June 18 | Billions In Federal COVID Supplemental Funding Passes House, GOP’s Voter ID Bill Passes Senate In Fiery Floor Debate

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. DHHS To Lift Remaining COVID Restrictions June 22
  2. Billions In Federal COVID Supplemental Funding Passes House, Senate
  3. GOP’s Voter ID Bill Passes Senate In Fiery Floor Debate
  4. Redistricting Commissioners Call Public Hearings Thus Far A Success
  5. May Unemployment Ticks Up To 5% Amid Modest Workforce Gain

DHHS To Lift Remaining COVID Restrictions June 22

The state’s COVID-19 order limiting the size of indoor gatherings at non-residential establishments to 50 percent of capacity and requiring the unvaccinated to wear a face mask when indoors will end June 22, nine days earlier than originally planned, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said today.

Once the order lifts, restaurants and bars will be able to operate at full capacity as will gyms, retailers, museums, libraries and other indoor venues that been limited for more than a year.

The move comes as the state’s COVID-19 numbers have plummeted with the percentage of residents 16 and older having had the first dose of a vaccine at 60.6 percent as of Tuesday.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Ms. Whitmer said in a statement. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the medical experts and health professionals who stood on the front lines to keep us all safe. And we are incredibly thankful to all of the essential workers who kept our state moving. Thanks to the millions of Michiganders who rolled up their sleeves to get the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, we have been able to make these changes ahead of schedule. Our top priority going forward is utilizing the federal relief funding in a smart, sustainable way as we put Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economy. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”

DHHS also is lifting its orders with restrictions on entry into congregate care and juvenile justice facilities, for mandatory COVID testing for juvenile justice facility staff and DHHS hospitals staff, among other measures.


Billions In Federal COVID Supplemental Funding Passes House, Senate

Roughly $6 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid was passed by the House and Senate on Tuesday covering massive infusions of federal spending to assist K-12 schools, food assistance for families in need and more.

The actions in each chamber was seen as another positive sign as talks continue on the budget for the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year between the administration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders.

About $4.38 billion in federal COVID funding for K-12 schools was voted out of the Senate through an S-1 substitute version of HB 4421, which passed by a 35-0 vote. The bill is a fiscal year 2020-21 School Aid Fund supplemental appropriations bill. It still needs House approval before going to Ms. Whitmer.

“Many Michigan students struggled and continue to struggle with the sudden and confusing change to virtual or hybrid learning for more than a year during the pandemic,” Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement following the vote. “This supplemental would invest $4.3 billion in federal assistance to help our children recover from any learning loss they experienced and to ensure that our schools and teachers have the resources necessary to provide their students with the instruction and support they need.”

A key change in the substitute was the removal of proposal by the House to use reserve funding to provide a per-pupil equalization payment for districts receiving less than $1,093 per pupil through their district’s ESSER III formula allocation. This change led to disappointment from education organizations following the vote. Most of the federal funds are distributed through the Title I formula that heavily favors districts with larger numbers of impoverished pupils.

The lion’s share of the funding was $3.35 billion of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funding through the American Rescue Plan to be distributed to districts.

The remaining $840.7 million ESSER II funds – which are not yet appropriated – is also contained within the bill for school districts. These were the funds remaining from the second coronavirus relief bill signed at the end of the Trump administration that did not get disbursed because Ms. Whitmer vetoed a bill, an action that prevented the allocation of the funds. A total of $5.55 million in ESSER II funding for administrative costs is also included in the supplemental.

A total of $92 million form the Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools funding is contained within the bill for nonpublic schools while another $86.8 million is also provided from Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funding for nonpublic schools.

Changes to provisions related to summer school as well as before- and after-school programs were also made within the bill. Students would be allowed to enroll in summer programming offered in any district, not just their local district. Districts would also be able to use local assessments to make determinations of children with the greatest needs along with benchmark data for summer programming.

The requirement for summer programs to be in-person would also be removed under the bill.

Jennifer Smith, director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said Title I funding varies widely by district so the equalization is an important tool to provide districts with the funding they deserve.

“It’s nice to see they’re finally taking another step toward the governor’s desk,” Ms. Smith said, adding that if the Legislature can move quickly on the supplemental her hope would be that they can pass a school aid budget in the coming days.

There is pressure to complete the school aid budget soon because school district budgets run on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year.

Ms. Smith said to complete the school aid budget by the end of the month would allow districts to properly prepare for the next school year, adding schools would prefer not waiting until September.

Peter Spadafore, deputy executive director of external relations with the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, expressed disappointment in the equalization payments being removed. He had not heard a specific reason for the removal of the equalization funding provision from the bill but said MASA members are pressing lawmakers to consider some form of equalization payments.

“We’re happy that it’s finally moving. We’re not happy that it’s been taking this long,” Mr. Spadafore said, noting that some of the federal education funding was passed several months ago by Congress during the previous administration.

Doug Pratt, director of public affairs for the Michigan Education Association, said in a statement the bill does what educator and parents have wanted to see happen for months: the appropriation of billions in needed relief to districts.

He also agreed with other education groups regarding equalization funds.

