Michigan Gov. Whitmer proposes free college for essential workers

A nurse at the UC Irvine Medical Center walks to his car in Irvine, California on Monday, April 20, 2020. A group of some thirty nurses held a candlelight vigil after their shift change to call attention to healthcare workers nationwide who have been infected with COVID-19 and demanding the Trump administration provide N95 masks and extra PPE for healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

April 30 (UPI) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday proposed a plan to provide free college tuition to those deemed essential workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer said the program, known as Futures for Frontliners, would provide a tuition-free pathway to college or a technical certificate to essential workers without degrees including childcare providers, manufacturers, and healthcare, grocery, public safety, sanitation and delivery 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. This program will ensure tuition-free college opportunities and give these dedicated Michiganders an opportunity to earn a technical certificate, associate degree or even a bachelor’s degree,” Whitmer said. “I want to assure all of our workers we will never forget those of you who stepped up and sacrificed their health during this crisis. You’re the reason we’re going to get through this.”

Whitmer compared the program to the GI Bill, which provides free healthcare, schooling, housing discounts and other services to members of the military since its inception in 1944 during World War II.

Details about how workers would apply for the program were not immediately released, but Whitmer said the state would use a federal grant to fund the program.

Whitmer also announced an expansion to the state’s Workshare Program to allow employers to reduce employee hours to receive weekly unemployment insurance and Pandemic Unemployment assistance in addition to calling for support for a bill to provide hazard pay to frontline workers.


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