April 16 | This Week in Government: Chamber Warns Against Limiting Voting Access; Whitmer Vetoes Broadband Tax Exemption

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Detroit Regional Chamber Warns Against Limiting Voting Access
  2. Whitmer Vetoes Broadband Tax Exemption
  3. Board of Ed Urges Legislature to Waive State Testing Accountability
  4. Shirkey, Wentworth Praise Whitmer Resistance to New COVID Limits
  5. MIOSHA Officially Extends Emergency Rules for Workplaces

Detroit Regional Chamber Warns Against Limiting Voting Access

The first hearing on a trio of bills from a 39-bill Senate Republicans election law package will be heard in committee this week as another organization expressed opposition Monday over elements of the package it said it found concerning as it relates to ballot access.

The Detroit Regional Chamber was one of the latest groups to come forward to voice opposition to at least some of the Senate Republican elections package.

“Of the 39 bills introduced in the Michigan legislature focused on voting processes and access, some are common sense improvements that make an already strong process stronger, including extending early voting opportunities,” the Chamber said. “Others, however, have the impact of unreasonably restricting Michiganders’ ability to exercise their right to vote. Other provisions place undue burdens on already stressed election workers and risk confidentiality of an individual’s vote.”

The Chamber said it will oppose parts of the package that limit voters’ ability to exercise their voting rights, especially those that affect communities of color and less affluent areas.

Principles the group will push during the debate include an understanding the 2020 elections were fair, that any potential changes to the election process must not create barriers for voters and that changes must improve access. The group added more restrictive voting laws could send a negative message about the state as businesses compete for skilled employees.

“The Detroit Regional Chamber will continue to monitor this package of bills and will support those that make an already strong system better, advance customer-centric processes, and will oppose legislation that unduly burdens Michiganders’ ability to participate in elections,” the group said.

Of the 39 bills, three will be heard before the Senate Elections Committee Wednesday.

The first, SB 277, would set up a process for county clerks and local clerks to check and remove dead voters from the Qualified Voter File.

Under SB 281, the secretary of state would be required to obtain verification of voter information on residency as well as investigate potential instances of improper voting.

A third bill, SB 306, would require the Department of State to report on its website which local clerks are not current on election training.

A package of House election law bills also is scheduled to be heard before the committee Wednesday.

Before the committee will be HB 4127 and HB 4128, which would require the Department of State to send mailers to voters that have placeholder birthdays, such as the year 1900, listed in the Qualified Voter File due to unknown dates of birth. The purpose of the mailers would be to have voters prove they are still qualified voters and confirm their actual birthdate.

Also before the committee will be HB 4129, HB 4130 and HB 4131. The bills would require the Department of State to post on its website in odd number years local clerks who have not completed required training, amend the timing for the filing of lobbyists’ reports and amend the timing for correction of errors and omissions in campaign finance reports.


Whitmer Vetoes Broadband Tax Exemption

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have provided personal property tax exemptions for certain broadband providers in unserved areas, saying the bill would cost the School Aid Fund millions without spurring high-speed development.

Under HB 4210, infrastructure would need to provide for internet speeds of at least 25 megabits per second downstream and 3 megabits per second upstream.

Critics of the bill said the speed required was not fast enough to be useful for those seeking internet access.

Gov. Whitmer, in her veto letter Wednesday, agreed.

“The bill’s target of 25 mbps service would deliver a mere fraction of the speeds well in excess of 100 mbps that U.S. broadband users have come to expect,” she wrote. “If Michiganders are going to spend their hard-earned tax dollars to incentivize broadband development, it better be fast.”

Gov. Whitmer also touted her administration’s funding of $12 million in grants for broadband expansion and said the state is receiving more money for broadband through the federal stimulus bill.

“Although I am vetoing HB 4210, I look forward to working with the Legislature on a spending bill to put American Rescue Plan funds to work strengthening Michigan’s broadband infrastructure,” she wrote.

Rep. Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan) said the Governor’s veto hurts rural families.

“People need high-speed internet in all areas of the state – not just big cities and booming suburbs – and the COVID pandemic has dramatically accelerated this need,” she said in a statement. “With this veto, the governor is hurting people in underserved areas of the state – patients who can’t get to a doctor and need telehealth options, kids who are relying more and more on online learning, and workers forced to do their jobs from home. These Michigan families face a connectivity crisis, and the governor refused to help them at a time they needed it most.”

Rep. Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet), a co-sponsor of the bill, blasted the Governor’s veto.

“While Gretchen Whitmer and big city Democrats enjoy access to this basic necessity, far too many people find themselves lacking access to high-speed internet,” she said in a statement. “I can’t even begin to count how many times I had to leave my house and drive into the city just to complete a Zoom or conference call. By vetoing this legislation, Gov. Whitmer is telling rural Michigan that she doesn’t care that your kids are falling behind in school, that you’re out of luck if you run a small business and that you don’t deserve access to a basic necessity she enjoys.”


Board of Ed Urges Legislature to Waive State Testing Accountability

Members of the State Board of Education Tuesday voted 6-0 to approve a resolution urging lawmakers to waive accountability outcomes related to state standardized assessments, citing the pandemic as affecting testing results in such a way that data would be misrepresentative and not useful to Michigan.

Board members Nikki Snyder (R-Dexter) and Tom McMillin (R-Oakland Township) were absent during the vote.

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would waive the accountability portion of mandated summative assessments, though in April noted it still would be requiring Michigan educators to still issue the exams.

At the state level, however, lawmakers have yet to waive accountability rule requirements for both students and teachers. There are three state-level accountability laws tied to the results of state summative assessments: teacher evaluations, retention mandated through the Read by Grade Three literacy law and the A-F system.

Tests that would measure such outcomes include the PSAT delivered to 9th and 10th graders.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice, speaking on the necessity of the resolution, said that this is not the first time the board has attempted to raise this issue and that there is a need for lawmakers to move expeditiously on this topic.

“In the absence of the state Legislature’s actions, and prompt action, we are going to have high stakes accountability requirements associated with state summative assessments, with small numbers – and uneven numbers – of our young people testing across the state of Michigan,” he said. “Those would include, but not be limited to, the potential for third grate retention of some of our young people, educator evaluations being – in part – associated with these assessments in the midst of a pandemic and the running of an A through F system. That was premised on virtually every child taking the state summative assessments, not a fraction thereof.”

While states are beginning to issue summative assessments, mandated at the federal level though with the accountability of outcome waived, the Michigan Department of Education has made a point to stress that required testing does not need to be immediately issued by districts.

Regarding the M-STEP – which many districts are beginning to issue this week – the department has extended the exam’s testing window through June 4 and has also secured two alternate testing dates in the spring for administering the SAT. It also noted that additional windows are available for PSAT testing as well.