“We continue to advocate for districts slated to receive less under the federal Title I formula to get equalization to bring them up to a level that helps them better meet the needs of students as we recover from this pandemic,” Mr. Pratt said. “That can still be accomplished through new state revenue available per state fiscal experts, an approach MEA is strongly in favor of.”

Meanwhile, the House passed SB 37 on a 105-4 vote, which included a floor substitute that would see roughly $2.24 billion in federal aid go mostly toward food assistance, emergency rental assistance and local recovery grants. The bill needs final approval from the Senate before it can go to Ms. Whitmer.

Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Township), Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) and Rep. John Reilly (R-Oakland Township) voted no on the bill.

“The people of Michigan faced some of the toughest COVID restrictions in the nation,” Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement following the vote. “Many are still struggling. This is another significant step to get families, communities and students the help they need after an extremely difficult year-and-a-half.”

Regarding food assistance, $1.45 billion would go toward federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding to support a 15 percent increase in monthly food assistance benefits through September 30, 2021.

Emergency rental assistance would see $378.3 million in federal funding for the purpose of grants, which would be used to assist renter households at or below 80 percent of area median income. The funds would be used to support the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which provides rental and utility assistance payments, housing stability services and case management to eligible renter households hit by COVID-19.

Another $65.2 million would go toward emergency management, with the money to be used as payment to vendors for emergency and disaster response and mitigation services provided in areas throughout the state.

For local non-entitlement fiscal recovery fund grants, the substitute also provides $322.1 million in federal funding to distribute to local governments pursuant to federally designated allocations. This funding cannot be used for payments or be deposited into any pension fund.

Under this caveat, the money could be used in any of the following ways: to aid households, small businesses and nonprofits; to aid industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality; to provide premium pay for essential workers; to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year; or to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband.

The substitute also calls for $21 million in General Fund to be used for a one-time purchase of tax vouchers issued by the state to Venture Michigan Fund and collateralized to generate investment capital from lenders under the Michigan Early Stage Venture Investment Act of 2003.


GOP’s Voter ID Bill Passes Senate In Fiery Floor Debate

A trio of elections process bills including legislation requiring a photo identification for voters applying for an absentee ballot passed a divided Senate Wednesday after a fierce floor debate.

It is the first move by Senate Republicans to pass sweeping election law changes.

The three bills are the first to be put up for votes out of a massive 39-bill package introduced by the Senate Republicans in March, prompting bitter rebukes from their Democratic counterparts.

Each of the bills – SB 285, SB 303 and SB 304 – passed along party-line 19-16 votes.

Democrats lobbed several allegations at Republicans, calling the bills unnecessary roadblocks and voter suppression as well as being a de facto poll tax and racist. The minority party also said voter ID laws already exist and work, further accusing the GOP of trying to stoke voter fears over unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Republicans countered by pointing to a recent Detroit Regional Chamber poll saying 79.7 percent of respondents support requiring an ID to vote.

GOP members also said the changes would fix what they called a significant gap in election law after the passage of a 2018 ballot measure: the removal of a requirement to appear in person when voting absentee for the first time.

Of the three bills, SB 285 drew the most debate among members.

The bill would require an individual who applies for an absentee ballot through the Department of State or their local clerk to verify their identity through one of several options: providing their Michigan driver’s license number, providing their Michigan personal identification card number, providing the last four digits of their Social Security number, showing their valid ID to their local clerk for election purposes or attaching or sending a copy of their ID along with their ballot application in the mail.

Under SB 285, a provisional ballot would be provided to voters who did not verify their identity. Those voters would have six days after an election to provide proof of identity for their ballot to be counted. Local clerks would also be provided with access to the Department of State’s system, which would enable them to confirm a voter’s ID.

About 11,400 out of more than 5.5 million Michigan ballots in November 2020 were cast by voters signing affidavits rather than showing ID.

The proposed changes in SB 303 would require giving a voter a provisional ballot if they do not have identification when voting in person. SB 304 would require that provisional ballots contain a notice that they will only be tabulated if a voter verifies his or her identity with the proper local clerk within six days after an election.

Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), sponsor of SB 285, said removing the requirement to appear in person when voting absentee for the first time was a glaring oversight in the 2018 election law changes needing to be addressed. She said it was in line with requirements for purchasing alcohol, cold medicines and other items.

Ms. Theis rejected claims made by Democrats that her bill would put people’s personal information at risk.

“Requiring identification verification is a simple but critical step to ensure the integrity of our election process moving forward,” Ms. Theis said. “It’s not creating a personal security risk, it’s not voter suppression, it’s not an undue burden. As a matter of fact, across the globe, ID is required to vote.”

Several Democrats rose to denounce Republicans with accusations of trying to deny people the right to vote, of racism and of trying to solve a problem they said does not exist.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) was surprised by what he called a move he never believed he would see: Republicans using elections to force residents to get a government ID.

“What’s next? Showing a Social Security card? A national ID card? Their blood type? A semen sample? God only knows what you guys will come up with next,” Mr. Ananich said.

Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) delivered a blistering rebuke of SB 285, calling the current debate one that Black people had in the 1960s. She called the bill package egregious and garbage.

“This bill package is not about voter integrity, it is not about preventing fraud, it is not about ensuring the security of our election, and this is not about preventing foreign interference,” Ms. Santana said. “This is about being scared of losing an election because of what Brother Malcolm said: ‘We are not outnumbered, we are out-organized.’ Well, that is the election that scares you, because Democrats, with the strong support of Black votes, out-organized you and got out that fool out of the White House and you are still mad about it.”

