‘Local government is where the rubber hits the road:’ how local governments are responding to COVID-19

In Michigan, all eyes are on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to see how she responds to the COVID-19 outbreak. But when it comes to searching for an end to the pandemic, it’s local governments that are on the front lines, said Mason Mayor Russell Whipple.

“This problem will not be solved by the federal government, or the state government, or even the county government,” he said. “It’s going to be solved by local governments, because local governments are going to be the ones that have to actually deal with the day-to-day. We take directions from the state and county health departments. But we’re the ones that make it happen.”

Michigan residents package free meals for families in need

Following Michigan’s K-12 school closures and stay-at-home order, efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve presented greater challenges to food-insecure families. School districts, small businesses and organizations responded to the crisis with an abundance of free food-distribution services and support. On March 20, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined Lansing School District staff and volunteers including MSU professor Robert Kolt to distribute donated school supplies and sack lunches at Sexton High School. 

“It breaks my heart to think that because school is closed there might be a kid who doesn’t get to eat anything that day,” said Lansing Board of Education president Gabrielle Lawrence. 

The Lansing School District established 22 food distribution sites for students and families to receive lunches Monday through Friday during Michigan’s K-12 school closure. “I’m so proud of our district for being able to offer these food services to families as we’re going through this unprecedented crisis,” said Lawrence. 

According to Whitmer, about 750,000 children in Michigan qualified for free and reduced cost lunch this year. While school districts are not required to provide free meal programs during the state-mandated closure, hundreds of districts initiated drive-up, pickup and bus-delivery services for the remaining part of the K-12 school year. 

Angela Mercer, administrative assistant at the Van Buren Public Schools, said, “Students need structure.

Two business partners in vintage clothes stand outside their store.

COVID-19 presents challenges for small-business owners

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an order to close dine-in services and most non-essential businesses including coffee shops, gyms and theaters. By March 23, Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order for all non-essential workers, causing small businesses to close their doors indefinitely. See how three businesses are trying to cope.

Group works to get out Asian-American vote

In 2007, APIAVote-MI started as a small activist group informing voters about the harms brought on by a 2006 Michigan amendment, Proposal 2, that banned affirmative action programs in education. Since then, the group has registered thousands of Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters, held voter education events and reminded individuals via phone and mail to prioritize voting.

Bailey Hall government meets state representatives

MSU students with Rep. Julie Brixie, fourth from left and, next to her, Rep. Padma Kuppa. Michigan State students connected with state representatives on a personal level Feb. 25, as Bailey Hall Government hosted Michigan Reps. Padma Kuppa and Julie Brixie for a small group discussion and dinner at Brody Hall. 

“Seeing someone’s name on the ballot or reading about them online is a lot different than actually being able to interact with them,” Bailey Hall President Juhi Parekh said. “An event when students can ask questions with the people they actually elected themselves is a great opportunity to understand the impact your voting can have.”

Bailey Hall President Juhi Parekh.

Slotkin and Brixie deliver their take on the state of the district

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and State Rep. Julie Brixie spoke at East Lansing High School on Feb. 21 at the state of the district town hall meeting. Slotkin said she didn’t regret her decision on voting yes to impeach President Donald Trump. Slotkin, right, and Brixie take questions. “I made the decision to support the impeachment vote,” Slotkin said.

MSU Museum’s Teal Talks give survivors a platform

Images from the “Finding Our Voice: Sister Survivors Speak” exhibit. At the Michigan State University Museum, a series of Teal Talks is being hosted in the “Finding Our Voice: Sister Survivors Speak” exhibit. These talks take place on the second Friday of every month for an hour.  

The museum opened the exhibit in April 2019 to provide a healing and learning environment to raise awareness regarding sexual violence. The talks provide a forum for community members, students, staff and faculty all over campus to participate in facilitated conversations led by scholars and advocates about the exhibit and the important issues it raises,” said Elesha Newberry, campus outreach specialist.