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Nestle gets richer while Michigan waits for better water protections

House Bills 5290, 5291 and 5292 introduced almost a year ago languish awaiting a hearing

While water shut-offs and lead poisoning still threaten Michigan’s vulnerable citizens, late last week, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) dismissed a challenge to Nestle Waters North America’s 2018 permit that allows the multinational corporation to extract Michigan’s groundwater at an extraordinarily minimal cost. Under the current Safe Drinking Water Act, EGLE is authorized to issue permits for water extraction, but may not charge a fee for groundwater extracted for bottled water.

In late 2019, state Reps. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids), Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) introduced legislation that would explicitly include all waters of the state in the public trust, expand the Department of Natural Resource’s authority to manage Michigan’s water supplies, and remove the small-container exemption to the prohibition on diverting water from the Great Lakes that allows for Nestle’s operations.

“Tomorrow will mark exactly 50 weeks since my colleagues and I introduced legislation to secure and protect Michigan’s water resources,” said Hood. “While the decision that EGLE reached in this challenge is no surprise, the refusal by the legislative Republican majority to give this package of bills a hearing in committee is both shameful and disappointing. Over 80,000 Michigan citizens have documented their concerns about Michigan water resource give-aways to benefit the shareholders of an international corporation. The citizens of Michigan have been waiting for years for legislative action to stop this foolish ‘blue light special’, allowing corporations to privatize our state’s greatest natural resource, freshwater. This has been an issue in our state for far too long, and we must act quickly to enact policies that protect Michigan’s natural resources and secure the rights of all Michiganders.”

House Bills 5290, 5291 and 5292 were introduced on Dec. 10, 2019, and have been awaiting a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee since that time.

Read OKT’s take on Water Justice here.

Michigans’ for-profit colleges target low income students, fail to provide graduates high-quality outcomes

New report shows many for-profit colleges use deceptive practices to recruit students in order to gain access to federal aid

For-profit colleges in Michigan are overpriced, under-regulated and target students who have low incomes, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy. The report, For-profit colleges in Michigan: Path forward or dead end?, shows that most for-profit colleges in the state—there were 77 of them in 2018—cost more money than traditional public schools and don’t provide opportunities or degree value that aligns with that high price tag. The schools target students with low incomes, Black and Latinx students and veterans largely because those students are more likely to receive federal aid like Pell grants.

“We see predatory behavior when it comes to the way these for-profit institutions advertise. They’re aggressively recruiting folks earning low wages, nontraditional students trying to raise a family, our nation’s veterans, and Black and Latinx students. In fact, nearly three-quarters of students in for-profit schools in the United States had an income of $24,000 or less in 2016. Meanwhile, the students are graduating with massive debt and lower employment rates than their counterparts at traditional public and nonprofit private schools,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

All told, Black students are overrepresented in for-profit schools when compared to the overall population of potential Black students in the state. In 2018, on average 30.6% of the student body at a Michigan for-profit school was Black. This percentage of Black enrollment was at least 20 points greater than that in other

types of institutions in the state. Systemic inequities in postsecondary education by race and targeted, aggressive marketing strategies likely compound, creating overrepresentation of Black students enrolled in for-profit institutions in the state.

Eighty-three percent of graduates from for-profit colleges in the U.S. took out student loans and graduated with an average of $39,000 in debt. That’s 41% higher than graduates from other types of four-year colleges. What’s more, 30% of students at for-profit colleges in Michigan defaulted on their federal student loans, compared with just 4% of students at public colleges. 


“By definition, for-profit colleges aim to make money for investors. So what incentive do they have to keep tuition and other costs down? They’re not only shortchanging students, they’re exploiting them in order to benefit from federal aid like Pell Grants.The influx of students receiving federal aid means taxpayer money is flowing right into these schools and helping them profit. These for-profit schools prey on students who are in need, promising a way forward to the ‘American Dream,’ but they’re not delivering on that promise,” Gilda Z. Jacobs said.

For-profit college recruiters have used misleading claims about cost, time commitment and job placement in order to attract students. This, along with other deceptive practices, has led to several for-profit colleges and their parent companies being prosecuted for consumer protection violations and other protection violations. Attorney General Dana Nessel has signed Michigan on to several multi-state lawsuits against for-profit educational companies that defrauded students.