But in the instance where, regardless of when the exam is offered, parents still feel like it is unsafe for their child to physically come to a school building and participate in testing, state board officials also stressed that it was necessary for parents to know that it was their right to not have their child or children participate in the assessments.

This notion led to the board’s second unanimous approval – absent again were Snyder and McMillin – of a statement of parental rights, which indicated that members supported “the fundamental right of all parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching and education of their children.”

Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods), who read the statement into the record, noted that though the federal waiver for the spring 2021 state summative assessment was not granted, the accountability portion was, meaning the federal department “will not penalize Michigan or other states for failure to secure 95 percent or higher student participation in the administration of these assessments.”

“Given that coronavirus infection rates are increasing in Michigan and many students are still attending school remotely, the State Board of Education supports the guidance to parents and legal guardians that these students need not be brought into school solely for the purpose of state assessment, and will not be required to come into school for the sole purpose of taking the assessments,” she said, reading the end of the statement.

Board President Casandra Ulbrich (D-Dearborn) praised the statement making clear the ability for parents to not have to send their children into school buildings for testing, noting that parents had recently gotten ahold of her to say their districts were operating under the pretense that assessment participation was absolutely mandatory.

“I did have a parent who wanted to opt their child out of testing, but was afraid that the school would suffer negative consequences as a result of that … I also have heard from parents who, it seems, are being told even though their students are remote because of health reasons in the home, that they are required and mandated to send their student for face-to-face testing,” Ulbrich said. “I think it’s important that we reiterate: If you don’t feel it’s safe to send your student into a school for in-person learning, you do not have to send your student into a school for the sole purpose of taking a test.”

In her later comments, Ulbrich added that the board was not “opposed to assessments” but that “when there are consequences that are attached it changes the game completely, and that needs to be taken into consideration.”

BOARD APPROVES PERKINS V UPDATES: Board members Tuesday also gave the OK to changes made to the Perkins V Core performance Indicator plan, which has since been updated following a public comment period earlier this year. Updates to the plan would account for revising performance indicators due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic’s effect on increasing statewide unemployment and decreasing first-year college enrollment.

“Youth unemployment is significantly higher than it was a year ago – also significantly higher than adult unemployment – and also the number of students who are entering post-secondary institutions was much lower this past September,” said Brian Pyles, MDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education director. “Key in the Perkins Act is that there’s a core performance indicator that our school districts are not going to meet. We need to adjust that number before we don’t reach that number, because once we fail to reach the number we can no longer adjust.”


Shirkey, Wentworth Praise Whitmer Resistance to New COVID Limits

For the first time in more than a year, Republican legislative leaders are praising Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers have skyrocketed in the past six weeks to become the worst in the nation’s, Gov. Whitmer has steadfastly refused to reinstate any of the restrictions her administration has relaxed or rescinded since the start of the year. In the past week, the administration of President Joe Biden called for Gov. Whitmer to reinstate a stay-home type order to address the explosion of cases, crush of hospitalizations, and sharp uptick in deaths.

Gov. Whitmer also has been asked repeatedly by reporters in the past week why she has not brought back the same types of restrictions on businesses, gatherings, and other activities that she repeatedly said in 2020 were critical to arresting control of the virus during the first wave in the spring and the second wave in the fall. Her response has been the same: that the context has changed, that vaccines are now available and represent the best way out of the pandemic.

She also on Wednesday touted a newly recommended monoclonal antibody treatment that medical experts say can reduce the severity of the virus for those who have it.

Only in March of 2020 did Gov. Whitmer receive support from Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering). By April, as Gov. Whitmer tightened her stay-home order, then-President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked Gov. Whitmer and Gov. Whitmer and legislative Republicans prepared to go to court over the Governor’s emergency powers, the tone shifted and both – especially Shirkey – became virulent critics of Gov. Whitmer.

On Wednesday, however, Shirkey took to Twitter to offer Gov. Whitmer some support.

“I applaud @GovWhitmer for resisting the tremendous pressure to lock down our state and trusting Michiganders to do the right thing,” he said.

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), who took office in January, also offered his first real praise for the Governor of the year.

“Gov. Whitmer is right to reject calls for new restrictions and shutdowns. This is no time to go backward in our fight against COVID,” he said in a statement. “Instead, this is a time to look forward. Michigan has made strong progress with vaccinations, with more than 60% of seniors fully vaccinated and almost half of the state having had at least one dose. We have appropriated tens of millions of dollars that is still being used to fund this effort, open up vaccine clinics, and make shots available to anyone who wants one as soon as possible. The expanded use of antibody therapy will also help our highest-risk friends and neighbors. The Governor should continue focusing on vaccinations, encouraging personal responsibility, and moving Michigan further along the path to normalcy.”

The state’s seven-day average for newly confirmed COVID-19 cases held steady Wednesday at 7,006, still close to the all-time high set in late November.

Hospitalizations edged downward Wednesday for the first time in many weeks, falling from 4,205 to 4,187 among those suspected or confirmed to have the virus.

Two dozen hospitals in the state are at 98% capacity, Gov. Whitmer told reporters.

“We’ve got some work to do to get our COVID metrics headed in the right direction again,” she said. “We have a tough couple of weeks ahead of us.”

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said she spent much of the previous weekend in a hospital emergency room.

“Patients again are lining our hallways like they were last spring,” she said. “This situation is very serious.”

Khaldun then offered this recommendation.

“We need to be using every tool in our toolbox right now to get these cases and hospitalizations down,” she said.

Gov. Whitmer was later asked about that comment and why the Governor is not using one of those tools – the Department of Health and Human Services’ power to issue new public health orders restricting activity.

The number one tool to use right now, Gov. Whitmer responded, is the vaccine. The next best tool is a mask, and now people with the virus if eligible should seek the antibody treatment.

“That’s what we’re trying to do is get our hospital rates down,” she said.

Gov. Whitmer was then asked about her repeated statements of 2020 that her orders had worked to bring down cases, hospitalizations and deaths and whether she now believed because of pandemic fatigue or other factors they would no longer work.

“We’re having a lot of conversation about what makes sense to contribute to bringing down the spread,” she said. “The national experts with whom we consult have said you don’t have a policy problem. Michigan still has some of the strongest protocols in place – capacity restrictions, we’ve got a mask mandate. Other states have dropped all of these things. We still have them in Michigan, and yet we have high positivity. It’s not a question about whether the policy is the right policy, it’s really more of a testament to the fact that we have combining issues – we have variants that are very present here in Michigan in greater numbers than other states are seeing, we have reservoirs of people who didn’t get COVID thankfully but are now vulnerable to these variants and we have exhaustion, the fatigue where people are dropping their guard.”


