Whitmer offers free college to 625,000 essential coronavirus workers

Lawrence Jones talks to Michigan voters at Biden’s campaign event

Fox News contributor Lawrence Jones recaps his visit to a Biden campaign event in Michigan on ‘Fox & Friends.’

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday detailed a plan to offer free college to some 625,000 essential coronavirus workers who helped provide frontline services between April and June.

Futures for Frontliners, first announced in April, would cover community college tuition for employees without college degrees working in industries ranging from manufacturing to retail, according to new details provided Thursday.

"This initiative is Michigan’s way of expressing gratitude to essential workers for protecting public health and keeping our state running,” Whitmer said in a statement. "Whether it was stocking shelves, delivering supplies, picking up trash, manufacturing PPE or providing medical care, you were there for us."

She added that the initiative will give essential workers the "chance to pursue the degree or training" they have been "dreaming about" to help themselves and their families.

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Michigan will invest a total of $24 million through the Governor's Education Emergency Relief Fund (GEERF), which is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress passed the CARES Act and President Trump signed the bill in March.

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To qualify, prospective recipients must: be Michigan residents without a bachelor's or associate's degree, have worked in an essential job for at least 11 weeks between April and June, not be in default for a federal student loan and complete a Futures for Frontliners application by Dec. 31.

Whitmer speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Mich. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

The program is based on the GI Bill that covered college tuition for soldiers who served the U.S. military during World War II, according to a press release. It also supports the state's "60 by 30" initiative, which aims to help increase the number of Michigan workers with a skill certificate or college degree from 45% to 60% by 2030.

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"The vast majority of good-paying jobs continue to require at least some education beyond high school" Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said in a statement. "Futures for Frontliners gives those who helped save lives and kept our communities operating during the height of COVID an opportunity to increase their skills and income and helps us close the state’s skills gap."

Donofrio added that the program will help "Michigan’s economy to recover and grow" by providing "expanded opportunities to all."

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