Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced during her Wednesday press conference a unique program that would give college tuition to essential employees who are working the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor announced the plan, inspired by the GI bill after World War II, which would give people like sanitation workers, grocery store employees, and workers who make Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
"Historically when Americans put their lives on the line, we show gratification by giving them educational opportunities," Gov. Whitmer said.
She said the essential employees who are stocking grocery store shelves or delivering meals to our home need an opportunity to take their careers further.
“The Futures for Frontliners program is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to those who have risked their lives on the front lines of this crisis. This program will ensure tuition-free college opportunities and give these dedicated Michiganders an opportunity to earn a technical certificate, associate degree or even a bachelor’s degree,” Governor Whitmer said. “I want to assure all of our workers we will never forget those of you who stepped up and sacrificed their own health during this crisis. You’re the reason we’re going to get through this.”
Whitmer said she hopes other states will follow this lead and institute a similar program. She also said this program would help the state reach the goal of having 60% of all Michigan residents with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2030.
Gov. Whitmer also announced she's expanding the state's Workshare Program to reduce employee hours to receive weekly unemployment insurance benefit plus the $600 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) weekly benefit. The program can act as supplemental pay for critical infrastructure workers and will be in place through July.
Finally, Gov. Whitmer urged Congress to support Sen. Gary Peters' Heroes Fund that would provide $25,000 hazard pay for critical employees, like sanitation workers, grocery store employees, and more.
“No Michigander should have to worry about how to feed their family or pay rent during a crisis. And no Michigander should be scared to go to work,” said Governor Whitmer. “From the beginning, my team and I have been working around the clock to solve those problems for working families. And I will continue to fight for our working people long after this crisis is over.”