By: - April 29, 2020 3:31 pm

Lansing Community College | Susan J. Demas

Frontline workers would be eligible for free college tuition and other benefits under the new “Futures for Frontliners” program. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the initiative Wednesday inspired by the federal government’s educational programs for returning soldiers in World War II.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Staff at hospitals and nursing homes, as well as grocery store workers, public safety officers, sanitation officers and postal workers would be eligible to receive free tuition for colleges or trade schools. The program is being billed as the first of its kind in the country, but details on its cost were not released.

“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 press release. “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.” 

The program looks to increase the number of working-age adults with a technical certificate or college degree from 45% to 60% by 2030. The governor is working with the same bipartisan legislative coalition that helped pass the Reconnect program for adults over 25 years old to attend community college tuition-free.

Whitmer called on members in Congress to support the Heroes Fund.

“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.” 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) has introduced legislation to provide a pay raise and financial incentive for essential workers. The proposal would raise hourly pay for postal workers, medical facility staff and grocery workers by $13 and offer recruitment incentives of up to $15,000 for essential medical workers.  

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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols is a former Michigan Advance intern. She is a Michigan State University graduate who has reported for several publications, including MLive and Michigan State University’s award-winning student paper, the State News, where she covered the many tendrils of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.