MIOSHA Officially Extends Emergency Rules for Workplaces

As expected, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration extended its emergency rules first issued in October for another six months, which require, among other things, workers who can feasibly work remotely to do so.

The rules were extended for another six months, as allowed by law, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday they likely would not be in place as written for the full six months.

“MIOSHA’s emergency rules help keep us all safe by ensuring that employers implement common-sense safety standards to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement. “When employers maintain a safe workplace, that gives workers and consumers the confidence to keep our economy moving.”

The state said in the midst of a third wave of spiking coronavirus cases, the protection of workers is its top priority.

Since March 2020, employers have reported more than 40 worker deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan and MIOSHA has received over 12,000 complaints from employees alleging COVID-19 hazards in the workplace. In addition, over 605 referrals were received from local government, including local health departments, indicating that businesses were not taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from infection.

“As we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the rules reinforce the importance of keeping workplaces safe for employees from COVID-19 transmission,” said COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan. “We want employers to create a safe work environment for their employees, which is why we will continue to work with employees and businesses to help them understand how to safely stay open.”

Businesses had been urging the state to allow more in-person work.

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance said it was disappointed to see the rules extended, but hopeful the restrictions on in-person work would be rolled back soon.

“The Alliance and all of our member organizations are frustrated to see the MIOSHA Emergency Rules extended after we have been working to advocate against such an extension,” Stacie Bytwork, the chairperson of the Alliance and president and CEO of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “Our businesses are eager to get back to work and continue our economic recovery from this pandemic.”

Rich Studley, Michigan Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, called the move a “body blow” to businesses.


Related:

Michigan Business Leaders Unite On Voting Rights

Statement from the Michigan Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC) on COVID-19 Protocols and Vaccine Hesitancy in the Black Community

Statement via the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity

Black Americans are once again facing a challenge that affects us more than other communities – the global COVID-19 pandemic.

As COVID-19 numbers rise in Michigan, and more so in Black communities, now more than ever, we must work to keep ourselves and our families safe. That means we must mask up, practice social distancing, and get tested regularly, especially if we have been around large groups of people.

But the Black Leadership Advisory Council also urges all Black Michiganders to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

Not only are COVID-19 cases up, but deaths are rising as well. We have already lost too many loved ones to not take this pandemic seriously. We must be part of the solution before we return to the early days of the pandemic when it was ravaging our communities.

Vaccinations are one of the most powerful public health interventions we have to help end the pandemic and allow us to return to a sense of normalcy. The FDA and CDC have determined that COVID-19 vaccines are effective and may be the only way to prevent the spread of the virus and to lessen its effects. We know that fears that some residents have about taking the vaccine are valid and rooted in history and fact. But researchers did not begin trying to find a vaccine this year. They adapted existing research to fight the pandemic. The vaccines are working.

And as new variants of COVID-19 appear, it is clear that the research will continue. Meanwhile, the more individuals get vaccinated and join the immunity community, the faster we can all return to what we once considered normal.

We urge all Black Michiganders to join the fight against this deadly virus. Please stand up, show up and help us work together to ensure that our community does not continue to be adversely affected by COVID-19.

COVID-19 survivor and BLAC Community Safety & Justice Committee Chair Teferi Brent said it best:

“I would rather for you to mask it than to end up in a casket,” said Brent, a longtime community leader who is encouraging black Michiganders to observe COVID-19 safety protocols. “Six feet away is better than six feet under. We must make community safety a top priority! Following the CDC guidelines is a critical aspect of community safety.”

We must do this by us, for us – for our community.

Rochelle Riley, Detroit – Co-Chair
Robert Womack, Grand Rapids – Co-Chair
James E. Atterberry, Sr., Benton Harbor
Donna L. Bell, Ph.D., Southfield
Christopher Burtley, Flint
Jerry L. Clayton, Sr., Ypsilanti
Kelli A. Ellsworth Etchison, East Lansing
Justin N. Onwenu, Detroit
Kelsey Perdue, Grand Rapids
Kathy Purnell, Ph.D., Kalamazoo
Theresa Roach, Flint
Michelle Sourie Robinson, West Bloomfield
Joel Rutherford, Warren
Michele Samuels, Farmington Hills
Seydi Sarr, Detroit
Kim Trent, Detroit
Carl M. Williams, Saginaw

Committee Chairs

  • Teferi Brent, Community Safety and Justice Committee
  • Karen S. Carter, Business Leadership Committee
  • Alexis Sims Dye, Health Committee
  • Terrence D.Martin, Education Committee

Vaccine distribution and resources

Vaccine distribution data

To view the total distribution of vaccines and more vaccine information, visit michigan.gov/covidvaccine.

Additional vaccine resources

Where the state stands with COVID-19

Michigan overall COVID-19 case dataMichigan COVID-19 cases by raceMichigan COVID-19 deaths by race

View the original press release.


Related:

REGISTER | Celebrating Diverse Voices Town Hall: Charting Your Entrepreneurial Path

REGISTER | Celebrating Diverse Voices: Diversity in Higher Education

Business Leaders Issue Call to Government Leaders to Use Stimulus Dollars to Transform Michigan

Moody on the Market
April 6, 2021
Pat Moody

With another round of federal stimulus dollars arriving in Michigan thanks to the American Rescue Plan, Michigan’s business community is issuing a call to government leaders in the state to use those dollars wisely to transform the state and create sustainable growth going forward.

A number of the state’s leading business associations, representing thousands of employers, have issued a call to Governor Whitmer and the state Legislature to use federal stimulus dollars to transform the state. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed by Pres. Biden allows leeway for how state government, municipalities, and school districts can spend the one-time funding over the next several years. The Michigan business community is urging the government to, instead of simply spending the funding quickly, make strategic investments that will help Michigan grow for years to come.

Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Chamber, the Lansing Regional Chamber, the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA), and the Small Business Association of Michigan have joined together to encourage leaders to work together across party and jurisdictional lines to assure those funds have lasting impact. The letter was sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, legislative leadership, and municipal leaders this week, outlining six key principles to guide potentially transformational investments.

The letter states, in part: “There will be many ideas for spending these one-time dollars and an inclination toward doing so quickly. Our organizations strongly urge leaders to take the time needed to assure these funds aren’t simply spent, but are used effectively in transforming Michigan into a better place to live, work, and play.”

Despite ten years of economic growth following the Great Recession, Michigan has struggled to recover, with household income, educational achievement, and economic growth trailing most states. These one-time funds offer Michigan an opportunity to make long-range investments that spur growth for residents and businesses.

Many states and communities are already leveraging one-time funds to better compete for jobs and investments, and many more are ready to do so.

Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, says, “It can be easy to find ways to spend one-time funding on short-term needs, but far harder to find investments that will transform our state in the next decade,” and adds, “Michigan’s goal shouldn’t just be returning to pre-pandemic status: this is an opportunity to both help our state recover from COVID-19 and advance long-term, widely shared prosperity. We know states and regions across the country are planning strategic investments that will give them even more of a competitive edge for jobs and economic growth in the coming years – Michigan can’t be left behind.”

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah says, “The American Rescue Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Michigan to advance our state’s economic competitiveness responsibly. It is imperative that leaders in Lansing strategically use the money to support communities, businesses, and people without new taxes or unfunded mandates that would create impediments to sustained growth.”

Brian Calley, President of the Small Business Association of Michigan, contends, “COVID-19 has resulted in unprecedented challenges in our state and it’s critical that we make the most of the federal stimulus dollars that Michigan has been allocated,” adding, “If used effectively, these dollars can help Michigan rebound from the economic, health and educational gaps the pandemic created.”

Tim Daman, president and CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, says, “The Lansing region will see more than $185 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan. The time for action has never been more critical. We encourage our local municipalities and K-12 education system to be strategic in moving forward for our state and region’s long-term success. Our business community has indicated that spending priorities must focus on jobs, the economy, and critical infrastructure investment.”

Rick Baker, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, suggests,  “Policymakers must use these one-time funds to crush the virus, mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on our businesses and communities and set the stage for future success,” while adding, “Expenditures should be carefully considered for maximum, measurable and long-term impact, while avoiding the creation of unfunded, ongoing obligations or liabilities.”

John Walsh, president and CEO of Michigan Manufacturers Association, points out, “The American Rescue Plan provides much-needed support for our citizens, the state and our local governments, as well as a tremendous opportunity to stabilize our economy and grow jobs in Michigan! Spent wisely with a long-term focus on infrastructure, the economy, and job growth, funds from the ARP can provide a massive investment with benefits that will last for years to come. The MMA is proud to stand with the business community in working with the Whitmer administration and the Michigan Legislature to remain focused on the best use of the funds for all Michiganders. The greatest risk will be the failure to act strategically and with bold measures that can truly transform our economy.”

You can see the letter which was delivered to the Governor, legislative leadership, and the House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairs and vice chairs, as well as leaders of the state’s largest municipalities by clicking this link: ARP.priorities.FINAL_

View the original article.


Related:

Michigan’s Business Community to Leaders: Use Stimulus Funds to Transform our State, Create Sustainable Growth

Michigan’s Weapon in Race Against COVID-19 Surge: Mass-Vax Sites

The Detroit News
April 3, 2021
Sarah Rahal

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and health officials appear to be leaning in part on mass vaccination sites to help meet the demand for COVID-19 vaccine doses when Michigan expands eligibility for shots to everyone age 16 and older Monday.

The state Department of Health and Human Services and governor have been vague about how they plan to handle the demand, only advising residents that they may need to wait up to several weeks before they get scheduled for an appointment at local health departments, regional hospital systems, and pharmacies.

But the announcement this past week of a couple of large Metro Detroit vaccination sites suggests the large-scale operations make up part of the strategy.

Whitmer said Friday her primary focus is expanding the state’s vaccine program even as Michigan continues to lead the country in new cases per population in the past week.

The state secured 66,020 additional doses from President Joe Biden’s administration and expects to receive a record 620,040 doses this week, Whitmer said at an event in Pontiac where Oakland County officials opened a new vaccination clinic. She added that she expects allotments to continue to increase this month as the country’s vaccine supply increases.

Whitmer attributed the surge of cases in Michigan — the number of residents in hospitals with confirmed cases is increasing at a faster rate than it did in the fall before she shuttered indoor dining and suspended in-person high school classes — to more-contagious variants, the virus spreading among kids and fatigue from residents who want to return to normalcy.

On Thursday, the Brazilian variant P.1 was confirmed in Bay County, the fifth variant found in the state.

“In the wake of these variants, rushing to vaccinate is crucial,” Whitmer said. “You combine those factors with the fact that people are tired and they’re not masking up as much, our mobility is way up… These are all things that exacerbate the problem of the fact that COVID is still a very real threat.”

The governor, who said she plans to get her vaccine Tuesday, offered few specifics about how the state would ramp up vaccinations, but on Friday announced 37 “pop-up” testing sites across Michigan to encourage people headed to or returning from spring break to get tested for the virus.

When asked when the state will reach the 70% threshold of herd immunity, she said, “it depends on all of us.”

Mass-vax sites increase

Kerry Ebersole, who is helping run the state’s vaccination program, touted the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, which set a record last Monday by administering 12,000 shots in a single day.

The West Michigan clinic, operated by Kent County, Spectrum, and Mercy Health, says it is capable of administering 20,000 vaccinations a day but is operating with a limited supply of vaccines.

Oakland County launched Friday another large vaccine distribution site at the UWM Sports Complex in Pontiac. The county is expected to administer 1,000 to 3,000 doses a day with the capability of up to give 5,000 shots a day when supply increases, Whitmer said at a press conference announcing the site.

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said when vaccines began rolling out, the county only had 1,950 doses to work with, but a recent weekly allocation was nearly 13,000 doses, and Coulter said Friday he expected allotments to continue to rise.

By Friday afternoon, the state had notified Oakland County it would be receiving 37,090 doses, Coulter spokeswoman Kathy Gray said.

“We’re preparing for the day we get so many vaccines, we’re not going to have the capacity to do it ourselves,” Coulter said. “This site is proof that we’re well on our way to 70% … what I like to call ‘community immunity’ in Oakland County so we can get back to some kind of normalcy in our lives.”

Warren Mayor James Fouts and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel announced a partnership to administer vaccines in a drive-through clinic at Warren City Hall starting Thursday. Residents can sign up for appointments starting Monday on the Macomb County Vaccine Web Portal at macombgov.org/vaccinecentral.

Hackel had been anticipating more than 13,000 first doses and on Friday afternoon learned the county would receive 14,000 first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, bringing the overall total for next week to 23,000 doses.

“That is a huge uptick in the numbers. It’s almost 10,000 more than last week. It’s nearly double what we got last week,” the county executive said. “We’re glad that we’re able to get the Johnson & Johnson. Believe it or not, a lot of people are asking for it.”

Meanwhile, the Ford Field Federal Emergency Management Agency site administered more than 38,000 in its first week of an eight-week program, Ebersole said. The goal is to administer 5,000 shots a day.

Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer at the University of Michigan, agrees Michigan is in a race against the variants.

