Here is some information that I hope you will find helpful, including some updates on the state’s efforts to address COVID-19 as well as other news from your state government.
Legislature Extends Content from Many of Gov. Whitmer’s Previous EOs
The Michigan House enacted legislation to address COVID-19 and its effects. Many of these bills are based on the governor’s previous executive orders or legislation that was set to expire at the end of the year.
Some of the highlights include:
- Senate Bill 241 puts in place a water shutoff moratorium until March 31, 2021, and it requires public water suppliers to make their best efforts to determine what households don’t have water service.
- House Bill 5735 extends the validity of driver’s licenses through March 31, 2021.
- Senate Bill 1253 limits emergency public health orders to 28 days or less. After that, orders would be invalid unless the department director requested an extension for a specified period by resolution of both the Senate and House. The governor is not expected to sign this bill.
- Senate Bill 604 continues the 26-week extension of unemployment benefits through March 31, 2021. This bill also makes special accommodations so domestic abuse survivors are allowed to collect unemployment benefits if they had to leave a job to protect themselves from their abusers.
- Senate Bill 879 allows for early refills of prescriptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Senate Bill 1021 allows licensed Canadian health professionals to work in Michigan.
- Senate Bill 920 provides pharmacies enhanced capacity and flexibility during the pandemic.
- Senate Bill 1185 creates the “Pandemic Response Health Care Immunity Act”, which would grant immunity to health care providers and entities providing services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Local governments:
- Senate Bills 1186, 1187, 1188 and 1189 allow for remote signing, witnessing, notarizing, and recording through June 30, 2021.
- House Bill 5825 modifies county board of review and equalization procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Senate Bill 1246 allows local governmental bodies and school boards to meet remotely through March 31, 2021.
- Senate Bill 943 allows individuals and businesses to defer summer 2020 property taxes. To make up for funding gaps, local units of government will receive advance payments on those taxes from the state.
- Employers and employees:
- Senate Bill 1203 amends the General Property Tax Act so that personal property will not be assessed for the 2021 tax year. This makes it easier for businesses to allow employees to remotely use company-owned equipment.
- Senate Bill 910 modifies the student work permit application and approval process during a declared state of emergency.
- Senate Bill 1258 exempts essential workers from the 14-day quarantine period that is currently required following COVID-19 exposure provided that the workers are vaccinated.
- House Bill 4694 allows retired school district employees to substitute teach or drive buses in underserved areas during the COVID-19 pandemic without effect on their retirement benefits.
- Senate Bill 592 allows Department of Corrections retirees to return to work as a contractor without effect on their retirement benefits.
Congress Passes $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package
On Monday, Congress passed the $908 billion Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Act of 2020. The package includes:
- $600-per-person stimulus payments for individuals making $75,000 a year or less;
- An additional 16 weeks of unemployment benefits with an extra $300 a week;
- $284 billion for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and loan forgiveness for the first round of PPP loans;
- $82 billion for education, including $2.3 for Michigan schools;
- $69 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and testing;
- $25 billion for emergency rental assistance and an extended eviction moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021;
- $13 billion for food assistance including funding for food banks, food pantries, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
- $13 billion for farmers, ranchers, growers, and fisheries that have been impacted by COVID-19; and
- $7 million to increase broadband access.
MDHHS Extends Revised Version of Epidemic Order
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has extended a revised version of the previous epidemic order. Through Jan. 15, 2021, the following will continue to be required:
- “Higher risk recreation activities” like ice skating rinks, indoor water parks, night clubs, strip clubs, and trampoline parks are closed;
- Fitness facilities are limited to 25 percent capacity and must maintain at least twelve feet of social distancing between workout stations. Individual workouts at gyms and fitness centers are permitted, but indoor group fitness classes are prohibited.
- Retailers, libraries, and museums are limited to 30 percent occupancy;
- Funerals are limited to 25 people;
- Indoor gatherings cannot include members of more than two households; and
- Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people.
As of Dec. 21, the following is permitted under the order:
- High schools, colleges, and universities can return to in-person learning at the school district or institution’s discretion. (Elementary and middle schools were not required to pause in-person learning.)
- Extracurricular activities are allowed as long as face masks can be worn and the activity does not involve physical contact or a high degree of exhalation or physical exertion indoors;
- Outdoor group fitness classes can take place; and
- “Low risk entertainment facilities” like theaters, movie theaters, concert halls, performance venues, sporting venues, stadiums, the three Detroit casinos, arcades, bowling centers, amusement parks, and bingo halls can resume operation.
More information can be found here.
I wanted to take a moment to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday!
While celebrating the holidays this year, it is crucial that people continue to follow the proper safety precautions. State health officials have recommended that people not attend indoor holiday gatherings with members of more than two households. While it is not safe to gather in groups this year, there are plenty of low-risk activities to help us enjoy this unusual holiday season. Have a virtual dinner with family and friends, watch your favorite holiday movie, take advantage of some of the holiday light displays around the Greater Lansing area, or do contactless gift basket drop-offs for your family and friends.
I look forward to working with you in the coming year to overcome our current challenges as well as the ones that lie ahead. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (517) 373-0587 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can help. Note that the office will be closed for the holidays from Dec. 23 through Jan. 1. During this time, messages and email will be checked on a limited basis.
In the meantime, have a safe and happy holiday season.