The League recommends a variety of solutions that state and federal policymakers can adopt, including requiring institutions to disclose all federal funding, encouraging high school counseling offices to provide materials on how to weigh costs and benefits when choosing a college, and restoring student borrower protections that were enacted during the Obama administration and eliminated by the Trump administration. 

The higher education needs of all Michiganders, especially students of color and those with lower incomes, continues to be a focus of the League’s policy work. A report released in May 2020, Expanding the dream: Helping Michigan reach racial equity in Bachelor’s degree completion, found that Michigan ranks third-worst in the nation for the number of bachelor degrees earned by Black students. Another recent report looked at COVID-19’s impact on college students and their basic needs.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Additional COVID-19 food assistance extended through November

Nov. 6, 2020 Press Release from MDHHS

Additional COVID-19 food assistance for 350,000 Michigan families in response to COVID-19 emergency extended through November 

Approximately 350,000 Michigan families will continue to have access to additional food assistance benefits during the month of November as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced today.

Michigan previously approved the additional food assistance for March through June – and now that is being extended for the month of November with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.

“MDHHS remains committed to helping families who continue to struggle to put food on the table as a result of the pandemic,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “Providing nutritious food is vitally important during these difficult times just as protecting residents from the virus is.”

Eligible clients will see additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Card by Nov. 30, with payments beginning for some households on Nov. 21. Additional benefits will be loaded onto Bridge Cards as a separate payment from the assistance that is provided earlier in the month.

Nearly 1.5 million people in Michigan receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the state’s Food Assistance Program 

Households eligible for Food Assistance Program benefits will receive additional benefits in November to bring all current SNAP 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 more than 50 percent of the more than 682,000 Michigan households that received food assistance in September. The remaining households already receive the maximum benefit.

The table below shows the maximum allowable benefit for SNAP customers based on their respective household size: 

One Person Two PersonsThree PersonsFour PersonsFive PersonsSix PersonsSeven Persons Eight Persons 
$204$374$535$680$807$969$1,071$1,224

The federal government is providing additional funding to states for food assistance under House Resolution 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Eligible families do not need to re-apply to receive the additional benefits. People who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Card by going online to  www.michigan.gov/MIBridges a consumer service representative toll-free at 888-678-8914. They can ask questions about the additional benefits by calling or emailing their caseworker.

Customer service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Spanish and Arabic service is available. If you are deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing or speech-impaired, call the Michigan Relay Center at 7-1-1.

Information around the COVID-19 outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at  Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.  

Decades of state revenue sharing cuts have harmed communities, impeded racial equity

New report shows state funding for local governments has declined by up to one-third over 22 years, forcing budget cuts, diminished services and bad policies

LANSING—As local governments seek to address the COVID-19 crisis and address calls to reevaluate local spending and its impact on racial equity, a new report, Building Equitable Communities: More Funding Needed for Local Governments, looks at the role that revenue sharing declines are playing in these decisions. 

The research from the Michigan League for Public Policy shows that local revenue sharing payments—state funding that’s distributed to local governments—have declined 35.4% for cities, villages and townships and 25.4% for counties between 1997 and 2019. In addition to the report, related fact sheets offer an overview of the decline in state revenue sharing and a timeline of important policy decisions that have affected local government funding.

“I have served on the Huntington Woods City Commission and in the Michigan Legislature, so I have seen both sides of the revenue sharing equation and know how vital a fair deal from the state is to our local governments,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Local government spending touches our daily lives just as much as state spending, from the local health departments making important decisions right now, the emergency services we depend on in a crisis, the roads we drive on, the parks our kids play in and more, and for the past two decades, our state government’s commitment to our counties, cities, villages and townships has dwindled. COVID-19 has amplified the importance of our local governments and their funding needs, but equitable revenue sharing should be a part of every single state budget.”

The report reveals that local governments have been getting hit on both sides as far as their budget funding goes. In addition to state revenue sharing declines, property tax collections have also diminished. When adjusted for inflation, property tax collections in 2019 were 8.7% below collections in 2017 and only 11% above the trough in property tax collections brought on by the 2008-2009 foreclosure crisis. In 2019, real Michigan property tax collections were on par with collections in 2004. 

These trends in property tax collections are the product of two intertwined constitutional limitations: the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A. The passage of Proposal A had some unintended consequences when combined with the Headlee Amendment, and the report explores those policy changes and their impact in greater detail.