Ms. Santana then unloaded on Republicans over what she called a vast difference between rhetoric and their policy actions.

“For an entire year, all we heard was Republicans throughout this state is freedom and liberty, patriotism, the 2nd Amendment, American flag and bald eagles – and yet here we are watching this so-called patriotism and defenders of freedom disenfranchise American voters,” Ms. Santana said. “Take that yellow flag off your walls because this is not freedom. This is a legislative terrorism from tyrants with a misguided understanding of the Constitution and the spirit of 1776.”

Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) stood to call the proposal a “de facto poll tax” before outlining a lengthy history of poll taxes and other efforts to deny the vote to people of color. She said the various options for proving ID in SB 285 are unconstitutional because there are costs for making a copy of their ID for inclusion in the application.

“In a nutshell, creating an additional financial requirement of voters, even an optional one, in order to cast one’s ballot, is essentially a poll tax and would be an unconstitutional resurrection of Jim Crow, who should remain dead and buried,” Ms. Geiss said.

Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), a former local clerk, was dismayed by the Republican elections package. He said he had deep concerns about how the full Republican package could hurt groups of voters, specifically seniors, people of color and the disabled.

“I’ve never seen such an attempt by people to throw up roadblocks for people who are trying to vote,” Mr. Wojno said. “This legislation shows a lack of respect to the many people that have worked so hard to create a more transparent elective process.”

Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said in speaking with local clerks around her district she was told that senior citizens would be most affected by the proposed changes to the voter ID law.

“What this bill would do is tell those seniors, tell the homeless, tell the vulnerable who do not have an ID that you are not allowed to vote, that you do not have the same right that the rest of us do to vote in every single one of our elections,” Ms. McMorrow said.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) said after months of hearings, there has been no evidence of voter fraud in the state. He said the state already has a voter ID law that works. Mr. Hertel accused Republicans of adding fuel to their supporters’ belief in unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

“But you are stoking the deepest fears about our fundamental democracy and pushing the big lie that has divided the nation to the point of insurrection, and your only response is to double down,” Mr. Hertel said. “The right likes to talk about liberal snowflakes and participation trophies, but I can’t think of a better example of fragility than trying to change the rules of an election because you don’t like the outcome. Maybe if you could win on your own merit, maybe if you can’t win on that merit, maybe you deserve to lose.”

Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly), the former secretary of state, defended the bills.

“These bills would help ensure the security and fairness of our elections,” Ms. Johnson said. “Requiring voters to verify their identity with ID is the best way to protect the one person, one vote standard.”

She then pointed to the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce poll which showed 79.7 percent of respondents supporting voter ID.

As to arguments about protecting a voter’s personal information, Ms. Johnson said SB 285 mirrors federal election law for providing personal identification information for voting by mail.

She added that individuals need an ID to set up a bank account, purchase alcohol, fly and even get a fishing license online.

Mr. Ananich pushed back on the assertion of needing an ID for numerous other things.

“When I get a fishing license and I show my ID, when I cast my reel, I don’t show my ID again to the fish,” Mr. Ananich said, drawing laughter from members of his caucus. “When I get married and I get my marriage certificate, when I come home from work I don’t say: ‘Hey, I’m still married to you, let me show you my ID.’ That’s what these bills would do. You want to have hoop after hoop after barrier after barrier because you no longer have ideas that people like.”

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) said the 2018 ballot proposal removed the requirement to appear in person when voting absentee for the first time and so the opportunity to show ID.

“We don’t allow that to happen for any of our other forms of ID,” Mr. McBroom said. “You don’t get to get your driver’s license at 16 years old and go the rest of your life without ever checking back in. It’s an ongoing process.”

He also shot back at Democrats over claims that the Republicans were being sore losers over the 2020 elections and trying to move the goalposts.

“Both parties are very guilty of being sore losers. There’s no monopoly on sore loser-ship around this place and there’s no monopoly on either party wanting to work election policy to its own ends,” Mr. McBroom said. “Don’t pretend that the Democratic Party wasn’t real happy with those proposals two and three or see them as a great boon to their future opportunities.”

Several organizations reacted swiftly following the votes with statements.

Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs applauded Republicans for their votes in favor of the bills, calling them common sense changes to enhance the election process.

“These simple, pragmatic reforms will strengthen confidence in the security of our elections and make it easier for Michiganders to participate in everyday life,” Ms. Sachs said. “Over 70 percent of Americans support voter ID laws and the additional legislation introduced today will ensure everyone has access to photo identification.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes accused Republicans across the country of trying to erect significant barriers to keep Democratic constituencies such as Black people from the polls.

“Today’s actions in the state Senate were deplorable, racist, and quite frankly shameful,” Ms. Barnes said. “Michigan’s 2020 elections were safe and secure. But that has not stopped the Republicans from launching an all-out attack on our right to vote. Their goal is simple and transparent – the GOP wants fewer people to vote. Because they know what we know – when people vote, Democrats win.”

Several groups also came out against the package following session.

Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said lawmakers should be working to build on the 2018 election law changes to further improve ballot access rather than go the route being pushed by legislative Republicans.

“Republican senators are taking aim at the voting options Michiganders have successfully used for decades in an effort to suppress to voices of marginalized peoples,” Mr. Scott said. “Their continued attacks on the freedom to vote are abhorrent and Michiganders must come together once again, across race, income level, and zip code, to stand up for our rights and oppose these anti-voter bills.”

Christina Schlitt, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, made a similar remark.

“These anti-voter bills will lead to voter disenfranchisement and make it more difficult for voters to exercise their rights,” she said. “Michigan has voter ID laws on the books, and our system for affidavit options has worked for decades. These new restrictions are unnecessary.”

Clare Allenson with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters characterized Wednesday’s Senate vote as “yet another example of how some lawmakers in Lansing are laser focused on making it harder for Michiganders to exercise their freedom to vote.”

SENATE ELECTIONS REPORTS MORE GOP BILLS: Four election process bills were reported Wednesday afternoon by the Senate Elections Committee following session, three of which were part of the 39-bill Senate Republican package.

An S-2 substitute to SB 277 was adopted that would allow for county clerks to remove dead voters from the Qualified Voter File.

County clerks would have to update the Qualified Voter File at least once a month, no later than the second business day of each month, to remove voter registration records for those who had died in the county. City and township clerks would be required to compare their lists to the county clerks’ and cancel the voter registrations of all dead voters.

The Department of State would have to post information on total flagged registration records on its website, broken down by county, city and township. The department would then have to send notifications to local clerks regarding each canceled voter registration in their jurisdiction.

Committee members voted 4-0 to report SB 277.

Under SB 302, voter registration applications would include a statement that the voter does not claim voting residence or the right to vote in another state or territory. An S-1 substitute would include language noting it is a felony to vote more than once or to attempt to vote more than once in an election in the same or in another precinct.

The bill was reported 3-0 with Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) abstaining.

The committee also adopted an S-1 substitute to and reported SB 311, which would allow for the electronic return of absentee ballots by military voters using U.S. Department of Defense Common Access Cards. A companion bill, SB 8, also was reporting the adoption of an S-1 substitute. The substitutes removed some duplicative language from SB 311 and changed the tie-bars for the bills.

Both bills were reported by votes of 3-0 with Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) abstaining.


Redistricting Commissioners Call Public Hearings Thus Far A Success

With just five more public hearings to go, members of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Wednesday said they believe their statewide public outreach campaign has been a success, but there might be some lingering gaps in identifying a few key communities of interest.

The commission in early May began a listening tour in locations across Michigan as a way to gauge input from residents, businesses and organizations on their individual communities of interest – a metric that is high on the priority list for the commission when considers how it will redraw the state’s legislative and congressional maps within the next few months.

A total of 16 such meetings were scheduled, with the commission completing 11 of them as of Tuesday night in Detroit. A second Detroit public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the downtown TCF Center.

As the slate of public hearings winds down, commission vice chair Rebecca Szetela – alongside commissioners MC Rothhorn and Doug Clark – participated in a press conference Wednesday to discuss how the process has been going, what they’ve learned thus far and what’s next for the commission as it wraps up public hearings.

Ms. Szetela said that overall, the meetings have been a great success, to which Mr. Rothhorn agreed. He added that he has been encouraged that the commission – and particularly in Detroit – has been greeted with strong questions, valuable feedback and gratitude for the work they’ve been doing.

In terms of what they’ve learned, Mr. Clark said that it has been a mixed bag but that a few pieces of feedback stood out.

“The Jackson and Kalamazoo area focused a lot on the rural/urban split relative to districts. You go up to Marquette and they were more concerned with keeping the counties and cities together, basically because they probably were all there,” Mr. Clark said. “And then in Midland, they were focused more on the manufacturing in Midland and Bay City and Saginaw staying in the same district. So, we get a little different approach each place we go, and I think that’s very helpful for us.”

That said, Ms. Szetela has noted at least one gap in community input: feedback from Indigenous residents.

“I was on a call on Monday, where the issue of First Nations and Native American people was raised. That as a group, we’re not having a lot of participation from (them). We have received at least one comment, that I’m aware of, from someone from one of the reservations in terms of their community,” Ms. Szetela said. “So, there was some concern expressed about that particular community not providing comments. And there were community leaders who were working on sort of engaging that population to try to give us the information that we’re going to need in terms of where that community of interest is and where they’re located.”

Mr. Clark also noted that there remains some concern about residents living in northern Lower Peninsula who don’t know enough about the commission’s work or how to give public comment.

Also on the call was Susan Smith, vice president of League of Women Voters Michigan, who said she knew of several groups the League has been working with that have yet to give public comment and was urging them to do so.

In the same vein, ICRC Executive Director Suann Hammersmith said she has not seen gaps in the strata of communities that have given public comment thus far, but certainly wanted more communities to attend the few meetings they have left to do so.

Edward Woods III, the commission’s communications and outreach director, also told reporters that there is a big push to collect input from members of the disability community – particularly in Macomb and Oakland counties – which has involved coaching them on how to give comment and collecting those comments once they’re ready to give input.

Mr. Woods said they should have access to that feedback from the disability community within the next few weeks.

