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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)

ebt

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!

2020 Michigan Good Food Charter underway

Read the draft and complete the brief survey! 

Our Kitchen Table recently provided feedback on the new 2020 Michigan Good Food Charter, being developed by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems.  Initially published in 2010, the Michigan Good Food Charter helped build momentum for efforts across Michigan to advance a food system that promotes equity, health, sustainability, and thriving economies. OKT’s responses are below.

charterOKT’s responses

Q. How do these priorities look in your community?

  • Everyone does not have access to healthy food in Kent County, especially people of color and those in rural locations. Food sovereignty is negligible.
  • People with income challenges here will be hard hit by climate change.
  • MUCH MORE needs to be done to encouraging food system practices that mitigate climate change (farming, transportation, waste).
  • Yes we need living wages in the food system! Living wages are few and far between for far too many folks in Kent County as evidenced by rising numbers of homeless.
  • We need more local food production and less reliance on global, as transportation long distance is not sustainable. We have the ability here in our state to eat local.
  • We are a long ways away from health equity — and good food is the biggest solution along with dismantling institutional racism.

Q. How does your vision of the food system align with these ideas?

Our vision aligns perfectly except for the “diversity” in mix of food sources as ultimately a global food market is a food market that negatively impacts the environment and reduces food security in developing countries where much of food is sourced.

What is missing? Is there an issue, challenge, or solution that is NOT represented here?

  • “Everyone” needs to be qualified initially as especially inclusive of women, vulnerable children, elders, and people of color. otherwise, this statement is somewhat watered down.
  • Sustainable should emphasize support for organic and sustainable farming methods and reduction of reliance on fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers and GMOs, all which are not sustainable.
  • Need to include humane treatment of animals involved in food production.

Governor Whitmer Creates the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities

“This virus is holding a mirror up to our society and reminding us
of the deep inequities in this country.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer

downloadOn April 9, Governor Gretchen Whitmer created the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force, chaired by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, will consist of leaders across state government and health care professionals from communities most impacted by the spread of coronavirus. The task force will hold it’s first meeting this week. 

As of today, over 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan are African Americans, but only 14% of Michiganders are African Americans. The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities will provide the governor with recommendations on how to address this disparity as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state. 

“This virus is holding a mirror up to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in this country,” said Governor Whitmer. “From basic lack of access to health care, transportation, and protections in the workplace, these inequities hit people of color and vulnerable communities the hardest. This task force will help us start addressing these disparities right now as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.” 

 

“We know that generations of racial disparities and inequality has a detrimental impact on the lives of people across the state,” Lt. Governor Gilchrist said. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown this inequity to be particularly true, especially in the Black community, where the health of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted. That’s why we are taking immediate action to assemble some of the greatest minds to tackle this racial injustice now and in the future.” 

During the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Whitmer has signed a number of executive orders aimed at protecting people in vulnerable communities. These include orders to temporarily ban evictions and tax foreclosures, expand unemployment benefits, and restore running water for families. 

During her first year as governor, Governor Whitmer took several steps aimed at lifting Michigan families out of poverty. She announced the Michigan Poverty Task Force within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), which will provide her with recommendations on how to get more families on a path to success. She has been working with providers and universities to establish implicit bias training in their curriculum so that as people of color seek health care, they’ll be treated with equal dignity and respect, which will yield better outcomes. And in October, she raised asset test limits to make it easier for families to access food assistance and assist them in paying for necessities like rent, utilities, and warm clothes. 

“It shouldn’t take a global pandemic for us to address these problems” Governor Whitmer continued. “It shouldn’t take a crisis for us to expand unemployment benefits, ensure protections for workers who are sick, or expand access to quality, affordable health care. We’re going to come out of this, but we must also learn some hard lessons about the deep problems in our economy that we need real, meaningful solutions on. As we recover from the impact of COVID-19, my administration will continue to focus on long-term solutions for every family in Michigan.” 

