Whitmer proposes tuition-free postsecondary education for essential workers

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Lansing, MI – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a plan Wednesday to provide tuition-free post-secondary education opportunities to workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, named Futures for Frontliners, would include workers who do not already have a college degree – including those in hospitals and nursing homes, grocery stores, restaurants offering takeout and delivery, workers manufacturing PPE, protecting public safety, picking up trash or providing childcare to critical infrastructure workers.

“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,” 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 the plan was inspired by the federal government’s G.I. Bill to support soldiers returning from World War II by providing educational opportunities.

“Historically, when Americans put their lives on the line to defend the rest of us from a foreign enemy, we have shown our gratitude by giving them educational opportunities to improve their lives,” Whitmer said. “Our enemy in this instance is a virus, but our front line workers are just as heroic.”

Whitmer said she will work with a bipartisan group in the Michigan Legislature to enact the plan after they helped pass her Michigan Reconnect Plan, which offers adults over 25 without college degrees tuition-free access to community colleges.

Whitmer also announced $130 million of non-competitive grants that are available to childcare providers in Michigan.

Grant recipients must commit to reducing their weekly rates for families by at least 10%, agree not to charge a fee to hold a child’s spot in a program and provide care for children of essential workers regardless of where their parents or caregivers work.

Grants start at $1,500 for home-based childcare providers and $3,000 for childcare centers.

Providers can apply for the grants at www.michigan.gov/childcare.

Michigan had 40,399 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Wednesday, and 3,670 people have died from the virus.

Of the confirmed cases, 1,564 are in Genesee County, and 180 people in the county have died from the virus.

Whitmer began the process of reopening Michigan’s economy last week, relaxing her stay-at-home order to allow parts of the economy – like golf courses, landscapers and non-essential retailers who offer curbside pick-up and deliver – to reopen.

But Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, reiterated Wednesday that it could be several months before things are fully back to normal due to the lack of a vaccine or cure for COVID-19.

“We’re still in the early months of fighting this virus in the state,” Khaldun said. “We can beat this disease, but it will really be a long-term effort that will last into next year.”

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