“The vaccination program in Michigan has been successful, but the reality here is you can’t vaccinate everyone in one week,” she said. “But if there’s more vaccine, there’s increased capacity and we can get more shots. Part of this will require making sure Gen Z understand how their life is going to improve by being vaccinated.”

Malani said Michigan faces unique challenges as it has to distribute to a plethora of diverse communities, including rural, urban, and majority-minority communities during a technological divide.

“Seeing P.1, another variant of the virus enters the state, is concerning because we only have a short period of time to really do well with vaccination and get transmission down or we’ll just become endemic and we’ll be chasing this forever,” Malani said.

And the roll-out of vaccines has been too slow across the country, said Nick Maness, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.

“My concerns center less around the variants themselves and more around the slow vaccine roll-out, which has improved in the U.S., but is still lagging in many countries and those that refuse the vaccines. The amount of data showing the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines, even against the variants, is incredible,” he said.

Waiting for appointments

As of Thursday, about 2.85 million residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 1.7 million — or about 21.5% of the state’s adult population — have completed the full dosage, according to state data. There is no vaccine approved for use on those age 15 or younger.

As of Thursday, the state reported 2,687 adults were hospitalized with the coronavirus, a 55% jump from a week earlier when there were 1,729 hospitalizations.

The state is leading the nation with 398.5 cases per 100,000 people. New York City trails behind at 347.9 cases, then New Jersey at 341.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebersole said Michigan’s steep rise in cases is a result of the younger population transmitting the disease while the state focuses on vaccinating older residents.

The state’s fully vaccinated population includes more than half of all seniors 65 years and older, 16% of people aged 50 to 64, 14% of people aged 40 to 49, and 12% of people aged 30 to 39, according to the state’s data tracker.

“As our vaccination rates go up, we have to continuously be aware of the pediatric cases and hospitalizations, which are a national story right now, and I’ve been hyper-focused as a mother of a 3-year-old,” Ebersole said during a virtual conversation with the Detroit Regional Chamber on Wednesday. “That means the virus is going to keep mutating, and that could get farther away from what the current vaccines have been designed to handle.”

The state anticipates it might still take several weeks beyond Monday for everyone who wishes to receive a vaccine to get an appointment, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said Thursday.

Sutfin did not respond Thursday and Friday to a request for additional details on how Michigan plans to increase the distribution of doses.

She did advise, as providers are scheduling appointments, that “they should consider an individual’s risk of exposure due to their employment and their vulnerability to severe disease in determining how to schedule appointments.”

Ebersole told the Detroit Regional Chamber it’s going to take a combination of using the state’s federal programs, pharmacy partnerships and collaboration with community-based organizations aiding underserved populations to vaccinate the entire state.

“We are going to do whatever we can to strive towards herd immunity by the Fourth of July,” she said. “You can count on large-scale clinics being part of the equation for the next three months along with small community clinics.

“Right now, we’re very focused on speed because it is a race.”

Ryan Malosh, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said he’s encouraged by the increasing pace of vaccinations. But Michigan needs to prepare for moments of chaos, including unforeseen issues like 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson being discarded over quality issues or appointment registration websites crashing.

He also cautioned there are plenty of people who still need to be convinced to get vaccinated.

“I especially worry about what happens when we get past those that are highly motivated to get vaccinated — or those that are easy to reach — and we need to do the harder work of convincing people that are somewhat hesitant to get vaccinated,” he said.

View the original article.


Related:

COVID-19 Town Hall With Kerry Ebersole, Protect MI Commission

Michigan Business Leaders Wade Into Election Law Debate

Crain’s Detroit Business
April 13, 2021
Chad Livengood

A group of Michigan business leaders has waded into the national debate over voting rights in the face of tighter restrictions signed into law in Georgia and new rules proposed in Michigan by Republican lawmakers.

On Tuesday, 37 CEOs and board chairs of some of Michigan’s largest companies released a joint statement outlining broad principles they believe should be followed as state lawmakers debate changes to election laws.

“Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections — particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters,” the statement reads. “Government has a responsibility to continuously improve and strengthen election administration, because public faith in the security and integrity of our elections is fundamental.”

The list of signatories to the statement includes Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Rocket Mortgage CEO Jay Farner, Ilitch Holdings Inc. CEO Chris Ilitch, Penske Corp. chairman Roger Penske, Siebert Williams Shank & Co. CEO Suzanne Shank, and Mike Manley, head of the North American operations of Stellantis (former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).

Read the letter and see the rest of the signatories.

The Michigan business leaders did not take a stand against any particular legislation.

But the statement comes amid growing national pressure on corporate leaders to push back on efforts largely led by Republicans in statehouses to put new restrictions on voting in place in the aftermath of the 2020 elections, which were marred by unproven claims by former President Donald Trump of widespread voter fraud.

Nearly 40 bills seeking to overhaul the way elections are administered and restrict voter access to ballots have been recently introduced in the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature.

The Detroit Regional Chamber issued a statement Monday saying some of the bills “are common sense improvements that make an already strong process stronger, including extending early voting opportunities.”

“Others, however, have the impact of unreasonably restricting Michiganders’ ability to exercise their right to vote,” the Chamber said. “Other provisions place undue burdens on already stressed election workers and risk the confidentiality of an individual’s vote.”

The Chamber’s statement did not say which specific bills it opposes. Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah was one of the signatories on the joint statement Tuesday.

“The Detroit Regional Chamber will oppose measures that, on balance, unreasonably impact our members and their employees’ ability to exercise the franchise — especially measures with a disproportionate impact on communities of color and those less affluent — without providing needed integrity and security,” the chamber said.

Michigan Republican Party chairman Ron Weiser, founder of the Ann Arbor-based real estate management firm McKinley Inc., recently said Republicans will launch a campaign to gather signatures for voter-initiated laws to bypass Whitmer.

Democrats have threatened to launch a counter signature-gathering campaign and possibly put the issue on the ballot in 2022.

In 2018, Democrats won the offices of governor, attorney general and secretary of state as voters overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments allowing for any voter to cast an absentee ballot and making it easier to register to vote.

Some of the bills introduced by Senate Republicans seek to rein in absentee voting by requiring voters to submit a copy of their photo identification in order to obtain an absentee ballot by mail. Senate Bill 285 would let voters without photo ID cast a provisional ballot “that is subject to verification and will not be tabulated on election day,” according to the legislation.

Republicans also want to outlaw Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s unsolicited distribution of absentee ballot applications to every voter, a move she made in 2020 to make it easier to obtain an absentee ballot and not have to go to the polls on Election Day during the coronavirus pandemic. That legislation, Senate Bill 310, is sponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson, a former secretary of state and Oakland County Republican.

The statement from the 37 Michigan business leaders called for both parties to work together instead of taking separate routes

“Election laws must be developed in a bipartisan fashion to preserve public confidence in our elections and to preserve the values of democracy.