Increasing local revenues is a racial justice issue. To achieve the vision of racial equity, economic prosperity, and social justice, the people, organizations, and governments that support those goals need resources. With more flexible spending power, local units of government can target resources to programs and services as needed.

“Racial equity is an important concern in every policy decision, as they have both intended and unintended consequences, and revenue sharing is no different,” Jacobs said. “The continued fight against police brutality toward Black and Brown people has also raised important questions about local government spending, and with more resources from the state in revenue sharing, greater investments can be made in the areas that promote racial equity and economic security for all. And as state lawmakers tackle a variety of criminal justice reforms, including revisiting court fines and fees, they must also acknowledge that revenue sharing declines have pushed local governments to rely more on court fines and fees.”

The League’s analysis points out that local units of government are seeking to recoup declining revenues in increasingly inequitable and unpopular ways, including a growing reliance on fine and fee collection to pay for city services. The white supremacist system on which modern policing is built and longstanding racially biased policing in Michigan have created a system where Black and Brown people in Michigan are systematically targeted by police. As such, a heavy reliance on fines and fees is disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities.

In addition, the movement to defund police is pushing for the reinvestment of revenues from policing into racially equitable systems that target and preempt the root causes of crime. To do this, local units of government are going to need funding to reinvigorate opportunities in communities of color to reduce income and wealth inequality. Funding a completely new vision of public safety will require injections of money from the state to help fund the mental health services, youth programs and social safety net that will achieve that vision.

The League’s report outlines the following recommendations to address local governments’ funding needs, improving racial equity in the process:

  • Significantly increasing statutory revenue sharing to counties and cities, villages and townships to at least match what is called for under the statutory formula from Public Act 532 of 1998;
  • Creating new formulas for the distribution of statutory revenue sharing to send more resources to communities with low housing wealth;
  • Expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit; and
  • Authorizing more tax options for local units of government, including motor vehicle taxes and registration fees, and alcohol, tobacco and cannabis taxes, and taxes on entertainment and amusement.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

#30Days30Dollars Challenge

grabbTake the Pledge! 

Link to Facebook
#30day30dollars Challenge

Today, the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) launched an economic empowerment initiative primarily seeks to raise the community’s awareness of Black owned businesses while increasing the capital flowing to these businesses. One way you can make this happen is to shop the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market on Sept. 5 and 19! 

GRABB also seeks to aide in the sustainability of locally owned black businesses that support families. “By doing so we will increase employment opportunities for residents within neighborhoods of focus that will lead to a reduction in the unemployment rate and begin to revitalize economically neglected neighborhoods,” GRABB’s messaging says.

Beginning the week of September 1, 2020 through the week of September 30, 2020, GRABB is challenging 1,000 residents to commit to shifting $30 of their monthly spending to a Black owned businesses with the overall goal of increasing the length of time dollars remain in Black neighborhood businesses.

“By shifting your dollars to Black Businesses, you will be playing a vital role improving the quality of life in economically marginalized neighborhoods in Grand Rapids while purchasing great products and services,” GRABB reports. “By the end of our #30days30dollars challenge, we will realize the collective strength of our dollars and the strength of the people in our community!’

Support New Legislation to Extend and Expand Online SNAP Sales

Please support this bill by signing here …. and share with others!

SNAP-logo-png-300x300SNAP benefits cannot be processed electronically with independent markets, grocers, or farms. The only approved vendors in Michigan are currently Amazon, Walmart, and few larger stores.

However, new federal legislation (“Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020“) was introduced last month to expand online redemption of SNAP to retailers and markets of all scales. To help advocate for this bill, Taste the Local Differencehas collaborated with a community partner to create the above linked sign on letter. 
With the pandemic this year, many consumers have turned to web platforms for essential purchases, including food. Online sales have also become critical to many producers and markets in our local food system. While these systems have many benefits, one challenge operators of online local food markets have repeatedly expressed is accessibility.
Please support this bill by signing here …. and share with others!

Black lives matter — but not to the nuclear industry

Reposted from Beyond Nuclear

“Black communities get more promises than jobs — and they get pollution and they get sick”

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Systemic racism in the nuclear industrial complex has endured for decades. Every community of color has been affected. As we confront the wider impact of centuries of racism in the US, we take a closer look specifically at discrimination against African Americans in the nuclear power sector.

