Essential Michigan workers could receive free college tuition under new proposal
(4/29/2020) - Essential workers who lack a college degree can get a free education under the new Futures for Frontliners program that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday.
She described the program as a GI Bill for workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Any workers deemed essential qualify for free college tuition and other benefits.
-- Grocery store employees.
-- Hospital and nursing home staff.
-- Child care providers serving critical infrastructure workers.
-- Personal protective equipment manufacturers.
-- Public safety employees.
-- Garbage collection workers.
-- Delivery drivers.
“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. "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 the Futures for Frontliners program is modeled after the GI Bill, which provided educational opportunities for World War II veterans. She hopes the program increases the number of adults with a technical certificate or college degree from 45% now to 60% by 2030.
Whitmer also announced changes to Michigan's unemployment benefits, allowing employers to reduce their essential workers' hours and receive additional benefits -- including the $600 weekly federal contribution.
In addition, she supports federal legislation that would provide hazard pay for frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic. About 3 million Michigan workers would qualify under legislation pending in Congress.
The proposed Heroes Fund would pay essential workers an additional $13 per hour up to $25,000 for time worked during the pandemic. Medical workers could qualify for an additional $15,000 bonus.