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Governor Whitmer Unveils State Task Force Report Urging New State Policies to Tackle Root Causes of Poverty

(February 17, 2021 12:14 PM) Lifting millions of Michiganders out of poverty will require bold new initiatives, expanded state policies and a significant financial investment, according to a new report released today by the Michigan Poverty Task Force.  The group presented its findings – a list of 35 policy recommendations – to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who created the task force in December 2019 to identify new ways state government can help low-income Michiganders transcend poverty and build a better life.   “The economic impact and hardships this pandemic has imposed on so many Michiganders only makes the work of this task force more critical,” Gov. Whitmer said. “These recommendations will help us ensure that Michigan families have access to the support they need. I look forward to working across the aisle and with our many stakeholders to implement the recommendations that have the biggest impact across our state.”  To further the Task Forces efforts and recommendations, Gov. Whitmer included a $1M appropriation to conduct research and planning that will help lead the way towards improving the effectiveness of state benefit programs and address the barriers limiting individuals’ ability to access these programs in her Fiscal Year 2022 budget recommendations.  The task force, led by the Michigan Department…

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MDHHS Announces New Program Starting March 1 To Help Enhance State’s Vaccine Equity Strategy

(February 15, 2021 4:02 PM) The Michigan Department of Health of Human Services (MDHHS) today announced a new program to enhance the state’s equity strategy to reach more Michiganders with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. “I am excited to announce initiatives that will help enhance the state’s equity strategy and allow us to get more vulnerable Michiganders vaccinated,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “Workers in higher risk agricultural settings have been adversely impacted by this pandemic. We also know that we need to remove barriers to vaccine access for our most vulnerable individuals in Michigan, including those with disabilities, lower income, and racial and ethnic minorities. These steps will allow our federally qualified health centers across the state to begin vaccinating and will prioritize vaccine allocation to partnerships and providers who are removing barriers to access. This strategy is important as we move forward with our goal to equitably vaccinate 70% of Michiganders over age 16 and over as quickly as possible.” Starting immediately, mortuary service workers, who routinely work with infectious materials, will be able to be vaccinated as part of group 1A in accordance with CDC and Advisory Committee on…

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Mike Shirkey: Legislature Ensured Protections for Michiganders in Difficult Year

By Mike Shirkey Guest Columnist (December 22, 2020  6:53 PM) 2020 has been a year unlike any other in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic has devasted the lives of millions across the world and in Michigan. When the virus hit the state in March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided to act unilaterally through emergency orders instead of working with the Legislature, the most direct representation of the people of Michigan. The governor’s poor response to the crisis has compounded the suffering, as untold thousands of businesses closed and millions of job providers lost what they had built. Most recently, a contentious election and issues surrounding the elections process here and nationwide have heightened the polarization of Michiganders and Americans. In large part, our attention and energy this year have been fixed on the governor’s burdensome shutdowns and the election process concerns. But we want to share what else we have accomplished in 2020. Senate Republicans have worked with our colleagues across the aisle throughout 2020 to provide the necessary resources to fight the pandemic and to help our residents recover from its physical and economic effects. We assisted Michiganders dealing with the personal effects of COVID-19 by: •     Passing bipartisan bills…

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Jackson YMCA Plans Outdoor Fitness Classes

By Shawna Tello Jackson YMCA  (June 6, 2020 3:08 PM) While we were hoping the Governor’s office would allow us to open our doors early this month, we are continuing to meet community needs and refine our re-opening plans for the safety of our members, visitors and guests. Closing our doors, however, has enabled us to open many new ones. In addition to supplying meals to students, adults and families, we have distributed personal needs items, provided showers for homeless individuals and families, and placed portable restrooms outside our building. We learned this was a need due to many local businesses and organizations being closed. We also have solidified partnerships with organizations that are similar to ours. During this time we have had the opportunity to pause, reflect on how we can best serve the community and refocus. And this is not just the Y – it is happening all over the community. In the last few weeks, for example, I have gotten a firsthand look at the Compassionate Ministries of Jackson County. They have a massive team of volunteers who are distributing food throughout the county. They provide meal kits for us – and these kits are wonderful. They…

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Thankful to Serve the Community

(May 20, 2020 8:10 PM) I have been reflecting on the tremendous community support we have received and how thankful I am. We receive calls almost daily from members and current and former staff, asking how they can help. Volunteers are making 6-10 daily deliveries of meals and personal care items to people who lack transportation. We could not serve so many people without their help. We recently announced a pop can/bottle drive to raise money for our Strong Kids Strong Communities annual campaign – and the response was immediate. Our members have such big hearts, and I am moved by their generosity. We were just awarded a $5,000 grant from the Jackson Community Foundation and the United Way of Jackson County to support our COVID-19 relief work. We are so appreciative of this grant, which will enable us to continue our meal and emergency needs distribution well into summer. This grant is particularly meaningful to our staff, which is working hard each day, to know there are people and organizations willing to invest in the Y and enable us to do more. In particular, I would like to recognize Megan Hunt, our Executive Program Director. She is running our…

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Jackson YMCA Offering Free Virtual Workouts

By Shawna Tello Jackson YMCA (May 4, 2020 7:02 PM) Building a healthy Spirit, Mind and Body FOR ALL in our community is the heart of our mission at the Jackson YMCA, and it drives everything we do. While we are committed to meeting the physical needs of our community by providing meals and emergency needs items for kids, adults and families, we know that many are struggling with isolation and lack of safe outdoor spaces in which to exercise. A healthy Spirit and Mind are equally important for overall wellness. Even though we can’t be in the same room right now, we can still be here for each other. To promote mental and physical wellness, we have made virtual workouts available to all in our community free of charge. In early April we relaunched our YouTube Channel, “Jackson, Michigan YMCA,” featuring workouts from our own Jackson YMCA certified group exercise instructors. Our members have told us it’s comforting to see a familiar face, which helps to lessen the separation they are experiencing during this time of social distancing. Our channel features a variety of workouts including Yoga, Kick and Core and Total Body Conditioning for all fitness levels, and…

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The IRA Tax Break Retirees Need to Know About Now

By Matthew J. Curfman, CFP® President & Co-Owner, Richmond Brothers, Inc. (April 30, 2020 11:03 AM) Lower your taxable income while at the same time doing good for others? This may sound too good to be true, but I assure you this isn't! Not only is this win-win situation legal, but it could also save you thousands in taxes every year. In addition, while required minimum distributions (RMDs) in 2020 are currently waived under the CARES Act, many charities and nonprofits are in need of support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let's look at an example of how a seldom-used break in the tax code could benefit you or someone you know. We recently worked with a retired couple, Steve and Sharon. These two live on their school-teacher pensions, Social Security, and have about $500,000 between their IRA accounts. They just turned 72 and while they do not need to take any funds from their IRAs to supplement their income, Uncle Sam now requires them to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) out of their IRA balances due to their ages. So how can this government requirement be more efficiently put to work? Steve and Sharon have a combined RMD of $19,532…

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Non-profit Organizations

By Philip J. Curtis Managing Principal of the law firm of Curtis, Curtis & Brelinski, P.C. (April 27, 2020 3:56 PM) During these difficult and challenging times when all of us are focusing on the amazing work being done by our health care providers, our first responders, our police and fire, our food pantries and shelters, and all of our other essential services, we often fail to think about the other non-profit organizations in our community that have been shuttered temporarily but continue to need our ongoing support. Although certainly not exclusive, my focus has always been on the impactful arts and children’s organizations in our community and surrounding areas including but not limited to the Michigan Theatre of Jackson, the Jackson School of the Arts, the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, the Jackson YMCA, the Ella Sharp Museum and the Purple Rose Theatre Company. Regretfully, all of these organizations, like many other businesses in our community, have been forced to close their doors as a result of the Covid-19 virus. As pointed out by Shawna Tello, CEO of the Jackson YMCA, in this column on April 21st, many organizations are creatively diversifying to continue to support the community and their base.…

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Guest Column: Prioritize Your Finances Now

By Dan Machnik, CFP®, Principal Willis & Machnik Financial Services (April 24, 2020 3:43 PM) Sometimes it can take a significant event, a crisis even, to make us all step back and analyze aspects of our lives that perhaps we have been neglecting.  For many of us, the focus shifts toward our families, our health, and our financial well-being.  We find ourselves immersed in a period of significant economic uncertainty.  Many are concerned about whether their businesses or jobs will survive the sudden halt to our consumption of goods and services.  That said, we may never have a more appropriate opportunity to aim the lens at our financial condition and take some steps to improve it, so we will come out of this poised to take full advantage of the economy’s all but certain comeback.  Throughout the years we have worked with business owners and individuals to help them identify and work toward their financial goals, here are just a few things you may want to examine to determine whether they are appropriate for your situation and implement some key takeaways that may help you both now and in the future. Identify your financial goals and start planning. How long…

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Guest Column: Jackson YMCA is Here for You

By Shawna Tello Jackson YMCA (April 21, 2020 7:00 AM) Since 1896, the Jackson YMCA has worked to help move people in our community forward through Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Now, the need is greater than ever, and the Jackson YMCA - with the support of our partners, members, volunteers and donors – are working hard each day to ensure the essential needs of our neighbors are met. When the state mandate first closed our doors on March 16, the next day our few remaining staff members began serving grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to students each day, thanks to our ongoing partnership with Jackson Public Schools. Our one-hour distribution time soon grew to two hours as we served more people each day. Currently we provide about 2,000-plus meals weekly, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at our downtown location. On average we distribute 1,200 breakfast and lunch student meal bags Monday through Thursday and up to 1,050 meal bags – three sack breakfasts and three sack lunches - on the weekend. With so many businesses forced to temporarily close, and so many people finding themselves suddenly unemployed, we learning of a growing need for essential items – such…

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