Michigan governor announces plan to provide tuition-free education for essential workers

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Wednesday announced a program modeled after the post-World War II GI Bill that would provide tuition-free education for essential workers.

The “Futures for Frontliners” program will apply to hospital and nursing home workers, as well as those working at still-open grocery stores, providing child care, delivering supplies and manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE), Whitmer’s office said.

“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 in a statement. “I want to assure all of our workers we will never forget those of you who stepped up and sacrificed their own health during this crisis. You’re the reason we’re going to get through this.”

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The program, Whitmer’s office said, aims to increase the number of working-age adults in the state with a college degree or technical certificate from 45 percent to 60 percent by the end of the decade.

Whitmer also said she will expand the state’s Workshare Program, allowing employers to reduce hours to allow workers to receive weekly unemployment benefits as well as the weekly $600 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, both through federal funds. Critical infrastructure workers will be able to collect the extra $600 per week through July, Whitmer said.

“No Michigander should have to worry about how to feed their family or pay rent during a crisis. And no Michigander should be scared to go to work,” Whitmer said. “From the beginning, my team and I have been working around the clock to solve those problems for working families. And I will continue to fight for our working people long after this crisis is over.”  

Whitmer announced the state's phased reopening plan Monday, including allowing construction workers to resume work in “the next week or two.”