As to whether the commission feels like it would be able to meet its stated goal of fielding a high number of unique comments during the public hearing phase, Mr. Woods reiterated that the commission would continue to take public comment and consider them well after its final hearing in Grand Rapids on July 1.

In fact, the commission would continue to take public comment up until the date it begins to draw maps, he said.

Map drawing will require more than the narrative feedback the commission has gained over the last few months, as delayed U.S. Census data will be the key driver in deciding where to draw the lines. The commission is expected to receive that data in September and has asked for a deadline extension currently pending before the Michigan Supreme Court (see separate story).

As the commission awaits the census data and the high court’s ruling, Ms. Hammersmith said that the body will press forward working with what it has.

Full commission discussions on the communities of interest piece and what stood out at the public hearings will begin as soon as Thursday’s meeting before it begins to take public comment, Ms. Hammersmith said – indicating that the work to identify those communities will be well underway before the body ends its public hearing tour.

“Yes, there will be some reflections about what the commissioners have learned along the way, but everything is being put in place so when the public hearings are over, the commissioners can really begin their work in earnest, thinking about the data sets for mapping, all the data that will go into the maps that they will create and the work that is ahead of them,” Ms. Hammersmith said.

Mr. Clark noted that they have been in direct and frequent contact with their vendors, including the commission’s map drawing consultant Election Data Services, which has given a presentation on the path forward and will continue to do so over the next few sessions.

EDS is also working with a commission subcommittee to develop a business process regarding how they will navigate the final steps, he added.

A meeting with all the vendors the commission has hired to discuss those next steps is scheduled for July 8.


May Unemployment Ticks Up To 5% Amid Modest Workforce Gain

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate for May hit 5 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the month prior, according to data from the Department of Technology, Management and Budget released Wednesday.

Michigan employment levels increased a minimal amount – by 6,000 – while the number of unemployed individuals edged up by 3,000, resulting in a workforce gain of 9,000 in May.

“Michigan’s labor market remained stable during May,” Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The unemployment rate and payroll job counts both showed little change over the month.”

The United States’ jobless rate decreased by 0.3 percentage point between April and May to 5.8 percent – 0.8 percentage point above the Michigan rate. Over the year, the U.S. rate dropped by 7.5 percentage points, while Michigan’s rate moved down significantly by 15.8 percentage points. It was a year ago when unemployment was at its pandemic peak amid a wide-ranging shutdown order.

These annual rate reductions reflected the return to work of persons since the very high pandemic-related layoffs in May 2020.

Regarding trends for the month, Michigan’s May workforce level changed very little, edging up just 0.2 percent which was comparable to the national trend. Employment in the state advanced for the third consecutive month, moving up by 24,000 since February. Further, after four consecutive months of unemployment reductions, the statewide unemployment level increased in May by 1.3 percent.

Michigan’s overall employment, however, remains well below pre-pandemic levels with its total employment in May being 268,000 – 5.6 percent below February 2020 levels. The statewide jobless rate of 5 percent is also 1.3 percentage points higher than the jobless rate from February 2020.

In the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the seasonally adjusted rate also climbed up very marginally to 4.4 percent but has largely remained stable for the last four months. Over the last year, the Detroit MSA’s unemployment rate has plunged nearly 20 percentage points as workers returned to their jobs following the high level of pandemic-related layoffs in May 2020.

As for payroll levels, a monthly survey of employers noted that total nonfarm jobs remained virtually unchanged between April and May, edging down by 0.1 percent. The total amount of payroll jobs during May was 4.1 million, with minor job changes being observed in all major industry sectors during May.

On a percentage basis, the largest over-the-month job gain occurred in the state’s transportation equipment manufacturing sector, with employment advancing by 3.7 percent due to some worker recalls from short-term layoffs in the auto industry.

Broad industry sectors with the largest percent job gains over the year include leisure and hospitality – up by 59.8 percent – and manufacturing, which increased by 29.1 percent. Both, however, still are trending well below pre-pandemic levels.

Avoiding Mistakes in Running Retirement Plans; Butzel Long hosts free webinar on June 22

DETROIT, Mich. – To err is human. If the mistake involves administering a retirement plan, it also can be enormously costly and professionally embarrassing. As a result, Butzel Long is hosting a free webinar titled, “Avoiding Mistakes in Running a Retirement Plan,” from 12-1 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. To register online, visit https://www.butzel.com/events.

Seasoned Butzel Long Employee Benefit attorneys will share cringe-worthy mistakes they’ve seen retirement plan administrators and plan sponsors make – again and again – during the course of their decades spent helping clients with retirement plan compliance.

Featured speakers include:

• Lynn McGuire concentrates her practice in the area of employee benefits law. She regularly works with defined benefit pension plans, 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) and (f) retirement plans, insured and self-insured group health plans, cafeteria plans, health reimbursement arrangements, flexible spending accounts, and health savings accounts, to name a few.

• Thomas Shaevsky practices in the area of employee benefits. He advises large multinational corporations, physicians and other professional practices, hospitals, and other nonprofit employers, as well as individuals, on compliance and planning issues pertaining to a wide range of retirement, pension, and welfare plan issues.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as an alliance office in Beijing. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting www.butzel.com or follow Butzel Long on Twitter: https://twitter.com/butzel_long

Amy Hall Named President of JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company

AssuredPartners is proud to announce that effective June 1, Amy Hall has become the Agency President for JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company. Amy started at AssuredPartners in 2012 as a Sales Executive. With more than 25 years of experience in the health care and employee benefits industries, she services one of the largest blocks for the agency.

Amy specializes in financial and benefit evaluation of employer-sponsored medical, dental, vision, life and disability insurance benefits, as well as the coordination of tax shelters available in employer-sponsored programs. She is active in several local and regional industry associations and boards, including Priority Health’s Agency Advisory Board, Metro Detroit Association of Health Underwriters (MDAHU) and National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU).

Her dedication to clients as well as her background in operations positions her to excel in the oversight of clients and the agency service delivery model. Outside of leading the office, Amy enjoys spending time with her family, especially when it’s on the ski slopes of northern Michigan.

This role will report into AssuredPartners Regional President, Todd Stocksdale, who stated, “Amy’s passion for client-centric service is second to none. With her leadership, Amy will continue to push this region into even greater success.”

About JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company
JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company, is a full-service employee benefits firm located in Southfield, Michigan.  Since 1987, JS Clark has been providing employee benefit services to more than 300 clients. The agency specializes in the design, communication, administration, compliance and overall management of group benefit programs. Learn more at https://www.assuredpartners.com/SouthfieldMI.

About AssuredPartners, Inc.
Headquartered in Lake Mary, Florida, AssuredPartners is a full-service insurance broker providing commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and personal lines through consulting and services. With over 8,000 employees located in offices throughout North America, London, Belgium and Scotland, AssuredPartners is in the business of building relationships. While cementing powerful, lasting relationships built on trust earned from working openly and honestly with our partners. That’s what we call, Power through Partnership. For more information, visit www.assuredpartners.com.

Amy Hall Named President of JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company

AssuredPartners is proud to announce that effective June 1, Amy Hall has become the Agency President for JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company. Amy started at AssuredPartners in 2012 as a Sales Executive. With more than 25 years of experience in the health care and employee benefits industries, she services one of the largest blocks for the agency.

Amy specializes in financial and benefit evaluation of employer-sponsored medical, dental, vision, life and disability insurance benefits, as well as the coordination of tax shelters available in employer-sponsored programs. She is active in several local and regional industry associations and boards, including Priority Health’s Agency Advisory Board, Metro Detroit Association of Health Underwriters (MDAHU) and National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU).

Her dedication to clients as well as her background in operations positions her to excel in the oversight of clients and the agency service delivery model. Outside of leading the office, Amy enjoys spending time with her family, especially when it’s on the ski slopes of northern Michigan.

This role will report into AssuredPartners Regional President, Todd Stocksdale, who stated, “Amy’s passion for client-centric service is second to none. With her leadership, Amy will continue to push this region into even greater success.”

About JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company
JS Clark Agency, An AssuredPartners Company, is a full-service employee benefits firm located in Southfield, Michigan.  Since 1987, JS Clark has been providing employee benefit services to more than 300 clients. The agency specializes in the design, communication, administration, compliance and overall management of group benefit programs. Learn more at https://www.assuredpartners.com/SouthfieldMI.

About AssuredPartners, Inc.
Headquartered in Lake Mary, Florida, AssuredPartners is a full-service insurance broker providing commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and personal lines through consulting and services. With over 8,000 employees located in offices throughout North America, London, Belgium and Scotland, AssuredPartners is in the business of building relationships. While cementing powerful, lasting relationships built on trust earned from working openly and honestly with our partners. That’s what we call, Power through Partnership. For more information, visit www.assuredpartners.com.

Chamber Congratulates Rep. Fred Upton on Bipartisanship Award

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton was awarded the Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship, along with 22 other members of the House of Representatives and ten Senators by the U.S. Chamber.

Rep. Upton serves Southwest Michigan’s Sixth Congressional district. Congressman Upton’s work on energy issues and protecting the Great Lakes have earned him a strong local and national reputation. As an active member of the Great Lakes Task Force, the congressman has an extensive, bipartisan record working to protect our Great Lakes. A leader on keeping BP from dumping pollutants into Lake Michigan, Rep Upton has also been a long-time leader in preventing Asian Carp and other invasive species from entering our waterways, and working on bipartisan legislation to keep harmful pollutants like synthetic plastic microbeads from getting into Lake Michigan.

The new Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship recognizes those members of Congress, who in their actions, have demonstrated a willingness to work across the aisle in support of common objectives.

This award is based on the number of bills –except those formally opposed by the Chamber– a member cosponsors introduced by a Member of the opposite party. Members are ranked relative to the performance of all other members of their party, with the top-ranked in both parties earning 100%. This prestigious recognition is presented to the top Senators and Representatives from both parties.

“These awards recognize members of Congress who demonstrated a commitment to
advancing bipartisan solutions that address our nation’s problems and move our economy forward,”
said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark. “In a time of intense polarization and
gridlock [Insert member or senator]’s record of working across the aisle is to be commended.”

The Detroit Regional Chamber is proud to work with Rep. Upton and congratulates him on this well-deserved honor.

Laura You Elected to Inforum Board

Laura N. You, a partner with the law firm Warner Norcross + Judd LLP, has been elected to the Inforum board of directors.

You’s three-year term, which begins in July, was announced as part of Inforum’s 59th annual meeting. You and her fellow board members will work to maximize the effectiveness of the organization, which combines strategic connections, proven professional development programs, a respected forum for new ideas and original research to accelerate careers for women and boost talent initiatives for companies. You previously completed Inforum’s executive leadership program.

At Warner, You concentrates her practice on complex commercial disputes in the automotive, aerospace and industrial manufacturing industries. A former mortgage banker, You is also a member of the firm’s Financial Services Industry Group. She practices in Warner’s new Detroit office.

Active professionally and in the community, You is a member of the Federal Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan, Detroit Bar Association and Oakland County Bar Association. She is a member of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a graduate of Leadership Oakland and serves on the Sky Foundation Inc.’s Young Professionals Group.

You has been recognized as a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers each year since 2016.

About Warner
By providing discerning and proactive legal advice, Warner Norcross + Judd builds a better partnership with its clients. Warner is a corporate law firm with 230 attorneys practicing in nine offices throughout Michigan: Grand Rapids, Detroit, Midland, Macomb County, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Lansing, Holland and Bloomfield Hills. To learn more, visit www.wnj.com, follow us on Twitter @WNJLLP or connect on LinkedIn or Facebook.

# # #

OCC Celebrates Class of 2021 Graduates

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – June 16, 2021 – After a year like no other, which featured Oakland Community College’s first-ever, all-online year of learning, OCC celebrated its Class of 2021 graduates’ great achievement with a virtual commencement. This was the second year the event was held virtually, and nearly 1,600 graduates were honored.

“You were asked to achieve everything that students have done in past ‘normal’ years, while overcoming unbelievable challenges in the process,” said Peter M. Provenzano Jr., OCC Chancellor. “But you did it.”

The special event featured taped messages and photos from graduates, a recognition clip for each student as part of the roll call procession, remarks from OCC faculty and staff, a special keynote address and more. La’Jonnaqueece McEwen, OCC Graduating Class of 2021, sang the National Anthem to kick off the celebration.

OCC surprised graduates pre-ceremony with a special “Grad Box” that included a cap and tassel, commencement program, diploma cover, OCC swag and more. Graduates could also order a gown and other graduation memorabilia from the OCC Bookstore.

“Shout out to Oakland Community College for going above and beyond for their graduates this year! I was not expecting this Grad Box at all, and it may even top my ‘graduation’ for my Bachelors,” OCC graduate Kristina Renee Miller said.

Michigan’s Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II delivered the keynote address, which focused on graduates’ resiliency and ability to adapt – and how this has helped prepare them for a world that has opportunities and considerable challenges.

He also posed his own challenge: “I dare you to be bold. Be a bolder thinker. Be a bolder innovator. Be a more bold change-maker. Do not be afraid to think outside the box and stand tall in your beliefs. Today marks the next step in your journey, so take time to enjoy this moment, soak it in, because tomorrow, you take those bold next steps.”

In addition, the special event featured a collaborative address from several OCC students, who shared insights from their experiences during a year of online learning.

“We had to deal with balancing school, work and life in a virtual world,” said Shruti Goel, who studied Computer Information Systems.

“We were put in the most difficult situations, but we managed them – and we grew,” said Markus Tepandi-Sivila, who studied Business and Marketing.

“And we received such amazing support from our OCC instructors, administrators, mentors, advisors and counselors – ultimately helping us to get to this day,” said Tala Alahmar, who studied International Relations and Political Science. Alahmar was also recently elected 2021 international president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the primary honor society for two-year colleges.

Students and family members viewed one or more of the pre-recorded ceremonies customized to graduates from the Arts & Communications; Science, Health Sciences & Human Services; Business, Management, Marketing, Technology, and Engineering, Manufacturing & industrial Technology; and General Studies programs. The commencement ceremonies remain available for viewing on OCC’s website.

“The world needs your talent, your passion, your voice,” said Provenzano. “Your school experience has been set against the backdrop of a global community undergoing seismic shifts and new, unprecedented trials. No matter where your journey takes you next, no matter what your future holds, no matter how you choose to make your mark in your own communities, I know you will continue to make all of us proud.”

Following the Virtual Commencement ceremonies, graduates and their families gathered at the Orchard Ridge campus for OCC’s first ever Commencement Car Parade. Nearly 150 cars full of graduates and their loved ones drove through the approximately one-mile long parade route, which was adorned with inspirational quotes, lively music, balloons and decorations, and most importantly, OCC faculty and staff members cheering them on. At the end of the parade route, graduates drove across a “green carpet” and had their names announced by Academic Deans, as well as receiving accolades from Chancellor Peter Provenzano and Provost Jennifer Berne.

About OCC
Offering nearly 100 degrees and certificates, OCC is Michigan’s largest multi-campus community college and No. 1 transfer institution in the state. The College provides academic, career training and enriching experiences, designed to empower students to reach their potential and enhance our community. More than 1 million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. A seven-person Board of Trustees governs OCC. Board members are elected on a non-partisan, at-large basis, serve as volunteers and are not paid. Mission statement: OCC is committed to empowering our students to succeed and advancing our community. Learn more at oaklandcc.edu.

