Charlevoix’s state rep wins funding fight

Michigan 105th District State Rep. Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) has announced his efforts to help northern Michigan communities and law enforcement agencies receive federal support related to COVID-19 have been successful.

The Legislature this week approved a measure to ensure funding to support virus response reaches rural Michigan – not just state government agencies and the state’s five largest municipalities. Cole led the way to ensure local law enforcement on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis would continue to be paid and be eligible for hazard pay.

Cole earlier sent a formal request to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requesting this action, and the Legislature folded the request into an overall $880 million budget supplemental measure approved this week. The measure is now headed to the governor’s desk.

The legislation also includes funding to improve technology and hire more temporary workers at the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, which has failed to keep pace with demand during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“COVID-19 and the economic shutdown have affected the entire state of Michigan – not just our big cities,” Cole said. “This measure led by the Legislature reflects that simple truth, and will help get federal relief distributed across the state.

“I have been in constant contact with our sheriff’s departments and other agencies that have worked diligently to protect us during this challenging time. They know COVID-19 and its repercussions are not confined by geographic boundaries. It has affected communities across our state, and the entire state should be in a position to receive federal assistance.”

The federal CARES Act, which was approved by the U.S. Congress and signed into law in late March, is meant to assist states and residents in mitigating the negative health and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure approved by the Legislature allocates some of this money for Michigan.

Senate Bill 690 includes $100 million to provide grants to local municipalities for first responder hazard pay. This includes law enforcement, corrections officers, EMS, fire departments and others.

The measure also includes $200 million to help counties, cities, villages and townships meet payroll for public safety and public health personnel.

The wide-ranging measure includes support in many other areas – including $29 million for the Unemployment Insurance Agency to improve technology and hire 500 temporary workers to handle issues with processing unemployment benefits claims.

“The UIA has let down Michigan workers who lost their jobs during this pandemic,” Cole said. “The agency must improve – and it must improve now.”

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