This media release was originally broadcasted April 9, 2020

Grievances Mount as North Lake Correctional Facility Hunger Strike Continues through Fourth Day

92792222_893035397787225_1224929191124795392_nAbout ten inmates are moving into day five of a hunger strike, demanding adequate nutrition and basic healthcare services currently being denied, as well as religious freedom. CALL on 4/9 TO SUPPORT IMMIGRANT PRISONERS’ HUNGER STRIKE:

Immigrants imprisoned at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan continued their hunger strike on Wednesday amid escalating complaints of inhumane conditions, violations of Federal Bureau of Prison regulations, and discriminatory treatment by staff. A group of men began the hunger strike on Sunday, April 5th. At the close of their fourth day of hunger strike, strikers reported that Facility Administrator Donald Emerson is aware of the strike and has attempted negotiations with at least some of the men.

Initial reports of the strike cited inadequate nutrition, lack of medical attention, and unequal treatment by prison staff, who have a history of fomenting tension among those detained. Some of the men who’ve been on hunger strike are followers of the Hebrew Israelite faith and report that they have faced religious discrimination. One of the men also reported that staff “demonstrated a lot of racism.” Conditions at North Lake are described as “unbelievable to humankind.” “There’s no way somebody’s supposed to live like this,” one of the men said Wednesday.

The strikers’ mounting grievances come amid increasing concern about COVID-19 in prisons and jails and worry that the facilities cannot provide the space necessary to follow the six-foot social distancing recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prisoners in touch with No Detention Centers in Michigan have described incredibly close quarters and below-regulation cell sizes at the North Lake Correctional Facility, which is operated by the GEO Group, a private prison company that contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The spouse of one of the men participating in the strike has expressed concern about the well-being of her husband and said that staff at North Lake are now wearing masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Her husband and other inmates have not been given the same protection. Strikers noted other inequities during their contact with outside supporters on Wednesday, including lack of commissary access. Prisoners across the country are turning to commissary purchases to get cleaning products and protective equipment to guard against COVID-19 infection.

No cases of COVID-19 have yet been confirmed at North Lake, but there were 380 cases confirmed across Michigan prisons as of Tuesday. These include 262 prisoners and 118 prison staff. An additional two prisoners have died, as have two employees.

On April 8, No Detention Centers in Michigan made this plea via Facebook:

On Sunday, April 5th, approximately ten people incarcerated at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan launched a hunger strike in response to unsafe conditions and the mistreatment they have experienced inside the Special Housing Unit, or SHU. Their concerns include inadequate food and lack of access to medical attention. North Lake is a private immigrant-only prison operated by the GEO Group through a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“The main thing is the food,” said one incarcerated person, who stated that their diet had not been meeting the protein requirements of the federal prison system. In addition, he described a lack of proper medical care and treatment after an assault last month. Prison staff have repeatedly exacerbated violence inside the facility.

The majority of those currently on strike inside the SHU are Black men who have expressed serious fears for their safety, describing an inhumane and chaotic environment in which they have suffered racial repression, including administrative segregation within the SHU for over a month after a conflict in which they had not been involved.

“We’re tired of the mistreatment and lack of protection,” one person told No Detention Centers in Michigan last month. “Incidents have occurred and will occur in the future; it’s inevitable.”

“Prison experiences are all unpleasant but this is next-level for so many reasons,” another person wrote. “I have been to six prior institutions, and I have yet to witness a facility like this one. To subject anybody to these living conditions is offensive, racist, and unfair. Are foreign citizens any less human than U.S. citizens?”

Although members of No Detention Centers in Michigan are not currently aware of any suspected cases of COVID-19 inside this facility, the hunger strike comes at a time of grave new dangers facing incarcerated populations worldwide, who are unable to practice social distancing or other steps needed to prevent the spread of the virus and maintain public health.

