Rep. Hall: March legislative update

Categories: Hall News,News

By state Rep. Matt Hall of Marshall

Addressing Coronavirus in Michigan

The coronavirus is already here in Michigan, and we are just beginning to feel its impact. While this unprecedented public health challenge is a great concern for our community, it is important to highlight our state and local health care professionals are working diligently to protect Calhoun and Kalamazoo county residents and families across Michigan.

Michigan law grants the governor exceptionally broad emergency powers. Much like President Donald J. Trump is taking aggressive action to limit the spread of the virus on a national scale, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has exercised her emergency powers here in Michigan to limit public gatherings, close K-12 schools and restrict business operations.

While I do not agree with all of the decisions the governor has made, I do hope her executive actions achieve their desired goal of flattening the curve and limiting the spread of the virus. Now, more than ever, it couldn’t be more important our health care professionals and departments have access to crucial resources to provide care to Michigan residents experiencing severe symptoms and save lives.

The Michigan Legislature is playing a crucial role in mitigation efforts statewide. I voted to approve an emergency budget plan that dedicates $150 million in state funding to address evolving challenges with COVID-19. The funding will go toward expanding virus testing and monitoring, increasing patient access to treatment and providing health care facilities like Oaklawn Hospital with the resources they need to better respond to coronavirus cases.

I would be remiss not to mention there will be adequate oversight on the approved emergency funding. State auditors will monitor all transactions closely to ensure the allocated funds are going to where they are supposed to.

I am very concerned about the impact the governor’s decision to temporarily close the doors of some businesses and restrict the operations of others will have on communities throughout the state. The governor, however, believes the impact on local businesses would be worse if not for these aggressive measures to limit public contact.

At a later date, there will be plenty of time to evaluate her decisions to address this virus, but in the meantime, I hope she continues to act with the best interest of our state in mind. I intend to work closely with the governor’s administration and my colleagues in the Legislature on solutions to help small businesses burdened by these temporary closures and restrictions recover after we get through this public health emergency.

Together as a state, we will overcome this, but it is going to take each and every one of us to help curtail further spread. That means using effective preventive measures like washing your hands often with soap, staying home if sick, cleaning frequently touched surfaces and practicing social distancing.

For questions about COVID-19, residents can call 1-888-535-6136. The hotline is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I also encourage residents to visit and for additional, reliable information about the virus.

Combating elder abuse

Elder abuse is very real in Michigan. Over 70,000 older adults statewide have experienced some form of abuse, and I fear that number to be much higher due to instances being severely underreported.

Whether it is emotional, financial or physical, many victims of elder abuse often feel hopeless and alone in their struggle. As a state, we can and must do better to protect our seniors.

That’s why I recently cast my vote to approve a bipartisan plan better protecting Michigan seniors from abuse. The plan, which passed the Michigan House overwhelmingly, adds legal protections for adults age 80 and older, and increases criminal penalties for individuals who financially or physically abuse elder adults.

We need to stand together and help those in our communities who need it most. In Michigan, we are sending a clear message to perpetrators of elder abuse that their reprehensible actions will have consequences.

Restoring the governor’s budget cuts

Before Michigan could truly move into the upcoming budget year, there was still uncertainty lingering around many statewide initiatives due to the governor’s budget vetoes that needed to be addressed.

Many Calhoun and Kalamazoo residents reached out to me to underscore the importance of these programs and work toward reversing the spending cuts. As a result, I recently voted to approve a budget supplemental plan restoring support for health services, job growth and to combat the spread of coronavirus in Michigan.

The budget plan restores funding for a variety of programs, including several of which were on the verge of disruption because of the governor’s actions as the new budget year began Oct. 1.

Programs receiving funding restoration include:

Going PRO and Michigan Reconnect – workforce development programs providing training to enhance skills and talents of Michigan workers to help address the talent gap that currently exists. The single-largest barrier to economic growth that job providers across Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties have communicated to me is the lack of a skilled workforce. It is in the state’s best interest to help Michigan residents provide for their families by learning the skills they need to get one of the tens of thousands of jobs available right now in the trades. Going PRO will receive $15 million, while Michigan Reconnect will receive $35 million.

Western Michigan University will also see restored funding for a program it administers. WMU’s Michigan Geological Survey will receive $500,000 to fully restore its funding to promote the wise use of natural resources. Additionally, the university will receive $1.4 million to start up a resiliency program within its unified clinic center to assist children and families dealing with trauma, toxic stress, neurological disorders, chronic disabilities or addiction.

The budget plan also provides $2 million in restoration for independent living centers which provide services to ensure high-quality independent living for people with disabilities.