MARQUETTE — About 350,000 Michigan families will continue to have access to additional food assistance benefits this month as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced on Wednesday.
Michigan has provided additional food assistance since March. It is now being extended to include this month with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.
“MDHHS is committed to providing easy access to expanded food assistance to residents who are struggling to feed their families due to the impacts of the pandemic,” said Lewis Roubal, the department’s chief deputy director of opportunity, in a news release.
Eligible clients will see additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Card by Sept. 30, with payments beginning for some households on Sept. 20. Additional benefits will be loaded on to Bridge Cards as a separate payment from the assistance provided earlier in the month.
Households eligible for Food Assistance Program benefits will receive additional benefits this month to bring all current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cases to the maximum monthly allowance for that group size. This change only applies to customers not currently receiving the maximum benefit amount.
The 350,000 households that receive increased benefits represent close to 50% of the more than 800,000 Michigan households that received food assistance in August. The remaining households already receive the maximum benefit.
Nearly 1.5 million people in Michigan receive federal SNAP benefits through the state’s Food Assistance Program.
guidelines to gyms,
Following the newly launched MIOSHA Ambassador Program to help businesses reopen safely, the state of Michigan is requiring gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, roller rinks, ice rinks, swimming pools and similar businesses to follow updated workplace safety guidelines.
Under Executive Order 2020-176, these businesses are now allowed to be open in some capacity across the entire state and must follow state guidelines.
While indoor services are allowed at 25% capacity, the executive order strongly suggests using outdoor fitness classes when feasible. In addition, it recommends social distancing and ensuring equipment and supplies are shared to the minimum extent possible with frequent and thorough disinfection and cleaning.
Other guidelines include limiting indoor class sizes to 10 or fewer individuals, mandating the wearing of facial coverings at all times except when swimming, ensuring that ventilation systems operate properly, and closing steam rooms and saunas, Jacuzzis and cold plunge pools.
“It is critical for businesses reopening their doors to take every precaution to protect the health and safety of their workers, customers and our communities,” COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan said in a statement. “Our goal is to make this process as easy as possible for businesses and ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Violation of these orders can create risks to workers and the public.”
The new guidelines are in accordance with Executive Orders 2020-175 and 2020-153 to prevent further spread of COVID-19 to the public and workers, according to the announcement from the State Emergency Operations Center.
Signatures to be
Unlock Michigan is hosting a “drive up and sign” signature-gathering event from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the old Marquette Mall parking lot along U.S. 41.
This initiated legislation would repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945. The group said Whitmer “has misused this law to assume sweeping, permanent powers the Legislature never intended a governor to have, in violation of the separation of powers doctrine.”
The governor would still have certain powers under the 1976 Emergency Management Act, but that law requires approval from the Legislature every 28 days to extend a state of emergency, it said.
All registered Michigan voters are invited to sign the petition and learn more about the campaign, which has a goal of gathering 500,000 signatures statewide, organizers said.
For more information, visit unlockmichigan.com. Other events can be found at unlockmichigan.com/events/.
Campaign focuses on
Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! announced a region-wide awareness campaign aimed at filling over 1,000 jobs in the region after hearing from U.P. employers who struggled to get unemployed workers back to work.
Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! reported that while unemployment in the U.P. is down from April – from 24% to 8% — almost 1,000 jobs need to be filled.
“My concern right now is helping U.P. businesses keep their doors open,” Bill Raymond, CEO of Upper Peninsula Michigan Works!, said in a statement. “My bigger and more longer-term concern is that by the time employees are ready to return to work when benefits run out, there will not be job opportunities.”
The campaign is designed to grab people’s attention with “funny but thought-provoking ads” while featuring the message of the many job openings. For example, one ad shows the headline “Have you finished the internet?” complemented with a computer screen that reads “The end.” Another ad shows a bulldog dressed in a flower costume under the headline “Buy crazy stuff again.”
For more information on Upper Peninsula Michigan Works!, visit upmichiganworks.org.
NMU numbers updated
Northern Michigan University indicated on its reporting dashboard at https://nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/ that as of Wednesday morning, NMU has had 48 positive cases of COVID-19 since July 27. There have been positives from 24 on-campus students, 19 off-campus students and five employees.
Also as of Wednesday morning, NMU has nine active positive cases — eight off-campus students and one employee.
Digital signatures still
The Michigan Department of Treasury reminds taxpayers and tax professionals that the use of digital signatures is allowed on forms, even those forms that cannot be filed electronically.
The use of digital signatures assists in reducing in-person contact and lessens the risk to taxpayers and tax professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the groups to work remotely and to file forms in a timely manner.
The state of Michigan’s individual income tax return; corporate income tax return; and sales, use and withholding tax return already use an electronic signature when filed electronically. Each year, more than 80% of Michigan’s individual income tax returns are filed electronically.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal. net
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