“The experiences we’ve been hearing about inside North Lake are a reminder that prisons aren’t safe for anyone,” said Jonas Higbee, a member of No Detention Centers in Michigan. “At a moment when COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout the Federal Bureau of Prisons as well as Michigan’s state prisons and jails, this is also clear evidence that the GEO Group is not able to protect the people in their custody during a crisis. GEO already has a long history of neglect and abuse, and when people are telling us that they’ve been fearing for their lives even before the COVID-19 emergency, it’s an indication that a quarantine inside a prison is not the answer to a pandemic. As we’ve been starting to see around the country, starting with the most medically vulnerable, the federal government needs to find a way to release people immediately.”

“The Detroit Area Agency on Aging addresses food insecurity as the major health challenge for elders living at home.”

Michigan helps elders stay where they want to be: At home

Reposted from Second Wave-Michigan

womAccording to the Administration for Community Living, 24% of Michiganders will be 60 or older by 2030. While assisted living and long-term care facilities will become home to many of them, an AARP survey found that three out of four people aged 50 and older want to remain at home.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan’s 16 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) recognize the need to support elders who want to age in place — and they are crafting programs to make that possible.

“A lot of seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible,” says Scott Wamsley, deputy director for the MDHHS Aging and Adult Services Agency. “That’s … important in staying connected with their community, their family, and friends.”

Depending on which AAA administers them, services available to elders at home may include home-delivered meals; aides that help with bathing, dressing, and housework; and friendly reassurance phone calls to check in with elders. Other programs provide caregivers in-home relief and support.

“For those seniors that can be supported in their homes, the cost of service is typically lower than what you’d find in institutional care,” Wamsley says. “There are some cost savings for the state of Michigan when a person can stay in their home.”

 

Preventing premature death prolongs independence

The Detroit Area Agency on Aging (DAAA) bases its work on “Dying Before Their Time,” an award-winning 2003 study of the older residents DAAA serves. Updated in 2012, the study examined why premature death was common among Detroiters of color. The study found that lifestyle changes and better health practices could extend elders’ lifespans while also supporting increased independence and older Detroiters’ ability to age in place at home.

“Individuals would rather age in their community, age in place. I have not heard anyone openly indicate that they would rather go to a long-term care facility,” says Ronald Taylor, president and chief executive officer of DAAA. “By reducing likelihood of premature death, we also increase likelihood of remaining independent for more years. If we can better manage our chronic conditions, we can live a longer and a healthier life, a better quality of life.”

Ronald Taylor.

Taylor notes that programs encouraging elders to eat healthy, exercise, and quit smoking, coordinated with healthcare services, increase quality of life. The DAAA addresses food insecurity as the major health challenge for elders living at home. For the past 20 years, its nutrition programs — including its Meals on Wheels program, which is among the largest in the country — have met this challenge. As an added benefit, Meals on Wheels eases the social isolation that impacts so many elders. When drivers drop off meals, they chat a bit with folks, create friendships, and report back if they find any problems.

“Meals on Wheels puts a set of eyes on the individual,” Taylor says. “The meals, in many respects, are the backbone of a lot of our aging services program.”

A Detroit Meals on Wheels van loaded with meals.

Some programs help elders navigate healthcare systems. The DAAA hosts the Michigan Medicare Assistant Program, which helps individuals decipher Medicare coverage options. Not one to sit behind a desk, Taylor joins his staff as they engage older community members face-to-face to share information on housing options, nutrition, wellness, employment, and social opportunities. Further contact is made via the DAAA’s Senior Solutions newsletter and social media.

“We do a great deal of outreach as far as educating the community on services and programs and also whatever community resources may be available,” Taylor says.

Hospice home care: An overlooked option

 

According to Patrick Miller, Hospice of Michigan executive vice president and COO, supporting caregivers is equally as important as providing services to elders living in their own homes, especially when dementia comes into play. While a stand-alone diagnosis of dementia does not qualify elders for Medicare-covered hospice benefits, that care can be provided when certain other conditions are present.

