Detroit Regional Chamber > Business Resources > COVID-19 > Chamber Influences Breakthrough Deal on COVID-19 Restrictions and State Budget Negotiations  

Chamber Influences Breakthrough Deal on COVID-19 Restrictions and State Budget Negotiations  

May 21, 2021
Thursday, May 20, saw two major announcements impacting COVID-19 restrictions, businesses, and the future of Michigan’s recovery. In a morning press conference, Gov. Whitmer announced an updated ‘Vacc to Normal’ plan, which accelerates the timeline of lifting certain COVID-19 restrictions. Later that evening, the Governor announced a bipartisan agreement with Senate Majority Leader Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and Speaker Wentworth (R-Farwell) on the withdrawal of Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) proposed permanent rules and a plan for budget negotiations.

As the largest business group in Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber played a pivotal role in the deal struck last night. Throughout the week, Chamber leadership worked behind the scenes with the Administration to represent businesses and their needs. In recognition of the contribution, Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Sandy K. Baruah, was asked to be part of the announcement.

“The Chamber applauds Gov. Whitmer, Majority Leader Shirkey, and Speaker Wentworth for their leadership and a renewed spirit of bipartisan cooperation to put forward solutions that will help end the pandemic through increased vaccinations and let businesses operate with certainty,” said Baruah. “Businesses and business organizations have highlighted their concerns regarding MIOSHA making COVID-19 Emergency Rules permanent. Today’s announcement of MIOSHA’s withdrawal of the proposed permanent rules, coupled with a clearer path forward for substantive budget negotiations, is the welcome news that many of us have sought and helps accelerate our state’s economic recovery.”

Key Components of the Bipartisan Deal  

  • Republicans have agreed to fully negotiate the state budget and federal funding from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Act with the State Budget Director.
  • Gov. Whitmer has agreed to withdraw MIOSHA’s proposed permanent rules.
  • Starting May 24, businesses can resume in-person work.
  • Gov. Whitmer has agreed to have a conversation about formalizing legislative input on epidemic orders.

With more than $2 billion remaining in CARES Act funding, nearly $20 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan, and now a large influx of additional state revenue, the announcement of a path forward on budget negotiations could not have come at a better time. In April, the Chamber joined business groups from around the state to urge the state’s political leadership to use the influx of one-time federal funding to invest in transformative programs for the state without raising taxes or creating unfunded mandates. 

Relaxing COVID-19 Restrictions on Businesses  

As of June 1, capacity limits will lift for outdoor events. Additionally, indoor capacity limits will increase to 50%, allowing indoor social gatherings such as weddings and funerals to move closer to normalcy. As of July 1, the state will no longer limit capacity at indoor or outdoor gatherings.

The changes announced Thursday reflect updates from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that say, “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Following the press conference, Baruah issued the following statement.

Today’s announcement from Gov. Whitmer demonstrates that the power to end the pandemic is in all of our hands. The Chamber applauds each Michigander who, by receiving a vaccination, not only protected their own lives, but breathed life into our state’s economy by accelerating the “Vacc to Normal” timeline. Crucially to businesses, we are pleased that our state’s progress enables a return to in-person work starting Monday, May 24. Progress like this is not possible without being open to receiving input from the Chamber and business community on the importance of in-person work for our state’s economy.

Changes Impacting Businesses  

  • MDHHS’s 11 p.m. mandatory closure rule for bars and restaurants also will be lifted on June 1, the Governor said.
  • Through Memorial Day, the 30% capacity restriction for gyms and fitness centers will remain in place.
  • As of June 1, there will be no capacity restrictions for outdoor events.
  • There will be an across-the-board increase to 50% capacity for convention centers, banquet halls, and other event spaces.

Nearly 57% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine shot. Gov. Whitmer urged people to get vaccinated and stressed that unvaccinated individuals must wear a mask indoors through June, after which a broad face-covering rule will be rescinded.