The shackles of slavery may be gone, but there is now a knee on the neck of African American voices, whether literal or metaphorical, when it comes to challenging injustice. And it is there when confronting the bias of the nuclear power industry and other lethal polluters. It is quite deliberately there. It is there not only to oppress — and in the case of George Floyd to kill — but to silence and disenfranchise. To stunt movements for change.

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That is perhaps how the NAACP’s A.C. Garner, felt after the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dismissed black concerns over a proposed new nuclear power plant in Mississippi in 2005. It was, he said,  like “posting a ‘WHITES ONLY’ sign on the hearing room door.”

Garner’s statement was a reaction to a January 19, 2005 decision by the NRC to grant permission for a second nuclear reactor to be built at the Grand Gulf site in Mississippi. It was to be built in the poorest county in the state, itself the poorest state in the union.

It would join Grand Gulf Unit 1, opened in 1985 in the Claiborne County city of Port Gibson, and would be known as Grand Gulf Unit 3, as all there is of Unit 2 is an empty concrete pad— the plant owners, Entergy, having asked the NRC to revoke that planned reactor’s license in 1991.

Grand Gulf 1, the largest single unit in the country, with an output of around 1,500 MW, is located in a community that is 87% African American, with a poverty rate of 46% according to census data. The median household income in Claiborne County is $24,601 per year. At least 35% of the population depends on Medicaid. The Covid-19 infection rate there is still headed on an upward trajectory.

Back in 2005, the county was already ill prepared for a health crisis of any sort. It had just one crumbling hospital, struggling to meet the needs of a deprived community and with zero capacity to handle a nuclear emergency. Evacuation routes were washed out and impassible. The police force was completely under-equipped.

“The county doesn’t even have a hospital that’s open 24 hours, and there’s only one fire station in the entire county,” Rose Johnson, chairwoman of the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club, told the Jackson Free Press at the time. “The situation should send chills down the spines of anyone who lives within a 100-mile radius of Port Gibson.”

Why such deprivation? Why weren’t Port Gibson and Claiborne County flush with the tax revenues the plant should have brought in? Because in 1986, fearing price hikes for the “too cheap to meter” electricity generated by Grand Gulf nuclear Unit 1, Entergy succeeded in getting the predominantly white Mississippi legislature to pass a bill to redistribute more than 70% of those tax revenues to 47 other counties in the state. It is the only reactor community in the country that does not reap the lion’s share of its nuclear plant tax dollars.

The law left an already poor black community even more desperately deprived. But it pre-empted any complaints about increased electricity costs from whiter communities elsewhere in the state.

By the time of the 2005 NRC decision, the agency had also conveniently ruled that issues of environmental justice such as racism, fairness and economic equity would not be considered litigable during reactor licensing proceedings. It was a move clearly designed to silence black voices. “Whites Only” was indeed firmly nailed to the door.

It’s an old story, one of systemic racism throughout the nuclear sector.

It began with the uranium mining conducted largely by Native Americans, without protection and unaware of the health risks. It continued with the Trinity test, irradiating downwinders, many of them from Native American and Hispanic communities.

Then the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an act of racism that did not pass unnoticed by the African American community, many of whom — including Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, James Baldwin, and Marian Anderson — came out to join the nuclear freeze movement.

The US atomic tests carried out overseas blasted the atolls of the Marshallese, treated as guinea pigs and described by a US official as “more like us than mice.” The domestic tests were conducted on land belonging to the Western Shoshone.

The British tested their bombs at Maralinga in Australia, on Aboriginal homelands. The Belgians mined their uranium in the African Congo. The French tested atomic weapons on Algerians in the Sahara, then moved to the South Pacific islands.

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Back in the US,  Hispanic communities such as Sierra Blanca, TX were targeted for nuclear waste dumps, a trend that has continued; with the choice of Yucca Mountain, on Western Shoshone land, as the place to host the country’s high-level nuclear waste; with the imposition of unwanted new nuclear reactors and the huge nuclear weapons complex at the Savannah River Site, which would poison black communities. And on and on.

It is a culture and a practice that have never changed. In a 2016 paper — Emerging Environmental Justice Issues in Nuclear Power and Radioactive Contamination — published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, academics Dean Kyne and Bob Bolin noted that the NRC’s “growing constraints” in public participation spoke to “who is or is not recognized as worthy of inclusion in decision-making regarding the allocation of hazard burdens.”

