Street Talk: Support for K-12, talent and mobility

Think big.
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Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, has weighed in to support key provisions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget recommendation.

“Investing in people and innovation are some of the best things we can do to make Michigan a more competitive and prosperous state,” said Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO, Business Leaders for Michigan. “The Governor’s budget recommendation lays out investments in K-12, talent development and mobility programs that have bipartisan support, will help fill talent gaps, and increase income for families.”

Key provisions in the budget recommendation include:

  • Establishing a K-12 education best practices center to help identify, replicate and scale best practices in K-12 education to improve academic performance across the state
  • Providing additional support for at-risk and special needs K-12 students
  • Implementing research-based solutions to help students recover lost learning hours due to the disruption caused by the pandemic
  • Helping residents acquire the skills and credentials employers need by providing additional support for public higher education institutions, and the Michigan Reconnect, Futures for Frontliners and Going Pro programs.
  • Support for a Mobility Futures Initiative to advance connected and autonomous vehicle deployment, economic and workforce development, equity and sustainability

Donofrio said: “With COVID accelerating what was already a changing landscape for jobs and mobility, it is critical that we provide a strong educational foundation, ability to upskill throughout life and (measures that) keep us in the lead on future mobility. Plans released by legislative leaders have addressed many of these critical areas as well, and we look forward to working with the administration and legislative leadership to move our state forward.”

The budget recommendation totals $67.1 billion and it includes a general fund total of $11.4 billion and a school aid fund total of $14.7 billion. Whitmer said it provides a significant amount of one-time funding made possible by the increase in federal aid and the effective job Michigan has done in managing the pandemic. The recommendation is built with an eye toward the future to ensure that the fiscal year 2023 budget is balanced as well, she said.

Other subjects addressed in the recommendation include funding for child care, rebuilding the state’s bridges and water infrastructure and helping small businesses recover from the pandemic.

Safe at home

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 14,000 young people in Michigan needed temporary homes where they could feel safe and secure, and the number has only grown due to statewide shutdowns.

To address this need Samaritas, one of Michigan’s largest faith-based health and human services nonprofits, was awarded more than $16 million in grants to further support its family preservation services across 11 counties, including Barry, Calhoun, Eaton, Genesee, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon and Wayne.

The grants will allow the organization to create 46 jobs throughout the state, including clerical staff, program managers and direct line workers. Samaritas’ family preservation staff will work with at-risk families while they are still intact, surrounding them with community resources, as well as staff and peer relationships to help keep children with their biological parents.

“We appreciate these grants as they come at the ideal time for the families we serve, as the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of them on the brink of a crisis and in dire need for critical support in order to keep their children in their homes,” said Sam Beals, CEO of Samaritas. “Keeping Michigan families together stands as a top priority for Samaritas as we continue to build and expand our programming to best serve our state’s vulnerable populations, including at-risk families, seniors, children in foster care, adoptees, persons with disabilities, those with substance-use disorder and refugees.”

The grants, to be utilized through fall 2023, were awarded as part of Michigan’s Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) and the HOMEBUILDERS program.

HOMEBUILDERS is an in-home, intensive family preservation service and reunification program for families with children returning from foster care, group or residential treatment, psychiatric hospitals or juvenile justice facilities. The program is designed to eliminate barriers to service while using research-based interventions to improve parental skills, parental capabilities, family interactions, children’s behavior and family safety.

HOMEBUILDERS’ goals are to prevent the unnecessary out-of-home placement of children through onsite intervention and to teach families new problem-solving skills to improve family functioning.

Big for small

The Consumers Energy Foundation is bringing back a competition to provide $50,000 for big ideas in Michigan’s small towns.

The Put Your Town on the Map pitch competition provides dollars for three projects that build strong communities. Communities with a population of up to 10,000 have through Feb. 24 to submit proposals. Up to 10 finalists will compete for the funds at the Small Town and Rural Development Conference, held virtually April 13 and 14.

“The pandemic has created challenges for communities of all sizes, but it hasn’t stopped communities from embracing bold ideas to put themselves on the map,” said Roger Curtis, Consumers Energy’s vice president of public affairs. “Consumers Energy is committed to ensuring Michigan’s communities of all sizes are growing and thriving, and we’re excited to provide financial help to turn original ideas into reality.”

Consumers Energy and the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) will select 10 communities to make their pitch at the Rural Partners of Michigan conference. The top three winners will receive grants worth $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Consumers Energy created the competition in 2019, awarding Port Austin, Spring Lake and Sparta a total of $15,000 in grants from the foundation. Last year’s competition was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Put Your Town on the Map competition aims to reward innovative ideas that attract visitors to downtowns, focus on housing, education or employment, create community pride and more. Community leaders can learn more and apply at http://cedamichigan.org/rpm/conference-rpm.

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