Betsy DeVos loses effort to rewrite part of CARES Act

MARQUETTE — U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a letter on Friday acknowledging defeat in her effort to rewrite a section of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

That action would have diverted over $16 million away from K-12 public schools in Michigan, State Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday.

In litigation led by Nessel and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction on Aug. 26 halting DeVos’ rule. Donato’s ruling joined two similar orders by courts in the District of Columbia and Washington state.

“We filed this lawsuit for one simple reason: to ensure students in Michigan and across this nation were not robbed of educational resources they deserve,” Nessel said in a statement. “The landscape of how a regular school day is conducted has changed for so many and Congress allocated these CARES Act funds for those most in need.

“We were poised for a fight because it was the right thing to do, and will accept Secretary DeVos’ acknowledgement of her defeat.”

However, Nessel indicated she and her colleagues would remain “on guard to defend against any future attempts by this administration to rob funding from our public schools and students who are most in need of these critical resources.”

In her letter, DeVos writes that while the U.S. Department of Education disagrees with Donato and the other district courts’ rulings, her department will “respect the rule of law and will enforce the law as the courts have opined. The department will not appeal these rulings.”

Haunted Bog Walk canceled

MooseWood Nature Center has announced that this year’s Haunted Bog Walk set for October has been canceled.

“The logistics of planning a large event such as this is already a large undertaking, but doing it during a pandemic makes it even more challenging,” the center’s board of directors said on Facebook. “Protecting the health and safety of our participants, volunteers and our community is a priority.”

Finlandia going online

Due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the region, Finlandia University announced that all lecture-based classes holding in-person classes will be delivered to students remotely today through next Wednesday. Finlandia’s learning support services, library and tutoring center will remain open and available to students.

Finlandia Hall and dining services also will remain open, as will all campus campus buildings currently open.

All athletic team practices as well as team strength and conditioning sessions are suspended, although athletic training may continue in the Paavo Nurmi Center, which will remain closed to the public.

NMU releases latest numbers

Northern Michigan University’s Safe on Campus dashboard at https://nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/ has indicated that NMU has had 62 cumulative COVID-19 positive cases from July 27 through Tuesday. They involve 29 on-campus students, 28 off-campus students and five employees.

As of Tuesday, NMU had seven active positive cases — three on campus and four off campus.

Racial disparity addressed

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Monday highlighted new data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services showing significant progress has been made toward reducing the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color.

The state of Michigan created the Rapid Response Grant program to help local organizations continue the administration’s efforts to tackle racial disparities.

While Black residents only make up 15% of Michigan’s population, they represented 29.4% of the cases and 40.7% of the deaths in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race. In the past two weeks of available data, the state has seen significant progress in limiting the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, with Black residents accounting for 8.2% of cases and 9.9% of deaths.

“We have reason to be proud of the hard work and progress made to reduce the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black people,” Gilchrist said in a statement. “However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic that continues to take the lives of our friends and family. We still have work to do to tackle generations of racial disparities and inequality to ensure that all Michiganders can lead happy and healthy lives.

“And more than anything else we need to keep the governor’s emergency measures in place to limit the spread of this virus, which we know causes disproportionate harm among people of color who start out in a more vulnerable position.”

The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities studied the causes of racial disparities amid the impact of COVID-19 and recommended actions to immediately address such disparities — and the historical and systemic inequities — that underlie them.

The task force’s broad-based representation and collaboration with state departments facilitated actions such as:

≤ Distributing large quantities of masks to the public;

≤ Launching a strategic communications and social media effort targeting communities of color;

≤ Collaborating with regional racial disparity task forces to share data and recommendations for additional actions; and

≤ Increasing access to coronavirus testing in communities of color through drive-through, walk-up and mobile testing sites.

Plan tops 800K enrollees

The Healthy Michigan Plan is now providing health care coverage to more than 800,000 low-income residents for the first time, Whitmer announced on Tuesday.

There are now 800,794 people enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

COVID-19 affected the finances and health of so many Michiganders that the number of Healthy Michigan Plan beneficiaries jumped from just under 682,000 in late March to more than 800,000 six months later, according to the governor’s office.

Michigan instituted policies to help families access affordable health care coverage such as deciding to avoid terminating Healthy Michigan Plan coverage and freeze premiums for as long as the COVID-19 public health emergency exists. The state also qualified for additional Medicaid funding from the federal government through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The department has also worked to streamline the application process over the past few years to ensure people eligible to receive benefits are able to access them without unnecessary burdensome requirements.


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