They described the culture at the NRC as reinforcing “a tradition of secrecy, denial, and misinformation that has long been part of the nuclear industrial complex.”

They further noted that while “federal agencies are mandated to identify and address adverse human health and environmental impacts on minority and low-income populations,” this does not apply to the NRC, for whom it is “not mandatory” but merely “voluntary.” In allowing this level of discretion over what issues may be considered an environmental justice concern, “not surprisingly, 76 percent were labeled as being of ‘small significance’,” the authors wrote.

“The NRC once again bowed to its master — the nuclear industry — to pave the way for construction in an area where they expect least resistance,” said Garner of the Grand Gulf 3 debacle. (As it turns out, Entergy canceled Grand Gulf 3 in February 2015, when its lousy economics finally wouldn’t stand up).

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The forced imposition of a dangerous and polluting industrial installation on a poor community of color in desperate need of jobs remains an age-old tactic of corporations and governments. In challenging Grand Gulf 3 before its cancelation, residents of Port Gibson rightly asked why, if a new nuclear power plant was such an economy-boosting bonanza, the area was still the poorest in the country two decades after the first reactor came on line?

Residents of Burke County, Georgia, are asking similar questions. The county itself is about evenly divided between black and white populations, but the communities of Shell Bluff and Waynesboro, poor and black, have been the hardest hit by nuclear installations in the area. Today, 40.9% of the children there live below the federal poverty line, with a higher rate of childhood poverty than 86.8% of U.S. neighborhoods. Waynesboro is 70.4% black.

The poisoning of surrounding communities began in the 1950s, when an entire town was relocated to make way for the massive Savannah River Site (SRS) atomic bomb factory just across the river and state line, near Aiken, SC— the place where tritium and plutonium was produced for nuclear weapons.

In the 1980s, a whistleblower named William Lawless revealed how the US Department of Energy, which owns SRS, had been dumping cardboard boxes filled with nuclear waste into trenches, where the boxes had leaked their deadly inventory into the groundwater.

In 1987, two nuclear reactor units came on line at Plant Vogtle, just 10 miles from Shell Bluff and 18 miles from Waynesboro. Cancer rates started to creep up. Then, against the objections of the local black community, the green light was given for two more reactors to be built at Plant Vogtle.

The decision was made all the more painful given that it was Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, who came in person to announce the Vogtle 3 and 4 go-ahead, sweetening it with a $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee and flanked for his big media moment by two white guys.  Meanwhile, Vogtle 3 and 4 are both still under construction, wildly over budget and way behind schedule and with a micro-epidemic of Covid-19 cases among the workforce.

What Will the Hunger Industrial Complex Look Like After Covid-19?

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Andrew Fisher is the author of Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.

By Andrew Fisher 

Reposted from Food Bank News, APRIL 22, 2020

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, normal wasn’t so great for the working poor in America. Despite a 10-year recovery, 12 percent of the nation remained food insecure in 2018. The state of affairs was so economically unsustainable that food banks doubled their distribution from 2009 to 2019, to 5.25 billion pounds, serving 40 million people.

And now in 2020, with 22 million people thrown out of work in just a few weeks and an administration unable to muster much empathy for their plight, much less the cash to keep their refrigerators stocked, food banks have stepped in again to fill the void left by an absentee government. This time, however, food banks have gained more visibility, not just as the safety net under the (shredded) safety net, but as a front-line response. The miles-long lines of motorists waiting for a few sacks of groceries have become seared into the public imagination, a meme of the collective isolation and powerlessness many of us feel in the hands of an incompetent government. Charity has become the governing metaphor of the pandemic response, replacing justice, which itself has been placed on a ventilator.

But the food to feed people and the money with which to buy that food has to come from somewhere. And just as it has for the past few decades, it’s the alliance between anti-hunger organizations, the USDA, and corporate America, or the hunger industrial complex, that provides. It is this paradigm that is filling the vacuum left by Trump’s sociopathy, and as James Bailey, a management professor at George Washington University says, “Every crisis creates a void. And whatever force fills that void, inherits power.”

We should all be concerned that, in the post-pandemic era, the hunger industrial complex becomes more robust at the expense of the movement for fair wages, strong nutrition programs, and universal health care. Frankly, the unholy alliance between food banks and corporate America has shown itself to be more interested in maintaining the problem of hunger than actually solving it.