Barra issued a statement Tuesday morning ahead of hearings the state House and Senate are beginning this week on some of the election law bills.

“We are calling on Michigan lawmakers and state legislatures across the nation to ensure that any changes to voting laws result in protecting and enhancing the most precious element of democracy — the right for all eligible voters to have their voices included in a fair, free, and equitable manner,” Barra said. “Anything less falls short of our inclusion and social justice goals.”

View the original article.


Related:

Detroit Regional Chamber Statement on Michigan Election Reform Legislation

Detroit Regional Chamber Statement on Michigan Election Reform Legislation

DETROIT (April 12, 2021) – The Detroit Regional Chamber has advocated for smart voting reforms, such as supporting no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration, and has taken a stand in defense of the validity of the 2020 election.

Of the 39 bills introduced in the Michigan legislature focused on voting processes and access, some are common sense improvements that make an already strong process stronger, including extending early voting opportunities.  Others, however, have the impact of unreasonably restricting Michiganders’ ability to exercise their right to vote.  Other provisions place undue burdens on already stressed election workers and risk the confidentiality of an individual’s vote.

The Detroit Regional Chamber will oppose measures that, on balance, unreasonably impact our members and their employees’ ability to exercise the franchise – especially measures with a disproportionate impact on communities of color and those less affluent – without providing needed integrity and security.

Regarding this debate, the following principles will shape the Chamber’s engagement:

  • The 2020 election was well executed, fair, and lacked meaningful levels of voter fraud. Therefore, changes to voting rules and processes must be made carefully and not create unreasonable impediments for voters.
  • Improving security coupled with more customer-centric voting processes need not be a partisan issue; as the Democratic governor and Republican legislature of Kentucky recently demonstrated.
  • Some elements of our society face higher hurdles to vote, including restricted personal resources and more difficult polling place access – and these issues must be addressed. Making voting more difficult is contrary to the ethos of both social and technological advancement.
  • Michigan businesses compete nationally and internationally for diverse talent to remain competitive. More restrictive voting rules send an unwelcoming message to prospective talent and hinder our state’s economic competitiveness.

The Detroit Regional Chamber will continue to monitor this package of bills and will support those that make an already strong system better, advance customer-centric processes, and will oppose legislation that unduly burdens Michiganders’ ability to participate in elections.

April 9 | This Week in Government: Business Groups Urge Gov, Legislature to Create Growth With Stimulus

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Business Groups Urge Gov, Legislature to Create Growth With Stimulus
  2. CDC Awards $90M to Expand Michigan COVID Vaccine Program
  3. Whitmer: Compliance, Mobility, Variants Driving COVID Increase
  4. House, Senate to Begin Moving on Budget After Break
  5. Survey: State Saw Higher Rate of Biz Closures, Staff Reductions

Business Groups Urge Gov, Legislature to Create Growth With Stimulus

Several associations representing Michigan business entities on Tuesday said they want Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature to use the state’s cut of federal coronavirus relief and stimulus dollars to transform the state and create sustainable growth.

In a letter sent to Gov. Whitmer, as well as the state’s legislative and local leaders, the groups asked the governor to not spend the funds quickly and instead use them as long-term strategic investments.

Groups signing the letter include Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Chamber, the Lansing Regional Chamber, the Michigan Manufacturers Association, and the Small Business Association of Michigan.

“In this moment, leaders must work together across party and jurisdictional lines as almost $14 billion in these federal funds will be allocated directly to state and local governments, and our K-12 systems with few restrictions,” the letter says. “Naturally, there will be many ideas for spending these onetime dollars and an inclination toward doing so quickly. Our organizations strongly urge leaders to take the time needed to assure these funds aren’t simply spent, but are used effectively in transforming Michigan into a better place to live, work and play.”

The groups outline six key principles to guide those investments, including the use of transformational investments, like those that would bolster education, skills, and competitiveness; maximization efforts that would address economic, health, and educational gaps brought on by COVID-19; renewed focus on flexible funding to fill in gaps in the aforementioned areas after other state resources are exhausted; investments that would leverage increased public-private partnerships; a focus on backslide prevention to not undo gains made from the previous recession in the late 2000s and throughout the 2010s; and to be clear with goals and metrics to increase transparency in spending.

“Make no mistake, other states will use this funding opportunity to become more competitive and leave the working men and women of Michigan behind,” the letter says. “By following these basic guidelines, we believe that these dollars can be invested wisely and contribute to sustainable, equitably shared prosperity for our residents, communities, and businesses. In that spirit, we offer you our support and assistance to make sure Michigan takes full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and former member of the Whitmer administration, said in a statement that it would be easy for the governor to find ways to spend Michigan’s share of one-time funding from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, but it would be far more difficult – albeit potentially more worthwhile – if she spent that money on targeted transformational investments.

“Michigan’s goal shouldn’t just be returning to pre-pandemic status: this is an opportunity to both help our state recover from COVID-19 and advance long-term, widely shared prosperity.” Donofrio said. “We know states and regions across the country are planning strategic investments that will give them even more of a competitive edge for jobs and economic growth in the coming years – Michigan can’t be left behind.”

Likewise, Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said that the virus and its associated disease resulted in unprecedented challenges and that using federal stimulus dollars wisely would help the state rebound more swiftly.

Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, shared similar sentiments.

“The American Rescue Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Michigan to advance our state’s economic competitiveness responsibly,” Baruah said. “It is imperative that leaders in Lansing strategically use the money to support communities, businesses, and people without new taxes or unfunded mandates that would create impediments to sustained growth.”


CDC Awards $90M to Expand Michigan COVID Vaccine Program

More than $90 million in funding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been awarded to Michigan to help support, increase and expand local coronavirus vaccination efforts for underserved populations, the agency announced Tuesday.

The award of $90.28 million is part of a $3 billion funding package granted to 64 regions to bolster broad vaccine distribution, access, and administration. The funding was made available by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act to provide critical COVID-19 support for existing immunization cooperation agreements.

To ensure equity and expand access, at least 75 percent of the total funding will go toward programs to increase uptake among racial and ethnic minority communities. Of that amount, 60 percent is slated to go toward support for local health departments, community-based organizations, and community health centers.

“We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic. This investment will support state and local health departments and community-based organizations as they work on the frontlines to increase vaccine access, acceptance and uptake.”

Other potential uses for the funds include to be used to identify and train trusted members of specific communities to conduct door-to-door outreach, raising awareness about the available vaccines, and help individuals sign up for vaccination appointments. The same goes for bilingual health outreach, the CDC said.


