allowed to adopt a balanced calendar for the 2019-2020 school year, or to begin the 2020-2021 school year before Labor Day without requiring an additional waiver; calendar and schedule are still a subject of collective bargaining.
  • Assessments: All spring assessments are cancelled, and all laws requiring standardized testing data are suspended (A-F school grading, Third Grade Reading retention, educator evaluation, Partnership District goals for this year). SAT is postponed for rising seniors until the fall, other high school students will be able to take PSAT in the fall.
  • Educator Evaluations: Suspends requirements for educator evaluations for this school year.
  • Teacher Certification and Continuing Education: Gives Superintendent additional flexibility to issue initial educator certifications and renewals, to address barriers caused by COVID-19.
  • High School Graduation/Michigan Merit Curriculum: Districts must develop a plan/process to give grades to seniors, award credits needed for graduation, certify transcripts, and confer diplomas.  Districts encouraged to award credit for prior learning/content mastery and/or utilize project based learning, a portfolio/resume approach, or a culminating activity.
  • Special Education: Districts must follow guidance from US Department of Education, and support students and their IEPs to the fullest extent possible, but recognizes that districts will need to provide compensatory services to students with special needs when the emergency is lifted. Encourages MDE to seek additional guidance, flexibility, and waivers from the US Department of Education related to students with IEPs and 504 plans.
  • MPSERS: School closure will not affect contributions or accrual of service credits for MPSERS.
  • Collective Bargaining: Collective bargaining agreements must not be infringed by implementation of the Executive Order.
  • PPE and Supplies: Permits and encourages districts to donate unused PPE, cleaning supplies and other materials to their local emergency management program.

The full executive order can be viewed here.

Governor Whitmer Releases FAQ Related to School Building Closure Order
Given the many questions arising out of the Governor’s Executive Order closing school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year and requirement that schools develop continuity of learning plans, administration officials prepared and released an FAQ document, which can be found here: EO 2020-35 FAQ.

Pay for Staff During School Closure Periods

In Executive Order 2020-35, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered all school staff must be paid and continue receiving health care and retirement benefits in order for schools to be granted waivers for the closure days.

MDE Releases Guidance on Using Title Funds During Closure

The Michigan Department of Education released a memo to address common questions raised by school districts related to using Title funds during closure. The memo clearly states that local school districts and ISDs may use federal funds to compensate employees who are currently paid from these sources.

In other words, if a district has an employee currently paid using Title funds, it may continue to use Title funds to pay that employee during the period of closure.

Click here to read the full memo.

Office of Retirement Services Instructs Districts to Continue Reporting Employee Service Time and Making MPSERS Payments During School Closure

The Michigan Office of Retirement Services sent a bulletin to all employers stating “it has been decided that members will still receive retirement credit during this time. Continue to report and make payments to ORS as usual according to your pay schedule.”

Educator Certificate and School Counselor License Renewal Waivers

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 PreK-12 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.

Special Education Services During Closure

A number of our members working with people with special needs have expressed concerns about best serving students during a long school closure and meeting state and federal deadlines.

AFT has prepared guidance for educators working with students with disabilities which can be downloaded here.

The Michigan Department of Education is working hard to provide guidance to district and receive waivers from the federal government to allow for flexibility. MDE has prepared several memos on these topics, and three of particular interest are available below.

More Detailed Special Education Guidance Released by Michigan Dept. of Education

We know that closing schools for face-to-face learning for the remainder of the school year is the right decision to protect public health, which means schools and educators must do everything they can to mitigate the resulting educational gaps. This will require compensatory education in future school years, particularly for students with special needs. In the meantime, the Michigan Department of Education has produced a guidance document to assist schools and educators as they try to navigate providing access to learning engagement for students with special needs, particularly in the areas of compliance with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE).

Guidance for Compliance With IDEA and MARSE During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C (Early On) during K-12 School Closure due to Executive Orders 2020-11 and 2020-21 (COVID-19)

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Office of Early Childhood Development and Family Education, has received a number of inquiries requesting clarification on the impact for Early On of Governor Whitmer’s March 12, 2020, Executive Order 2020-11 and the March 23, 2020, Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19). These executive orders include all Early On services, including Michigan Mandatory Special Education Services (MMSE) for infants and toddlers, therefore all services must be discontinued for the duration of the closure. All Early On services provided by an Intermediate School District (ISD), including services provided through an agreement or contract with a Local Education Agency (LEA) or any other organization/agency or individual, are to be discontinued for the duration of the closure. Services to infants and toddlers will be expected to resume at the conclusion of the closure. Click here for the full memo on Early On programs.

Standardized Testing Compliance Given School Closure

UPDATE 4/2: Governor Whitmer Cancels All Spring Assessments; Suspends Test-Based School Requirements

In Executive Order 2020-35, Governor Whitmer suspended all state laws requiring the use and reporting of standardized testing data for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, including educator evaluation, third grade reading proficiency and retention, and the A-F school grading system.

UPDATE 3/23:Michigan Department of Education Receives Federal Standardized Testing Waivers

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) received preliminary approval over the weekend from the U.S. Department of Education to waive a number of federal requirements for statewide student testing and school accountability.

State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich and State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on March 17, to urge the secretary to grant a nationwide waiver of statewide student assessments in favor of focusing on the more immediate needs of children.

The U.S. Department of Education responded last Friday by offering every state the opportunity to submit expedited waiver requests for a number of federal testing and accountability requirements. MDE submitted its request late Friday afternoon.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education heard our call to waive the federal requirement for statewide student testing,” Dr. Rice said. “We now need the Michigan legislature to amend state law that requires statewide testing and accountability.”

In the federal waiver request letter, Dr. Rice wrote that because of the extensive school closures resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, Michigan is requesting these waivers because it is not possible to administer assessments required under federal law or to comply with the accompanying school accountability requirements.

He also noted that the school closures are in response to extraordinary circumstances for which a national emergency has been declared and that the school closures “will protect the health and safety of students, staff, and our communities.”

State Education Leaders Urge National Waiver of State Assessments

Michigan’s president of the State Board of Education and its state superintendent urged U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today to grant a nationwide waiver of statewide student assessments. The letter can be found here.

With the current coronavirus pandemic closing schools in Michigan and across the United States for weeks leading up to scheduled statewide assessments, State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich and State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice wrote to DeVos to say that federally mandated state testing should be waived this year in favor of focusing on the more immediate needs of children.

“It’s time for Betsy DeVos to do the right thing on behalf of our students and waive statewide assessments,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “When our kids get back to school, our number one priority must be ensuring they have the resources they need to get back on track.”

Any state summative assessment results would not be an accurate reflection of student learning given the tremendous disruption in children’s education and lives during this extraordinary period, Dr. Rice added.

“Upon return to school, our focus nationally should be on instruction, supports, and nurturing of students, not on state summative assessments,” the letter to DeVos added. “By waiving the requirement nationally to provide state assessments under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, you help schools put students first and focus on providing the supports that students will need in the coming weeks and months.”

Dr. Rice said he will also be working with Michigan’s state legislators to waive the requirements in state law to administer the M-STEP tests.

Dr. Rice noted, “When we return to school, the focus should be on tending to children’s immediate needs: physical, socioemotional, and academic. In many cases, children will have experienced trauma. In other cases, they will simply need to be re-acclimated into their schools. In all cases, students will have missed instruction, and this lost instruction will render any conclusions about test results dubious, especially any comparisons across school years and in light of the pending public health concerns of parents, students, and staff.”

Michigan’s annual M-STEP tests are scheduled to begin the week of April 13 and run through May 28. An executive order by Governor Whitmer closed all K-12 schools in Michigan for a three-week period, from March 16 through April 5. The trajectory and duration of the pandemic remain uncertain.

“For a variety of reasons, this is not simply an undesirable situation; it is a completely unacceptable one,” Drs. Ulbrich and Rice included in their letter to DeVos. “Many children will struggle with the long absence from school. It will take many districts a considerable period of time to resume normal functioning, not to mention refocusing on the instruction of children.”

MDE Memo on Student Assessment During COVID-19 Crisis

The MDE’s Office of Educational Assessment & Accountability (OEAA) is working with assessment vendors to plan for a variety of scenarios that could occur during this time. OEAA is looking into ways that would allow for successful completion of M-STEP, MI-Access, SAT, PSAT, WorkKeys, and WIDA. Additionally, the MDE has made these concerns clear to the US Department of Education and is advocating for maximum flexibility. For more information, please see the Update on Student Assessment and COVID-19 memo from MDE.

Career and Technical Education and Early Middle College Guidance from MDE

The Michigan Department of Education has a released two memos answering Frequently Asked Questions related to Early Middle College programs and Career and Technical Education programs.  The guidance documents can be found at these links:

Providing Food to Students During Closure

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) requested and received a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve meals during an unanticipated school closure without needing to serve students together or on-site, and allows districts to explore creative options for feeding children who depend on those meals even if the school building is closed. Detailed information and recommendations from MDE are available in the Feeding Children During School Closures memo.

We have heard from many members who would like to help provide food to families. In addition to working directly with your school district, we recommend interested members support their local food banks which can be identified through Feeding America

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. 

Map Available to Find Meals for Children During School Closure

The Michigan Department of Education annouced the release of an online map developed for families to find locations where meals are being provided during this period of school closure. Click here to access the map, which will be updated twice each day during the closure period.

These meals, served under the program called Unanticipated School Closure Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), are available to all children at no cost.  Up to two meals per day may be served to all children ages 0-18.  This includes students with disabilities ages 18-26 with an active individual education program (IEP). This program assists Michigan’s school districts and community partners to ensure that kids receive nutritious meals during the school closure announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on March 12, 2020.

MDE Requests Additional Waivers from Federal Rules

Additionally, MDE announced March 17 that it will request a series of federal waivers of rules related to child nutrition, emergency food assistance, and commodity food programs. Information on those waivers can be found here.

Head Start Agency Requirements During COVID-19 Closures

The governor has ordered the closure of all schools in the state as of Monday, March 16, 2020. The expected re-opening date is Monday, April 6, 2020.

In response to COVID-19, the federal Office of Head Start is advising Head Start grantees to coordinate with local health authorities and implement their existing policies and procedures related to closure of Head Start and Early Head Start centers during infectious disease outbreaks. Closure of centers in areas heavily impacted by COVID-19 is an important element of containing and limiting its spread.

Click here to read the MDE’s guidance memo on Head Start programs.

Feds Urge Head Start Grantees to Coordinate with Local Health Authorities

The federal Office of Head Start advises Head Start grantees to coordinate with local health authorities to adopt policies and procedures related to closure of Head Start and Early Head Start centers during infectious disease outbreaks. Click here to read an MDE-issued press release containing additional details.

Guidance and Considerations for 31n/C4S Mental Health Providers

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Executive Order 2020-5 directing the closure of all elementary and secondary school buildings in the state to students for educational purposes beginning on Monday, March 16, 2020, through Sunday, April 5, 2020. Two state programs, 31n and C4S, provide resources to support mental health services to students. The Department is encouraging providers to remain available to address the mental health needs of students during school closures.

MDE Guidance for Mental Health Providers

Governor Whitmer Announces New Programs to Increase and Expand Unemployment Benefits for Workers Affected by COVID-19; Benefits increased for all unemployed workers, expanded to self-employed and low-wage workers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced new programs for workers affected by COVID-19. The governor, under the federal CARES Act, signed an agreement between Michigan and the U.S. Dept. of Labor to implement Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs that grant benefits to workers who do not already qualify for state unemployment benefits. Workers include self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, gig, and low-wage workers who can no longer work because of the pandemic. The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to four months and extends benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks.

“The State of Michigan is dedicated to implementing measures to protect the health of all our residents and we understand financial health is critical as we meet this challenge together,” said Whitmer. “This increase and expansion of unemployment benefits will provide a measure of security for Michigan working families who lost their income due to the pandemic. We are committed to ensuring emergency financial relief for unemployed residents who continue to stay home and stay safe.”

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) will provide additional guidance regarding eligibility and application details in the coming days as it implements these new programs.

Benefits Extended to Self-Employed, Low-Wage, and Other Workers Affected by COVID-19
Under the CARES Act, individuals who are not already eligible for Michigan’s unemployment programs will now be provided a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months on top of the state benefit. Benefits are available for up to 39 weeks. These newly eligible individuals include self-employed workers, independent contractors, low-wage workers and those with a limited work history.

Benefits Increased for All Unemployed Workers
Under the CARES Act, weekly benefits for all unemployed workers will be increased by a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months. This applies to workers already in the unemployment system and eligible employees about to apply. These workers do not need to reapply and those about to apply do not need to take additional steps and should file as usual. If a worker’s application has previously been denied by the UIA in the past three weeks there is no need for them to reapply at this time. They will be notified by the agency with any additional action that may need to be taken.

“We appreciate the patience Michigan residents have shown with the unemployment system over the last few weeks as we continue to provide emergency financial assistance during this historical demand. I want to assure every eligible worker in our state who needs to apply for unemployment benefits that they will receive them,” said Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. “We continue to urge workers to apply online at Michigan.gov/UIA and to utilize our new filing schedule based on their last name. UIA staff is working as hard and fast as they can to process claims and we continue to reallocate resources and upgrade technology to serve our customers.”

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether a worker receives benefits or their benefit amount. Additionally, claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19. The eligibility window to apply has also been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date of their work stoppage.

New Filing Schedule:

Online Filing Schedule – Michigan.gov/UIA. Workers are encouraged to go online during off-peak times between 8PM-8AM

  • Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays.
  • Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
  • Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

Call Center Filing Schedule – 866-500-0017:

  • Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 8:00am – 5:00pm.
  • Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8:00am – 5:00pm.
  • Fridays (8:00am – 5:00pm) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

For more information visit Michigan.gov/UIA.

 

 

 

 

Unemployment Insurance Eligibility Expanded to Include Workers Displaced by COVID-19

Governor Gretchen Whitmer temporarily expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits until April 14. Under the governor’s order, unemployment benefits are now also available to:

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.

Additionally, all workers who are terminated or laid off may apply for unemployment insurance.

Click here for the Michigan Unemployment Agency’s COVID-19 Guide for information on applying for UI benefits.

Due to COVID-19, Unemployment Insurance Agency Closes Lobbies Except for Appointments

The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) today announced that beginning March 18 at 3 p.m, it will close its lobbies to visits from the public, except for customers with appointments. These changes will remain effective as long as necessary for the health and safety of the public.

UIA offices will continue to serve the public and eligible employees are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits online at www.michigan.gov/UIA or by calling 1-866-500-0017. Details on how to apply are also available online.

“Michigan is doing all it can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We are asking residents to protect their health by not going into group settings unless necessary,” said UIA Director Steve Gray. “Limiting public visits to our UIA lobbies and eliminating in-person registration and work search requirements are critical steps in this emergency. The fastest and best method for unemployment resources can be found online at Michigan.gov/UIA. Residents can also connect with our agency by calling 1-866-500-0017.”

UIA online resources include:

  • File a claim for unemployment benefits
  • Chat with a customer service agent (Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Send a message to a customer service agent (weekdays after 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m. and weekends)
  • Manage your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

This announcement comes after Executive Order 2020-10 that expanded eligibility and suspended requirements for residents complete in-person registration and work search requirements in order to receive benefits.

View additional unemployment resources for employees.

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the 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. Among its relief measures, the law 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.
  • Borrowers will continue to receive credit towards loan forgiveness. During the six-month payment suspension, you will continue to receive payment count credit toward 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.

  • Borrowers will receive credit reporting protections. For the duration of the payment suspension, servicers will report to the credit bureaus as if you made your scheduled payment.

  • Collection activities on covered loans will be on pause for the duration of the payment suspension. If your loan is in default, all collections activity, including wage garnishment, federal benefit offsets, and federal tax refund offsets. If you are currently in garnishment, you will need to contact your employer directly to ensure the garnishment is paused.

Click here to download the AFT’s document on student loan information.

You can find additional information on the Federal Student Aid website.

AFT Higher Education developed an in-person student debt clinic program which assists members in applying for IDR plans. AFT Higher Education will be offering a national webinar on Friday, and we will provide details as soon as they are available.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in applying for Income Driven Repayment for your federal student loans, there is a wealth of information available at forgivemystudentdebt.org.

The State of Michigan has created and organized a number of resources to provide the public information about COVID-19, including translating fact sheets into simplified and traditional Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish.

You can find the full list of resources for Michigan residents at Michigan.gov/coronavirus

State of Michigan Volunteer Coordination: Call 211

From Governor Gretchen Whitmer:

If you have the ability and would like to help, there is a role for you. Please call 211 to sign up to be on the central registry for volunteers to assist those most vulnerable.

Assisting with Food Distribution to Families in Need

In addition to working directly with your local union and school district, we recommend interested members support their local food banks which can be identified through Feeding America.

The contact info for some major regional food banks is below:

  • Gleaners Community Taylor Distribution Center, 734-946-6374, 25678 Northline Rd, Taylor, MI 48180, USA
  • Gleaners Community Joan & Wayne Webber Distribution Center-Warren, 586-758-6815, 24162 Mound Rd, Warren, MI 48091, USA
  • Greater Lansing Food Bank, 517-853-7800, 919 Filley St, Lansing, MI 48906, USA
  • Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan-Detroit, 313-923-3535, 2131 Beaufait St, Detroit, MI 48207, USA
  • Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, 616.784.3250, 864 West River Center Drive, Grand Rapids
  • South Michigan Food Bank, 269.964.3663, 5451 Wayne Road, Battle Creek, MI 49016
  • Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, 810.239.4441, 2300 Lapeer Road, Flint, MI 48503
  • Food Gatherers, 734.761.2796, 1 Carrot Way, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
  • Forgotten Harvest, 248.967.1500, 21800 Greenfield Road, Oak Park, MI 48237

Guidance and Considerations for Child Care within Classrooms for Children Ages 6 weeks through 5 years During the COVID-19 State of Emergency

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has reached out to Intermediate School Districts (ISDs), local education agencies, and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to assist Michigan’s essential workforce (e.g., medical staff, emergency responders, and child care workers) in finding child care during this state of emergency. ISDs will be working with their partners, including local education agencies, public and private child care providers, Head Start/Early Head Start and other public preschool programs, and others to achieve this goal.

MDE Guidance and Considerations for Child Care within Classrooms for Children Ages

US Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Signed Into Law March 27, 2020

This $2 trillion bipartisan agreement was signed earlier this evening, and addresses the current public health emergency, supports local communities, and puts America’s workers first.  Click here to read AFT President Randi Weingarten’s statement on the legislation.

Among the funding provisions in the CARES Act:

  • $150 billion to assist states, tribes and local governments that must pay for new expenses related to COVID-19 response. Michigan’s grant allotment from the relief fund is $3.9 billion.
  • $260 billion to expansion and reform of the unemployment insurance program, including an additional $600 per week for anyone receiving state unemployment insurance
  • $13.5 billion for elementary and secondary education for formula grants to states
  • $14.25 billion for higher education emergency relief to defray expenses for institutions of higher education, such as lost revenue; technology costs associated with a transition to distance education; and grants to students for food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare and child care.
  • $350 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses that retain workers, and $27 billion in other small business supports.
  • $400 million for states to help prepare for the 2020 elections. Funding can be used, for example, to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in person by providing additional voting facilities and more poll workers.
  • $100 billion to ensure healthcare providers receive support for COVID-19-related expenses
  • $425 million to address mental health and substance use disorders as a result of the coronavirus
  • pandemic.
  • $275 million to expand services and capacity for rural hospitals, telehealth, poison control centers and
  • the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
  • $500 million to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s global health efforts.

Help for student loan borrowers:

  • Codifies Trump administration’s initiative to suspend interest from accruing on student loan debts (for Direct Loans and federally held Federal Family Education Loans).
  • Suspends student loan payments for six months (for Direct Loans and federally held FFELs), while still counting those months toward public service loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment.
  • Halts involuntary collections of wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits to pay back student loans.
  • Provides flexibility in timelines required for qualifying service for Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant recipients.
  • Provides a tax incentive for employers to help pay their employees’ student loans, through the end of the year.

Payments to individuals:

One-time $1,200 check for individuals making up to $75,000 per year, or $2,400 for couples earning less than $150,000. Payments are scaled down for individuals earning between $75,000 and $99,000 and couples earning between $150,000 and $198,000, and are phased out altogether for those above the income thresholds. Also provides an additional $500 per child.

Worker and transparency protections on government loans:

  • No stock buybacks or dividends for the length of any loan provided by the Treasury plus one year.
  • Restrictions on any increases to executive compensation.
  • Protects collective bargaining agreements.
  • Real-time public reporting of Treasury transactions under the CARES Act, including terms of loans, investments and other assistance to corporations.
  • Prohibition on businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress, and heads of executive departments getting loans or investments from Treasury programs.
  • Creates a Treasury Department special inspector general for pandemic recovery to provide oversight of Treasury loans and investments, and a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to protect taxpayer dollars.
  • Creates a Congressional Oversight Commission to enhance legislative oversight of pandemic response.

AFT has created summary documents of the bills, which are accessible at the links below:

Senator Gary Peters has provided updates for Michigan residents on the CARES Act. You can download the factsheets at the links below:

We will keep you updated as details regarding implementation of the CARES Act become available.

AFT Announces New Benefit for Trauma Coverage

The AFT is offering a new benefit—Trauma Coverage—because we know that our members, while fully focused on serving their communities, often neglect to seek help and healing for their own personal traumas. This innovative program uses the latest communication technologies—phone, text and video—to assist members whenever needed, wherever a member may be. Sessions with highly trained, licensed therapists are completely private and offered free to all active working members, including those on leave status. The broad list of covered injuries is both work-related and beyond, including:

24/7

  • Aggravated assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Mass shootings/terrorist acts
  • Major disaster

At Work

  • Bullied, harassed or threatened
  • Traumatized by witnessing a violent incident
  • Infection by contagious disease
  • Secondary trauma

Click here to learn more.

We’ve heard from so many of you who want to offer assistance to people who may be in need during this crisis, which is a testament to the commitment education professionals have for the community. In addition to reaching out to your friends and neighbors and assisting those who are unable to go to stores or otherwise struggling, below are some opportunities to help:

State of Michigan Seeks Supplies and Financial Donations for Health Care Workers

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
  • Ventilators
  • Sanitizer (hand/wipe)
  • Gloves
  • Surgical Masks
  • Maksa N95-N100
  • No-touch thermometer

Donations and questions can be directed to the Michigan Community Service Commission at covid19donations@michigan.gov or (517) 335-4295.

State of Michigan Volunteer Coordination: Call 211 or visit mi211.org

From Governor Gretchen Whitmer:

If you have the ability and would like to help, there is a role for you. Please call 211 to sign up to be on the central registry for volunteers to assist those most vulnerable. You can also find resources or sign up to volunteer at MI211.org.

Assisting with Food Distribution to Families in Need

In addition to working directly with your local union and school district, we recommend interested members support their local food banks which can be identified through Feeding America.

The contact info for some major regional food banks is below:

  • Gleaners Community Taylor Distribution Center, 734-946-6374, 25678 Northline Rd, Taylor, MI 48180, USA
  • Gleaners Community Joan & Wayne Webber Distribution Center-Warren, 586-758-6815, 24162 Mound Rd, Warren, MI 48091, USA
  • Greater Lansing Food Bank, 517-853-7800, 919 Filley St, Lansing, MI 48906, USA
  • Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan-Detroit, 313-923-3535, 2131 Beaufait St, Detroit, MI 48207, USA
  • Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, 616.784.3250, 864 West River Center Drive, Grand Rapids
  • South Michigan Food Bank, 269.964.3663, 5451 Wayne Road, Battle Creek, MI 49016
  • Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, 810.239.4441, 2300 Lapeer Road, Flint, MI 48503
  • Food Gatherers, 734.761.2796, 1 Carrot Way, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
  • Forgotten Harvest, 248.967.1500, 21800 Greenfield Road, Oak Park, MI 48237

Giving Blood through the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood, click here to find a donation center near you.

 

Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. Watch this video on the safety and need for blood donations.  Right now, eligible and healthy donors are strongly urged to make an appointment to give soon. But please postpone your donation for 28 days following travel to China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Iran, Italy and South Korea, or if you’ve been diagnosed with or have had contact with anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. What to Know about Coronavirus and Our Enhanced Blood Donation Safety Protocols

Governor Whitmer Orders PreK-12 School Buildings Closed for Remainder of School Year; Ensures At-Home Learning, Meals for Families, Staff Pay and Benefits Continue

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-35 on April 2, which orders all K-12 school buildings to close for the remainder of the school year — unless restrictions are lifted — and ensures at-home learning will be provided to students, families in need will still be provided meals, and all staff will  have health care coverage.

“My number one priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19. For the sake of our students, their families, and the more than 100,000 teachers and staff in our state, I have made the difficult decision to close our school facilities for the remainder of the school year,” Governor Whitmer said. “As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their children’s education from the safety of their homes. There is no video chat or homework packet that can replace the value of a highly trained, experienced teacher working with students in a classroom, but we must continue to provide equitable educational opportunities for students during this public health crisis.”

AFT Michigan supports this decision, and appreciates that Governor Whitmer listened to and addressed the concerns of our members.

“Governor Whitmer made the right decision several weeks ago to close PreK-12 school buildings to students to protect the health and safety of Michigan’s students, school staff, and communities,” President David Hecker said.

“We fully support the Governor’s Executive Order, which maintains the school building closure for this school year. This approach ensures students will still be engaged with learning opportunities, families will continue to receive meals, and all school staff will continue to receive pay and health care coverage.

“AFT Michigan and our local unions are committed to serving as productive and collaborative partners to local school districts as they implement continuity of learning plans for the remainder of this school year, and to provide additional interventions and services to students in the coming years.” 

To read the Governor’s press release on the issue click here. 

To read the full Executive Order, click here.  

Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

On Thursday, July 31, State of Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun joined AFT Michigan President David Hecker and MEA President Paula Herbert to answer questions about the public health and safety implications of returning to in-person learning. Click below to play a recording of the town hall.

On Thursday, June 11, AFT President Randi Weingarten joined AFT Michigan President David Hecker for a tele-town hall to discuss our union’s fight to secure federal funding for public education, and the work being done to develop guidelines for how and when to safely reopen educational institutions. Presidents Weingarten and Hecker also addressed the union’s commitment to anti-racism work to address the problems of white supremacy and police brutality. Click below to play a recording o the town hall.

On Thursday, April 2, Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined members of AFT Michigan, AFSCME Council 25, and the Michigan Education Association and answered questions about the implementation of the order to close schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Click below to play a recording of the town hall.

On Monday, March 23, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and State Superintendent Michael Rice joined members of AFT Michigan, AFSCME Council 25, and the Michigan Education Association for a discussion of the impacts of COVID19 on public education. Click below to play.

Remember: Wash those hands!

The CDC recommends following these five steps every time:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

CONTACT US

AFT MICHIGAN COMMUNICATIONS

AFT Michigan & MEA Townhall With Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Public Health Experts

There is a lot of uncertainty and worry right now about how to start a new school year and protect the health and safety of our students, school staff, and our communities. In a video last week, I made it clear: education in the fall must be safe, and educators must be involved in decisions. That’s […]

COVID19 Updates Digest

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 […]

Executive Order Closing Public Schools for Remainder of 19-20 School Year

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease that can result in serious illness
or death. It is caused by a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans
and easily spread from person to person. There is currently no approved vaccine or antiviral
treatment for this disease.
On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the
first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, I issued
Executive Order 2020-4. This order declared a state of emergency across the state of
Michigan under section 1 of article 5 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Emergency
Management Act, 1976 PA 390, as amended, MCL 30.401-.421, and the Emergency Powers
of the Governor Act of 1945, 1945 PA 302, as amended, MCL 10.31-.33.