The existence of this unholy alliance poses the fundamental question of: “Why end hunger when anti-hunger work is so profitable to all parties?” Through supporting anti-hunger organizations, corporations reduce their labor costs, garbage disposal fees, and tax bills while building their reputations as socially responsible firms.

For food banks, hard times are good times. Their fundraising soars during recessions, and all too often they measure their success in the number of pounds that they distribute. The higher the poundage, the more they appear to be successful, and the more the donations come flowing in.

During this crisis, Big Food and Ag are doubling  down on the hunger industrial complex as a way to enhance their reputation. Consider the following examples:

Smithfield, the nation’s largest pork producer, has donated an extra $3 million and 10 million pounds of protein to food banks. It’s also been sued successfully multiple times for its racist practices of siting its hog factories next to impoverished African American communities. And it has come under fire for propagating the pandemic at its South Dakota processing plant, where over 500 workers have fallen ill with Covid-19.

At Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos recently donated $100 million to Feeding America. Amazon is both poised to be one of the two largest redeemers of online SNAP, sales, and has been revealed to be the largest employer of SNAP recipients in multiple states.

The current crisis presents an unparalleled organizing opportunity. But are food banks taking advantage of this crisis to make broader structural changes? How many food banks are doubling down on advocacy as tens of millions of new clients come through the door? How many food banks are including voter registration cards and SNAP-related action alerts in the grocery bags?  Or are food banks retrenching, eliminating their small social justice-oriented programs in favor of mobilizing all hands on deck to deal with increased demand? What’s the post-pandemic vision for the role of the sector on the part of Feeding America?

Going back to the old normal is no longer a tenable choice. The hunger industrial complex needs to be diminished in favor of a stronger government response — one that strengthens the social safety net while guaranteeing living wages and better working conditions for all. And food banks can be agents of change or keep themselves, as one former food bank CEO once told me, “mainstream, rich and respectable.”

Andrew Fisher has worked in the anti-hunger field for 25 years, as the executive director of national and local food groups, and as a researcher, organizer, policy advocate, and coalition builder. He is the author of “Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.”

GRPS shares updated P-EBT info

unnamedThe Grand Rapids Public Schools just shared these P-EBT updates and information.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) food assistance benefits will go to Michigan families with students ages 0-26 that are eligible for Free or Reduced-Price School Meals. This includes families currently receiving Food Assistance Program (FAP) benefits, as well as those not currently enrolled in the program. No application is necessary for eligible families to receive P-EBT benefits.

Program Information

Q: When will P-EBT cards be mailed out?
A: P-EBT benefits are being distributed in waves. The first round of benefits for families with active Food Assistance Program cards started last week and will continue to be distributed through the first week of May. The benefit will go to their bridge card. Families that do not have a bridge card will be mailed a P-EBT card. These cards will also be distributed in waves. The first cards start mailing out April 26th and will continue through the middle of May. Instructions are being mailed out for how to use and activate the card.
Again, it will take until the middle of May for cards to be mailed out. Please encourage families to hold off on calling DHHS with inquiries and wait for the first round of mailing to go out.

Q: Will there be directions on how to use the card?
A: There will directions mailed about a week ahead of the card. To activate the card, call the phone number on the back of the card. You will need the EBT card number on the front of the card, your zip code, and the date of birth of the oldest child in your household. You will need to set a four-digit pin number

Q: What address will the P-EBT card be sent to?
A: If the student was already receiving SNAP benefits, they will automatically receive the P-EBT benefits on their current Food Assistance Program (FAP) card. If the student is eligible based on a Free or Reduced-Price Meal Application, a new P-EBT card will go to the address in the Michigan Student Data System.

Q: Will there be an email or phone number available for parent questions regarding the P-EBT cards?
A: MDHHS is processing cards in batches thru mid-May. If you receive calls on P-EBT cards you may supply them with this number 1-833-905-0028. Keep in mind they might not answer the questions until then.

P-EBT Student Eligibility

Q: I have multiple school-age children, how much will our family be eligible for?
A: The pre-loaded Pandemic-EBT card will come in the mail and will be in the oldest school aged child’s name, not the parents name. Keep the card for ongoing benefits you may receive. The benefit amount for March/April is $193.80 per child and will be available by the end of April. The benefit amount for May/June is $182.40 per child and will be available by the end of May.

