COVID and the economic recovery has to be issue number one right now. Job losses and evictions are growing daily. We risk turning this crisis into a catastrophe if we let people get so far behind they can’t catch up. We need to provide the necessary supports to help our neighbors weather the storm and then, as we move forward, make sure no one is left behind.
Until the pandemic is over, state government cannot increase taxes and I will not support it doing so.
Certainly the federal government needs to step up and help businesses and individuals stay above water. State government needs to step up too: we need to expand eviction diversion programs and assistance to renters. We need to expand child care programs so people can get back to work and do so safely.
The pandemic and resultant economic crash is destroying people’s livelihoods. Somewhere between 35 and 40 percent of people in northern Michigan could be at risk of eviction. There is a backlog of 200,000 pending unemployment claims. We could be staring down the barrel of a homelessness crisis, a joblessness crisis and a debt crisis that will take us years to reverse.
Michigan needs to carefully craft our priorities to ensure this crisis doesn’t become a years-long catastrophe. That starts with increased rental assistance and increased funding for eviction diversion programs. And over the long term we absolutely must do more to increase the availability of affordable housing in Grand Traverse County. Some affordable housing communities have years-long wait lists. It’s absurd. I’ll work to increase incentives for developers and assistance to home-buyers. As a former city planning commissioner, I also strongly believe we need to encourage more density in housing.
We need to fix our unemployment system. Our current system misclassified hundreds of thousands of claims as fraudulent. There is still a 200,000 person backlog. That’s unacceptable. Small errors in entering personal information can result in months of waiting. Upgrading our processing software would go a long way to fixing the problem. I also believe we need to strengthen our paid sick leave laws so that days missed due to illness don’t make it more difficult to access unemployment insurance.
My role as a state representative will be first and foremost to get resources where they are most needed. I’ll go to bat for Grand Traverse County residents to help navigate the unemployment system and any other public support they need. I’ll work with municipal leaders and small businesses to get them grant funding or tax benefits.