###

Detroit Leaders to Discuss the “Future of” Equity, Small Business Development, and the Riverfront at the 2021 Detroit Policy Conference

Several Detroit changemakers have joined the growing 2021 Detroit Policy Conference speaker lineup to discuss the “Future of” Detroit. These Ted Talk-style sessions will offer a look at what’s ahead for each speaker’s respective initiatives. Hear from:

  • Regina Ann Campbell, president and chief executive officer of the Build Institute, who will explore the future of small business in Detroit.
  • Anika Goss, chief executive officer of Detroit Future City, who will outline how to increase equity and opportunity for Detroiters.
  • Mark Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, who will discuss the future of the Detroit riverfront.

This year’s Conference will be on Tuesday, July 13, at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, a unique outdoor venue that will allow the Chamber and local business community to gather safely to celebrate what’s ahead for Detroit.

For additional Conference updates, visit: detroitchamber.com/dpc

Stellantis, National Business League form development program for Black suppliers

6/17/21

Crain’s Detroit Business

By Vince Bond Jr.

Stellantis is laying the groundwork for a Black-owned suppliers development initiative that will reach beyond the auto industry.

The Stellantis-National Business League National Black Supplier Development Program will ensure that businesses receive virtual training and gain access to an online marketplace with the goal of building “a bridge between the public and private sectors to create substantive business opportunities for Black suppliers” around the U.S. and internationally.

The automaker, whose North American headquarters is in Auburn Hills, will anchor the creation of a virtual training and development portal over the next three years. It will first open the portal to its own suppliers and then make it available to other automakers, the federal government and companies in the public and private sectors.

Stellantis plans to begin a pilot run with several suppliers in January that will include companies outside the automotive space. The initial target was 10 companies for the pilot, but Stellantis isn’t sure what the final number could be because of the early excitement it’s seeing, said Marvin Washington, Stellantis’ director of electrical and electronics purchasing and the national lead for the new program.

Companies in the pilot include a marketing company, a real estate operation and Isiah International, a holding company owned by NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. The automotive arm of Thomas’ company is working to develop renewable hemp-based alternatives to plastics for use in vehicles.

“Part of the focus will first be automotive in the beginning, but we want, through our relationships, to be able to provide development for any industry that a Black business is interested in,” Washington told Automotive News.

The National Business League wanted to work with Stellantis because of its experience in supplier diversity. Chrysler founded its minority supplier program in 1983 and has spent more than $60 billion with diverse suppliers since then.

The new program was born after the automaker’s diversity and inclusion office, led by Lottie Holland, met with the business league and brainstormed ideas.

“Knowing how instrumental OEMs have been even during the civil rights movement in developing some of the first diversity programs to exist in the country and Stellantis being at that table, we wanted to start with a proven system and expertise we know that works,” said Ken Harris, the league’s CEO.

Washington said one of the key components of the program will be to train Black entrepreneurs in how to present their products. Washington wants the initiative to boost the credentials of these companies so they can point to their experiences in the program and what they learned while dealing with potential clients.

“What we want to do is to remove the barriers that keep the Black businesses out,” Washington said. “So we really like to give them, as they go through this program, the opportunity to understand what the customer is going to be looking at and how the customer is going to be assessing their facility, their presentation, their financials, all of that.”

Harris is calling the program a “huge opportunity” for job creation and “sustainable Black business growth.”

Once the online marketplace is up and running, it will provide access to capital, mentorship, executive coaching, supplier training and development, bid posting, match-making, supply chain solutions and talent placement and acquisition, among other things.

“We wanted to step up in partnership to obviously look at how we truly move the needle post-civil rights,” Harris said. “We have turned the corner socially, educationally and politically. Where we have not turned the corner, in terms of the Black community, is entrepreneurship and economics.”

He added: “Stellantis and the National Business League want to put this program in place to be intentional in our design to address Black racial equity needs for the marketplace and also prepare future Black businesses to be competitive for future opportunities.”

View original article here 

Butzel Long attorney Laura E. Johnson named to DBusiness magazine’s ‘30 in Their Thirties’

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – Butzel Long attorney and shareholder Laura E. Johnson has been named to DBusiness magazine’s 2021 Class of “30 in Their Thirties,” which profiles metro Detroit business professionals who have achieved notable success in their respective fields. Johnson is profiled in the June 2021 edition.

Johnson practices in the area of business and corporate law. She practices primarily in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, nonprofit organizations, corporate governance, entity formation and general corporate and business law. She advises clients in venture capital and private equity transactions.

Notably, Johnson is the co-chair of Butzel Long’s Pro-Bono Committee and a member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. She serves as a council member of the State Bar of Michigan Business Law Section. She previously served as a member of OESA’s Young Leadership Council 3 and a member of its Talent Retention subcommittee.

She is admitted to practice in Michigan State Courts, New York State Courts and the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Johnson is a member of the Federal Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan.

Johnson is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law (J.D., magna cum laude, 2009) where she was a member of Law Review and Executive Editor (2008-09). She also graduated from the University of Michigan (B.A., with honors, 2006).

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as an alliance office in Beijing. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting www.butzel.com or follow Butzel Long on Twitter: https://twitter.com/butzel_long