Q: For students that attend a CEP school, will all families be eligible for the P-EBT program automatically
A: In schools where all students receive free lunch and breakfast, which in Michigan is the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), all students will automatically receive the P-EBT benefits.

Q: Do schools need to send anything over to the Michigan Department of Education?
A: For non-CEP schools, eligibility for P-EBT was based on data reported in the Supplemental Nutrition Eligibility (SNE) field in the Michigan Student Data System (MSDS) Spring Collection.
Updated addresses or student eligibility will need to be submitted through the Student Record Maintenance in the MSDS. Records that are submitted by the April 28th SRM will be eligible for April, May and June P-EBT benefits. Records that are submitted for the May 12th and 26th SRM will be eligible for May and June P-EBT benefits.

Q: Are Head Start and/or Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) families receiving the P-EBT card?
A: Students in Great Start Readiness Programs, GSRP/Headstart Blends, Early Headstart, and Headstart that were reported as part of the Early Childhood Collection as eligible for Free and Reduced-Price Meals or directly certified have been included.

Q: Are students who attend non-public schools eligible for P-EBT?
A: Directly certified students who attend non-public schools were included in the list of students eligible for P- EBT. If the student was already receiving SNAP benefits, they will automatically receive the P-EBT benefits on their card. For other directly certified students without an address with DHHS or the Michigan Student Data System (MSDS), the card will be sent to the school and the school must mail the cards to the families.
If a student was a shared time student with a public school and that school reported the student in the Michigan Student Data System (MSDS) as eligible for Free and Reduced-Price Meals, they will receive the benefit through the public school’s reporting.
There is not a state collection where F/R application eligible students are reported, but we are working on ways to try and include them at a later date.

Q: Are 18-26 special education students eligible for P-EBT?
A: Eligible, enrolled special education students are eligible for P-EBT.

Q: Do children that are homeschooled qualify for this program?
A: Unfortunately, homeschool children were not included in the list for P-EBT because they are not in the public school records. However, all Michigan children are eligible to participate in one of available Meet Up Eat Up sites. You can look for the closest site to your home at: www.michigan.gov/meetupeatup or Dial 211 to find out more information on resources in your local community.

New Free and Reduced Applications

Q: Will newly eligible students, through Direct Certification or an approved Free or Reduced-Price application, be eligible for P-EBT.
A: Yes, students with new eligibility will qualify for P-EBT. Updated student eligibility will need to be submitted through the Student Record Maintenance (SRM) in the Michigan Student Data System (MSDS). Records that are submitted by the April 28th SRM will be eligible for April, May and June P-EBT benefits. Records that are submitted for the May 12th and 26th SRM will be eligible for May and June P-EBT benefit.

Q: For families with multiple children, how will the card be loaded?
A: The pre-loaded P-EBT card will come in the mail and will be in the oldest school aged child’s name, not the parents name.

Q: What do GRPS families do if they did not receive a communication in the mail from the state about P-EBT benefits?
A: Families should be referred to Steve Slabbekoorns in Nutrition Services. He is available at 819-2135 or email at slabbekoorns@grps.org. Nutrition Services will work with Student Data Systems to submit updated data to the state system.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) Frequently Asked Questions (Spanish)

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) Frequently Asked Questions (Kinyarwanda)

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) Frequently Asked Questions (Swahili)

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LINC UP mounts petition drive to prevent cuts to GRPD community programs

LINC UP is asking its neighbors, friends, and supporter to sign the petition to keep GRPD from cutting community programs and staff positions that were created to improve police and community relations! Sign the Petition!

The Grand Rapids Police Department proposed $1,000,000 in budget cuts as a response to the economic crisis created by COVID-19. Almost 3/4 of the proposed cuts are for program and staffing that are meant to improve GRPD’s ability to engage with the community. The GRPD budget supports cutting programs known to be necessary and effective in increasing the diversity of its recruitment efforts, funding to increase community engagement training, and funding for staffing the Deployment study has identified as necessary to advance the data management and information systems of the department. The proposed cuts would keep the City of Grand Rapids and GRPD from reaching goals for strong engagement and racial equity.

Here are 3 Things You Can Do:

  1. Sign and Share the Petition! 
  2. Call and Email Your City Commissioner! You can find their contact information here!
  3. Share the MLIVE article covering the full story on budget reductions! Read the Article!