All posts by MichiganUnited

Be part of the National march on Washington for a clean DREAM act.

Come with us to Washington DC as we march for the DREAM Act and urge Congress to include it in the budget on December 6th. The budget must pass by December, 8 in order to avoid a government shutdown. Therefore, we must make sure that the budget includes a clean DREAM Act. This march is our last chance to ensure that a clean DREAM Act is included in the budget.

Space is limited. Click HERE to register now.

Buses depart the afternoon of Tuesday, December, 5 and return on the morning of Thursday December, 7. We have delegations leaving from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Detroit. Click here to save your seat on the bus

Michigan United applauds nomination of Lawrence Garcia as Detroit’s next Corporation Counsel

Michigan United is pleased to learn that local attorney Lawrence Garcia has been nominated for the important post of corporation counsel.

Garcia has been an important voice in the Latino community for many years. He has shown great leadership as past president of the Michigan Hispanic Bar Association and has been an advocate on important civil rights issues. Garcia has spoken out for just immigration reform and against abuses such as immigration raids at schools. He and his firm have often volunteered as civil rights monitors at the polls in Southwest Detroit, ensuring that all members of the community are able to exercise their right to vote.  He also has the strong legal background and good values that this position demands.

Mayor Duggan has made a wise choice and Lawrence Garcia will make an able public servant.

Detroiters pray for release from Marathon refinery pollution

Vigil held in hope that God touch the heart of CEO to treat residents fairly

Under blustery, grey skies Thursday evening, the faithful gathered outside the Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery in Southwest Detroit to pray for a release for those who live in the polluted conditions around the plant. As the chimney stacks of the coker belched smoke and flames that filled the night sky, area clergy delivered a message similar to Moses’: Let my people go.

“Opening my windows when it is warm outside is not an option for me,“ said lifetime resident John Atkins. “The refinery air smells horrible.  Marathon should buy my home so I can enjoy the rest of my years.“

In 2012, the refinery underwent a $2.2 billion expansion. Marathon purchased the homes in the predominantly white neighborhood of Oakwood Heights. But despite the cries of the people, the corporation has refused to treat their black neighbors as fairly as they did their white neighbors.

Emma Lockridge, the Michigan United environmental justice organizer that spearheaded the vigil, almost didn’t go, having struggled all week with breathing issues. Lockridge went to the doctor with respiratory distress after filming a flaring incident at the refinery.

During the prayers, residents held white crosses that said ‘Exodus’ on the front with the names of friends and family impacted by the air pollution on the back. “We pray Marathon CEO Gary R. Heminger will act in a just manner and purchase our homes,“ Lockridge said. “It would be the righteous thing to do.“

Flint residents speak out against court ruling on municipal water contract

Federal Judge advances contract over objections of city council

U.S. District Judge David Lawson ruled Friday that a 30 year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority can go forward over the objections of the Flint city council. Many residents are understandably skeptical of the deal and resent the loss of autonomy of their elected officials.

“Forcing decisions onto the city government is exactly how the Flint Water crisis started!” said Michigan United activist Carly Hammond at a press conference Tuesday outside City Hall. “This contract was negotiated with the state’s best interests in mind, not the city of Flint and certainly not the residents.”

Lead leached into Flint’s municipal water supply in 2014 after a state appointed Emergency Manager ordered that the city switch from Detroit water system to the caustic Flint River in order to save money over the objections of the city council. State officials ignored residents complaints for years before the problem was documented. During that time, scores of people were also infected by the Legionella bacteria. Twelve of them died.

“We want the State and Federal Government to release Flint from the grasp of officials who have no incentive to treat the residents of Flint fairly.” Said Megan Kreger. “If we had been able to maintain authority over our own governance, thousands would not have been poisoned, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t have been allocated to fix pipes.”

Fighting #9 demands answers from Rep. Levin

Fear proposed cuts to the federal budget and end to critical cost-sharing payments

Members of the Indivisible group known as the “Fighting #9” were outside a Democratic Party Meeting Thursday to demand answers from Rep. Sander Levin. Terrified by recent actions pending in the Senate, including proposed cuts to the federal budget and President Trump’s decision to end critical cost-sharing payments, protesters shouted “We will not quit fighting!”

“We want Rep. Levin to know how important protecting everyone’s healthcare is. No matter how many different ways the GOP and the Trump Administration try to take our health care guarantees away!” Joyce Peralta, spokesperson for the group explained. “The Trump budget is just another way they are trying to kill Medicaid, and next it will be Medicare! I also wanted Levin to strongly oppose Trump’s tax plan that will hurt all but the top 1%, while raising the deficit! We know the GOP plan will not create jobs, but lower funds for our necessary domestic programs!”

The group continues their ongoing protests to be sure their elected officials know they won’t back down. They are paying attention. And they want to work with Levin and other elected officials to give them feedback how their efforts will be most effective.

The Fighting #9 also expressed concerns about the answer they received from Levin about why he voted for a budget that still contained the huge increase in the Pentagon budget. Peralta said, “I felt Rep. Levin agrees wholeheartedly with our values and will fight for us.” However, she is still concerned with his vote to increase military spending.

Public Officials sound off as Trump signs order sabotaging ACA and proposing budget that cuts $700 billion from Medicaid

Citizens terrified of the devastating effects of massive cuts to social safety net in lower income communities join panel discussion with national, state and local elected officials

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, state Rep. Ronnie Peterson, Washtenaw County Commissioner Ricky Jefferson, Ypsilanti city council member Peter Murdock, Community Alliance executive director Kathy Grant and former state Rep. John Freeman will discuss the potentially devastating impact of Trump’s proposed budget which seeks to cut $700 Billion from Medicaid in front of an audience of concerned community members and constituents.  The discussion focused on how these cuts will impact vulnerable communities in Washtenaw County, including developmentally disabled adults, seniors in nursing homes, school districts ability to serve special needs children, and low income workers.

Kathy Grant, Executive Director, Community Alliance, provides insight on the need for Medicaid and the effects any cuts would have  “Medicaid is a lifeline for people with disabilities. Sometimes it is the only source of funding for long term supports and services that many people with developmental disabilities rely on to live in the community.  Community Alliance works with nearly 500 people with developmental disabilities to help them to utilize Medicaid funded programs and services to receive the necessary assistance with personal care like eating, bathing, getting dressed and taking medicine.  Cuts to Medicaid turn back the clock to a time when the only option for people with developmental disabilities was institutionalization. “

In addition, former State Rep. John Freeman discussed the poison pill provision that will trigger cancellation of Michigan’s medicaid expansion, which would cause 600,000 Michiganders to lose their health coverage as soon as 2019.  As Freeman wrote in a recent memo:

“If federal funding for Medicaid is dramatically reduced, this will trigger the termination [of the Healthy Michigan Plan]…But even if nothing is changed at the federal level, the Healthy Michigan Program will still likely terminate after fiscal year 2019-20”

Furthermore, this is only one of the many ways Trump is actively undermining the ACA and harming the most vulnerable among us.  The President has just signed an executive order that will allow insurance companies to raise rates for sicker and older people by exempting younger and healthier people from certain essential benefits.   As Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation has said, “Within a year, this would kill the market.”

Citizens and public officials met to raise their voices and resist these assaults to ordinary Americans’ healthcare.

Michigan Families Will Be Harmed by Senate Budget Resolution Vote.

Healthcare for Michigan Medicaid Enrollees, Medicare Recipients Jeopardized, so that Top 1% Can Get $76,560 Tax Cut. Meanwhile 13% of Middle-Class Michigan Households Will Get a Tax INCREASE.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a budget resolution that will set the framework for how much federal spending and taxes will be cut. The proposal would allow for a $1.5 trillion tax cut mostly benefiting the wealthy and corporations, which is not paid for by closing loopholes, meaning the costs will be added to the deficit.The ballooning of the deficit will jeopardize funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education,and other services that America’s families rely on. Meanwhile, many middle-class families will see a tax increase under the plan.

This threat to the basic living standards of America’s working families is not abstract. The Senate budget proposes $5.8 trillion in cuts to federal spending, including nearly $500 billion from Medicare and $1.3 trillion from Medicaid and other healthcare programs. Another $650 billion may be cut from income security programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for disabled individuals, and tax credits for working families. Michigan’s working families and seniors will be particularly harmed, and Senators Peters and Stabenow should vote NO to protect their constituents.

See data below for the effects on Michigan’s families.

A panel of officials and constituents gathered Monday at Community Alliance, a non-profit agency in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to discuss the potential changes to Medicaid.

“Seniors need help sometimes with just making sure they’re eating or getting dressed or bathing. It’s dignity.” said  Rep. Debbie Dingell. “It’s about the dignity of every human being, and as you get older, you can still be a very important contributing member of our community, We need their wisdom, we need their contributions. They need a little help. We shouldn’t destitute somebody because they’re older or not be there for them. We need to understand what Medicaid has become.”

“The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion helped fund the Healthy Michigan Plan, and if the ACA is replaced, the Healthy Michigan Plan will no longer be sustainable.” said former state Rep. John Freeman. “When you make a significant social change like we did with the ACA, you have to expect backlash, and that’s what’s happened. So if we think that this is important – and we all do – then we have to go out there and protect what we want.”

TAX CUTS FOR THE RICHEST 1% IN MICHIGAN FROM THE TRUMP-GOP TAX PLAN

TAX INCREASES ON THE MIDDLE CLASS IN MICHIGAN FROM THE TRUMP-GOP TAX PLAN

  • 14% of households would get a $1,590 tax increase, on average, in 2018.
  • 13% of households making $42,100 to $67,000 would get a $780 tax increase, on average.
  • 14% of households making $67,000 to $108,300 would get a $1,360 tax increase, on average.

EFFECT ON MICHIGAN OF REPEALING THE STATE AND LOCAL TAX DEDUCTION (SALT)

The Trump-GOP tax plan repeals the SALT deduction. Taxpayers can deduct state and local property taxes, and either income or sales taxes, from their federal taxable income.  SALT helps taxpayers, many of them middle-class, avoid being double taxed at the federal level.

  • For state and county level data on the number of households claiming the SALT deduction, the percentage that are middle-income and the average SALT deduction (see this report from the National Association of Counties http://explorer.naco.org).
  • For congressional district-level data on the percentage of taxpayers claiming the SALT

deduction and the average deduction claimed (see this report from the Government Finance Officers Association).

EFFECT ON MICHIGAN OF REPEALING THE FEDERAL ESTATE TAX

The Trump-GOP tax plan eliminates estate and gift taxes, losing $240 billion over 10 years and boosting the inheritances of the very wealthy. The federal estate tax is paid only by estates worth at least $5.5 million, just 2 out of 1,000 estates, or only 5,500 estates in all of 2017.

MICHIGAN SERVICES & PROGRAMS AT RISK DUE TO TAX CUTS

To pay for massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, President Trump and GOP leaders have proposed deep cuts to services that working families rely on. The Senate budget resolution would cut over 10 years:

  • $1.3 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs
  • $470 billion from Medicare
  • $650 billion from income security programs, which may include cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for disabled individuals, and tax credits for working families.
  • Also at risk are Pell Grants and other financial aid to help students afford college.

In Michigan:

Medicaid serves:

Immigrants and native people support DACA at rally in Troy

Urge Rep. Trott to advance DREAM Act in congress to protect youth

Dozens of people, many in traditional dress, gathered outside the district office of Representative David Trott (R-MI 11) Monday morning to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to urge the congressman to help his constituents who will be at risk when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program expires.

Tim Seneca (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)
Tim Seneca (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)

“We come together as family, friends, love ones. All are welcome.” said Tim Seneca, a native American of the Chippewa Potawatomi tribe. “Just as you have thanksgiving all the family comes over. No one is separated. Everyone should be welcome in this country.”

As currently written, the DREAM Act would extend Obama era protections from deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to America in their youth. Since House Speaker Paul Ryan is in no hurry to advance the issue, the group wants Rep. Trott to sign a discharge petition. The maneuver would bypass the Speaker and bring the bill  to the floor for debate and a vote.

Steve Spreitzer (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)
Steve Spreitzer (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)

“This is a small part of immigration reform but it has energy. It has promise.” said Steve Spreitzer of the Michigan Roundtable. “We have to move past the racialization of immigration. The comments made about Mexican people during the campaign can’t be dismissed. We have to stand against that and stand with our neighbors who are dreamers.”

 

 

22424629_1651005658263301_1596496440628575010_oOne of those neighbors, Maria Cervantes was brought here as a child by her grandmother. She has DACA protection now but says she’s afraid for what the future might bring. “You always live with the fear that you could be separated from your family. I’m here to support the DREAM Act because I want to live without fear and to have a better life.”

 

The rally concluded with everyone writing a note on a colored strips of paper explaining why the DREAM Act is important to them. The messages were strung together in a chain and carried to the office which was closed because of the national holiday. Together, Seneca and Cervantes passed it through the mail slot for Trott’s staff to find in the morning.

(Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)(Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)

If you stand with the dreamers, call your representative today and tell them to sign the discharge petition for the DREAM act. If you live in Michigan’s 11th district, you can reach Rep. Trott at 202-225-8171.

 

New documentary looks at factors leading to criminalization

Pathways to Prison producer, stakeholders name causes for mass incarceration, offer solutions

A one hour special that aired on Detroit Public Television was given a screening Thursday at the Church of the Messiah. Pathways to Prison focus on American prison system and efforts to reform it, both in stemming the flow of new inmates and aiding their reentry into the communities to which the formerly incarcerated return. Afterward, the audience heard from producer, Bill Kuboda and many of the returning residents interviewed in the program such as Yusef Shakur and Tyrone Kemp.

“We need to move past the mindset that prisons are only there to house the guilty.” Said Kemp who is now an advocate for the wrongfully convicted. “We must be open to the prospect that true redemption is possible.”

U.S. imprisons more people than any other country, but America’s “get tough on crime” era may be evolving, as more people realize the greater societal and economic costs. The state of Michigan currently spends nearly two billion dollars a year on their prison system.

But for Nicholas Buckingham, the Michigan United Criminal Justice organizer who moderated the discussion, this is about diverting the next generation from the well worn path that resulted in his incarceration. “Poverty is just one of the factors that many kids deal with that lead to prison, but it’s not the only one. We all have to recognize all the forces acting on them that make their futures less bright and a criminal record more certain.”

 

Representatives, Families, Health Care Providers Speak Out Against Trumpcare Effort

U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) today joined State Representatives, families and health care providers to highlight the devastating local impact of Republicans’ latest “Trumpcare” legislation, which the Senate GOP hopes to rush to a vote next week. Michigan stands to lose nearly $10 billion in federal health care funding by 2027 if the Graham-Cassidy bill is signed into law. According to a new report, premiums for those with pre-existing conditions could skyrocket by as much as tens of thousands of dollars.
 

“The American people have overwhelmingly rejected “Trumpcare”, and the newest Graham-Cassidy bill repackages the same damaging proposals and makes them even worse,” said Rep. Dingell. “The stories shared by families and health care providers today emphasize how much is at stake. Not only does this bill end Medicaid as we know it by cutting and capping the program, it also eliminates Healthy Michigan and completely eviscerates protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including autism, asthma and even pregnancy. This is unacceptable. We should be working together on productive, bipartisan action to stabilize the insurance marketplaces and extend affordable health care coverage to more families, not ramming through devastating proposals that take it away,”

“The effects of Graham-Cassidy would be devastating to our patients,” said Linda Atkins, chief executive officer of Western Wayne Family Health Centers. “Over 50% of our patients would become uninsured. That would cause them to begin using the ER for their healthcare, and those are things that we have been working so hard to turn around.”

“It’s because of days like today why it is so important,” said Alexis Wyatt of Brownstown, who was unable to attend the event because her 10-month-old son Alexander had to be rushed to the hospital. Alexander was born with severe illnesses that are still being diagnosed, and Alexis relies on Medicaid for Alexander’s doctor’s visits, emergency room visits, and other treatments. “Alexander is unpredictable. We have many ER visits, hospital admissions, medicines, and health supplies,” she said. “His month medical supplies are $400, and that’s just for his feeding supplies. Without Medicaid, I could not afford that so then how would he eat or get nutrition? Without his feeding tube or constant care, he would likely die.”

“The Graham-Cassidy bill is simply unacceptable when it comes to protecting the health and well-being of our patients, families and communities,” said Laura Appel, senior vice president and chief innovation officer, Michigan Health & Hospital Association. “Michigan hospitals cannot support legislation that will cost our state billions of dollars and eviscerate healthcare coverage and access to care on such a large scale.”

Kari Snyder of Wyandotte, whose mother’s accounting job was outsourced to another company just as she was undergoing a biopsy for breast cancer, said, “my mom didn’t quit or get fired. She just got outsourced. If we are going to give businesses the flexibility to do that, we need to protect their employees. The Graham-Cassidy bill doesn’t do that. If not for pre-existing coverage, my mom might not be alive today.”

Camilleri headshot“Downriver residents are rightfully concerned about recent healthcare proposals that threaten to cut essential benefits and return lifetime caps on insurance coverage,” said State Representative Darrin Camilleri. “I am committed to fighting for these protections at the state level, and today’s conversation is an important reminder of what’s at stake in the debate about health insurance and prescription drug prices in Lansing and Washington.”

“I have deep concerns about the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, this will spell the end of Medicaid expansion in Michigan, meaning that about 650,000 of our most vulnerable residents —working families, children and seniors — will lose their health coverage,” said State Representative Erika Geiss. “Beyond that, leaving health care protections up to the states means that the popular and effective provisions of the ACA — such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, among many others — are at risk.”

Dingell was also joined by State Representative Cara Clemente and Farah Erzouki, public health coordinator at ACCESS, to discuss the impact of the Graham-Cassidy bill on the state of Michigan.

Analysts estimate that by 2027, 32 million Americans could lose their health coverage under the Graham-Cassidy bill. The legislation ends the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which has extended health care to 695,000 Michiganders through the Healthy Michigan program; and ends premium tax credits, and cost-sharing reduction payments, all of which help millions of Americans afford health care. The legislation also permanently cuts and caps the Medicaid program—the largest health insurance program in the nation—which covers more than 74 million Americans, including more than 33 million children.

In Michigan:

  • 695,000 people have gained health coverage since the ACA was implemented.
  • Roughly 1.6 million people in Michigan have pre-existing health conditions, and could have their coverage rescinded if the ACA is repealed.
  • Michigan received $3.08 billion in federal Medicaid dollars to implement the Healthy Michigan plan. This revenue could be lost if the ACA is repealed.
  • A recent University of Michigan study found that Medicaid expansion in Michigan has boosted our economy and our budget and will continue to do so for the next five years. According to the study, the Healthy Michigan plan has generated more than 30,000 new jobs each year – one-third of them being in healthcare and 85 percent in the private sector. These jobs resulted in approximately $2.3 billion more in personal spending power for Michigan residents.