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Her program is the first of its kind during the pandemic. Here’s how it will impact Michigan’s essential workers like delivery drivers, grocery store employees and more.

MICHIGAN — Governor Whitmer believes essential workers carrying us through the pandemic should have access to free college. 

She announced that Michigan’s essential workers deserve some substantial gratitude from the state government after riding out the peak of the coronavirus. The new program she rolled out is called “Futures for Frontliners” and it will allow essential workers who do not have college degrees to complete theirs for free.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, many Americans may have only thought of fire, police and medical personnel as frontline workers. Today’s circumstances teach us that it takes much more to keep Michigan moving — like grocery store employees, child care workers, sanitation workers and supply 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,” Gov. 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.”

Whitmer called the program as “paths to opportunity” for Michigan’s essential workers, and compared it to the GI Bill that soldiers returning from World War II could take advantage of.

Jasmine Lee was furloughed from her job with a metro Detroit credit card processing company shortly after giving birth to her daughter. She now works as a food delivery driver to make ends meet.

“We are putting our lives on the line being essential workers so I think it’s a good opportunity for people to eventually go back to school and get your degree,” says Lee who was midway through completion of her studies when the outbreak hit.

The governor hopes the new program will also help the state reach its goal of increasing the number of working-age adults with a technical certificate or college degree from 45% to 60% by 2030, according to the news release.

“I’m hopeful that other governors across the country will follow our lead to create pathways opportunity for the people who’ve been on the frontlines protecting our families,” she said.