“How do we care for the caregivers who are just burned out, really exhausted, and scared? We can provide medications so people with dementia don’t have confusion at night when they might become more agitated [and] confused and help them sleep,” Miller says. “We can provide respite when people say, ‘I just need a break,’ moving the patient into a skilled nursing home for five days where they are cared for in a safe environment and the caregiver can rest and do things for their own wellbeing. And we can provide aides to do personal care. That’s a big relief for caregivers.”

Hospice of Michigan.

Elders qualifying for hospice care also receive durable medical equipment, like hospital beds, mechanical lifts, and commodes, as a covered Medicare expense.

“All that stuff we can provide so you’re not breaking your back,” Miller says. “That’s a big deal and part of the benefit.”

Miller would like to see Medicare and other insurances offer shorter-term, in-home respite opportunities for caregivers – for example, offering an aide for a few hours on a Saturday, or overnight so the regular caregiver can get some sleep.

There’s an app for that

When asked how the Otsego County Commission on Aging supports elders living at home, executive director Dona Wishart will enthusiastically describe the capabilities of the Commun02 app. The multi-faceted platform can connect older adults to worship services or family and friends via video conference, virtual travel abroad, and community resources. It is currently being piloted in Gaylord, Flint, Traverse City, and St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

Betty (in pink) connects with her sister in the “old country” using CommunO2 with the help of Mary, a retired senior volunteer in Otsego County. Betty had not seen her sister in about 15 years.

Wishart notes recent research that found that despite the perception that older adults avoid or fear technology, more of them are using it than ever before. She tells a story about a time she shared the app with a group of elders and their smartphones kept distracting them.

“The platform is an opportunity for social connection to family, friends, and social organizations that are important to them,” she says. “We are finding that social isolation is very detrimental. Social connectivity is part of the answer.”

The platform has the capability to add features like remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, which would expand its practicality for older adults living in their own homes.

“If you overcome the barriers, even the oldest people find something that excites them about what the app offers,” says Commun02 developer Joel Ackerman. “To them, it’s safe, secure, and compelling. It helps when they need it, and it’s affordable. Even people in their 90s, if they can see their grandkids and talk to them, that’s enough to excite them to learn to use it.”

Tech is great, but more touch is needed

Like the rest of the nation, Michigan is experiencing a shortage of direct care health aides. Wamsley notes that MDHHS recognizes the direct care worker shortage as a huge issue. The state’s growing aging population exacerbates the problem, particularly in rural areas where young people move away for employment, leaving aging parents without a family safety net.

“It is an issue that our Area Agencies on Aging are facing,” he says. “It can be a demanding job, a job that people really feel is a mission. But it’s difficult work, so some choose other employment.”

In Detroit, Taylor notes that people can make $10 to $12 an hour at a fast food restaurant or $15 an hour working at a car wash — while most direct care workers scrape by on minimum wage.

“The direct care worker shortage is very real, something which we are aggressively working on,” Taylor says.

He says the state needs to find a way to “properly reimburse” workers, offer them more training, and also work on rebranding in order to “put a new face on what the direct care worker looks like and attract others to participate.”

In one analysis, researcher Dr. Robyn Stone said: “Home health aides, home care workers, and personal care attendants form the core of the formal home care system by providing assistance with activities of daily living and the personal interaction that is essential to quality of life and quality of care for their clients.”

Within 10 years, nearly a quarter of Michigan residents may be relying on those workers, whether they live in facilities or stay where they’d rather be: at home.

A freelance writer and editor, Estelle Slootmaker is happiest writing about social justice, wellness, and the arts. She is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media, communications manager for Our Kitchen Table, and chairs The Tree Amigos, City of Wyoming Tree Commission. Her finest accomplishment is her five amazing adult children. You can contact Estelle at Estelle.Slootmaker@gmail.com or www.constellations.biz.

 

All photos by Steve Koss except CommunO2 photo courtesy of Otsego County Commission on Aging and Ronald Taylor photo courtesy of Detroit Area Agency on Aging.