Whitmer: Compliance, Mobility, Variants Driving COVID Increase

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Tuesday, ahead of receiving her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, said the state does not have a policy problem as it relates to rising caseloads and hospitalizations — it has compliance, mobility, fatigue, and variant problem.

Gov. Whitmer, who received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Ford Field on Tuesday, was asked about COVID-19 outbreaks being linked to school sports. The Governor noted the state has put in place increased testing mandates for some school athletes.

“We’re really encouraging athletes to join our quest to get more people vaccinated, and that’s why we’re so glad to be here at Ford Field and that’s why we’ve enlisted a lot of our partners in athletics to promote the efficacy and the need for getting these vaccines,” Gov. Whitmer said. “At this juncture we know what it takes to stay safe. It’s not a policy problem that we have. It is a compliance problem that we have. It is a mobility issue that we’re confronting. It is fatigue that we’re confronting, and its variants, frankly. And because of all these things, that’s why the vaccine is so important – 95 percent-plus efficacy. Guess what else has 95%-plus efficacy? A mask, which is why we have to do both until we get to that plus 70% of our eligible population vaccinated.”

Gov. Whitmer, appearing on CNN Tuesday evening, said school sports is one area where maybe the state needs to be doing more.

“We did suspend sports for quite a while and of course, there was a heavy effort to come to our state Capitol to protest that. We thought with these additional precautions in terms of increased testing, increased ability to have these safety protocols, decreased numbers of people that can attend these events that we would be able to do this safely,” she said. “But we are seeing the spread continuing in teenage sports and, frankly, it’s something that we’re very concerned about and that’s why we’re doing even more testing and possibly going further than we have. But it is it is a contributor and our goal is to resume some normalcy and get our kids back in class, this may be one area that we’ve got to do more in.”

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for the Department of Health and Human Services, said she is concerned about where the state currently is when it comes to COVID-19 numbers and hospitalizations.

Currently, she said, the state is seeing more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases per day with a seven-day average of 491 cases per million people. The current positivity rate is 15.6%, a 38% increase from last week.

The state also has 1,817 confirmed variant cases in 54 counties, with likely many more that have not been identified. Hospitalizations are also up, with 3,127 confirmed COVID-positive patients in the hospital, up from 2,158 last week.

About half of those who are hospitalized are younger than 60 years old, Khaldun said.

“This is really, really important. Younger people can get COVID-19. They can get very sick from COVID-19, or they can pass it on to other people who can get very, very sick. So, we are all in this together, no matter your age,” Khaldun said. “When you get vaccinated, you’re protecting yourself, you’re protecting your family, you’re protecting your entire community. These safe and effective vaccines are really our best chance to protect not just ourselves, and I’m speaking to the youth here, it’s not just about ourselves. It’s about your parents, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents, your entire community. It’s our chance to be able to have class with our friends and not have to go back to these periodic remote learning styles. It’s our chance to play sports, without canceled games or tournaments due to outbreaks. It’s our chance to be able to have traditional proms and graduations and baby showers and other celebrations of life’s milestones again. It’s really our chance to get back to a sense of normalcy.”

While cases and hospitalizations are up, deaths are not as high, sitting at about 16 per day.

During her appearance on CNN Tuesday, Whitmer said she does see a path where the state could lift some of the orders it has been living under this summer, similar to California which will still require masks but open normally on June 15.

“I think it’s very possible that there is a path out of a lot of the orders that we’ve had to issue to keep people safe. But it all depends on getting to that 70% number of people who are eligible vaccinated,” Gov. Whitmer said. “I think that’s the key to return to some normalcy. We’re moving very quickly. We’re grateful for the partnership from the Biden Administration, but we’ve got to do more. And we’re going to continue to grit our teeth and do the hard work of getting people vaccinated. And if we’re successful on people come in and do their part, we could very well be in that position this summer.”


House, Senate to Begin Moving on Budget After Break

Subcommittee budget recommendations should begin heading to the House and Senate chamber floors later this month shortly after lawmakers return from spring recess, officials have signaled.

Senate appropriators say despite the ongoing battles over federal coronavirus relief funding, work on department and agency budgets is going at about the pace that was expected thus far. At least two House subcommittee chairs said they would move their budget recommendations next week, when lawmakers are scheduled to return from break.

Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said overall he is pleased with the progress being made by subcommittee chairs, who were given their budget targets about a week before the Legislature left town. Lawmakers return April 13.

Stamas said he expected budgets to begin moving from subcommittees to the Senate floor during the second week of session after lawmakers return, the session week of April 20.

“We’ve been dealing with the federal dollars almost independently of the budget,” Stamas said, although he expects some overlap to occur.

At this stage lawmakers are still crafting each proposal so there really has not been interaction with the administration on what each chamber of the Legislature is crafting for its budget proposals.

“We’ll have some significant differences,” Stamas said, adding that is normal in the budget process prior to negotiations.

How much negotiation will occur with the administration is unclear.

Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), who has heavily resisted working with the administration thus far, did not return requests for comment. Some subcommittee chairs referred questions on the budget timeline to Albert, so it is also unknown if all subcommittees will be moving budgets quickly after the break in the House.

With the state being in line for billions of additional one-time federal coronavirus relief funds, Stamas said the challenge will be finding the correct balance in using the funds to best provide services while not saddling the state with items that could become ongoing budget expenses.

Stamas said he is concerned about one provision within the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allowing taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 to exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation from federal tax for 2020 only.

Stamas estimated that could present a $600 million to $700 million General Fund hit to the state, which will need to be reviewed to see how it could impact the budget.

He said one immediate issue in the budget process is when the state gets the full information from the federal government on tax policy changes and its impact on budgeting. That could create a crunch around the time of the May revenue estimating conference.

Sen. Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Township) is also anticipating moving budgets out of the subcommittees he chairs one or two weeks after lawmakers return from break.

Victory chairs the Senate Appropriations General Government Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee.

He said it has been a more difficult process than in the past “with the tsunami of federal dollars coming in” which he said requires a bit more information on how it can be spent. How the federal pandemic relief funds will supplement the base budget is a key question, he said.

Victory said it is a tough balance to use the federal funds that might be included within budgets without becoming reliant on those funds. He said prioritizing budget items to help the economy recover from the pandemic is key in the process.

While the process may be running close to expectations if not a little behind, Victory was confident the process can be completed on time.

“I’m sure we’ll hit a pothole or speed bump in the process,” Victory said, which he added is not unusual.

He said one area of concern is making sure the state continues to focus on improving its information technology programs.

Another item he said he sees as a potential economic impact is the global chip shortage for automobiles. With Michigan being a major manufacturing state, he said a concern is how that might impact the auto industry over the next year or so as the state recovers from the pandemic.

Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Township), chair of the House Appropriations Health and Human Services Subcommittee, said she hopes to report her panel’s budget recommendation next week when the Legislature returns from break.

Whiteford said she thinks the process has gone well so far and that she has a “really good relationship with the department.”

Rep. Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland), chair of the House Appropriations Corrections Subcommittee, also said he would like to report his budget recommendation out when the Legislature returns from break.

Kurt Weiss, spokesperson for the State Budget Office, said the administration does not have an exact idea on timeline, other than the Legislature is statutorily required to have a budget submitted to the governor by July 1.

“It’s our hope that it will be a negotiated budget that prioritizes our residents. Given the amount of federal funding, we are becoming concerned that a failure to have a traditional budget process will put us at a competitive disadvantage against other states that are investing these funds,” Weiss said. “Director Massaron continues to have informal conversations on the supplemental funding for this year, but no formal meetings have occurred as of yet.”

Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) said the budget he is working on will take some time after the legislative break is over, possibly almost into early May.

Horn chairs the Senate Appropriations Labor and Economic Opportunity/MEDC Subcommittee.

“We’ve lost a year with the pandemic, although that year feels like a decade,” Horn said. “I want to make up for that lost year.”

The senator said he feels that the pandemic has provided an opportunity not only for economic recovery but to improve on workforce training programs to craft a thriving post-pandemic economy.

For workforce development, Horn said he is going to be pushing for funding for the Going Pro Talent Fund program and Michigan Reconnect program.

Another priority is to propose additional funding for Pure Michigan to provide further assistance to help the state’s battered hospitality industry.

Workforce development program investments will be critical in getting more people back to school to get certificates and trained for new or advanced careers, he said.

For economic development, he said one proposal he is working on is an expansion of the Good Jobs for Michigan program to allow opportunities for existing businesses to invest in technology or facility upgrades. He said many of the state’s incentives tend to favor new or incoming businesses, but that there needs to be some support for long-established businesses which have good relationships with their communities and the state.

Separate from the budget, Mr. Horn said he is pushing through the Joint Capital Outlay Committee to invest more in equipment upgrades for career technical education training at higher education institutions. He said during the pandemic is a good time to make such investments in a cost-effective way.


Survey: State Saw Higher Rate of Biz Closures, Staff Reductions

Michigan small businesses have experienced a higher rate of closures and staff reductions during the coronavirus pandemic compared to the national average, a research project report released by Facebook said Thursday.

A positive sign was more Michigan businesses expressed confidence in being able to remain open during the next six months under current pandemic conditions than the national average.

In the most recent Global State of Small Business report, 24% of Michigan small businesses reported being closed compared to a 22% national average.

Those reporting reductions in employment totaled 36 percent of small businesses in Michigan. This was above the national average of 27%. Only New York (38 percent) was ahead of Michigan and Illinois also reported 36%.

Confidence was expressed by 76% of Michigan small business owners that they would be able to remain open during the next six months, higher than the national average from respondents of 68%.

In announcing the latest report, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said businesses globally have struggled during the pandemic, women and minority-owned businesses being hit hardest.

“A further reminder that whenever crises hit, it’s always the most vulnerable who are hit the hardest,” Sandberg said.

The new report was based on responses of more than 35,000 small business owners in 27 countries and territories in February. The survey included 605 respondents from Michigan.

Fifty-four percent of women-led small businesses nationally reported declines in sales, compared to 47% of businesses run by men.

Thirty-three percent of Black-led small businesses reported nationally of being closed, compared to 18% of other small businesses.

A total of 32% of minority-led small businesses nationally reported reductions in employment since the start of the pandemic. This was compared to 25% of other small businesses.

Globally, 26% of businesses were closed in February. This was up from 16% in October 2020 and 29% in May 2020. For the United States, 22% of small businesses were closed in February compared to 14% in October 2020.

“If there’s a silver lining, it’s that many businesses found success online,” Sandberg said. “More than half of those surveyed said they used digital tools to communicate with customers, and those reporting higher shares of digital sales were also more likely to have reported more robust sales overall.”

Walsh’s Master of Science in Finance receives No. 1 ranking

TROY, Mich., April 7, 2021 — Walsh announced today that its online Master of Science in Finance has ranked the No. 1 non-GMAT program on Intelligent’s list of Top 50 Master’s in Finance Degrees. The comprehensive research guide is based on an assessment of 1,280 accredited colleges and universities and each program is evaluated on curriculum quality, graduation rate, reputation and post-graduate employment. The 2021 rankings are calculated through a unique scoring system including student engagement, potential return on investment and leading third-party evaluations. Walsh was one of four Michigan schools and 50 schools listed overall, including Columbia University, Georgetown University and Harvard University.

Walsh has offered remote learning experiences since 1998 and is frequently recognized for excellence in online education, including a Tier One Global Online MBA by CEO Magazine, one of the Best Online Colleges for Value and one of the Best Online Cybersecurity Master’s Programs. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, Walsh pivoted all courses and student services to 100% remote delivery in a matter of days because of technology already in place. Walsh’s online programs provide identical curriculum to its on-ground programs and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and the Higher Learning Commission.

For more information visit www.walshcollege.edu.

# # #

ABOUT WALSH
Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of Southeast Michigan’s largest graduate business schools, offering classes in several locations and online. Our internationally and nationally-ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, data analytics, finance, information technology, human resources, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit www.walshcollege.edu.

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (www.acbsp.org).

Dr. Audrey Gregory

Audrey Gregory, PhD, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Medical Center. She was named to the post on January 1, 2020. She joined the Detroit Medical Center in October 2019 as the President of Detroit Medical Center and CEO of DMC’s adult central campus including DMC Detroit Receiving Hospital, DMC Harper University Hospital, DMC Heart Hospital and DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Gregory came to the DMC from Tenet Healthcare’s Saint Francis Healthcare System in Memphis, where she served as Market CEO, and CEO of St. Francis Hospital – Memphis. Dr. Gregory has been with Tenet for more than 15 years in a variety of senior leadership roles, including Chief Nursing Officer, Chief Operating Officer and CEO Placentia-Linda Hospital in Southern California. She is a recipient of three Tenet Circle of Excellence awards in recognition of her leadership.

Dr. Gregory is a highly respected leader who has been recognized nationally for her commitment and dedication.  She has been recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the nation’s Top 25 Minority Leaders in health care, and was named as one of 70 African American leaders in health care to know by Becker’s Hospital Review. She serves as a trustee at-large on the Michigan Health & Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees, and was appointed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. Dr. Gregory also serves as a member of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Executive Leadership Team, and is as a board member of Detroit Regional Chamber.

Dr. Gregory earned a Ph.D. in global leadership from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. She
earned both a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in healthcare administration from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia.