Gov. Whitmer’s April 29 Public Briefing, Futures For Frontliners, And More

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LANSING, MICH. Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio and President of the Michigan AFL-CIO Ron Bieber provided an update regarding the state’s response efforts to COVID-19.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

  • In Michigan, unemployment benefits were addressed almost immediately, prohibited employer retaliation to employees self-quarantining, halted evictions, and implemented the MI Mortgage Relief Program. Also expanded childcare services for frontline workers, and treatment options.
  • Workplace safety will be a top priority to address public health and economic crisis. Requested businesses to do their part by adopting best practices.

Additional Protections

  • Announced on Friday that residential and commercial construction will be open by May 7.
  • Today, announcing a plan for frontline workers to have paths to benefit themselves for their work during this time, including:
    • Hospitals
    • Grocery Stores
    • Childcare workers
    • Manufacturers of PPE
    • Delivery workers
  • Futures for Frontliners
    • Tuition-free college opportunities
    • Applies to technical, associate, and bachelor’s degrees
    • First of its kind in the US
    • Michigan reconnect bill will also play a role
  • MI Childcare Relief Fund
    • Provides additional funding for childcare facilities who take care of kids of frontline workers
    • MI Childcare Relief Fund will come from the CARES Act and State money- $130 million investment to make child care more affordable and accessible for Michigan families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Workshare programs will help with unemployment insurance while employees return to work (by federal money) through July- still collect $600/ week. UI also still paid out.
  • Supportive of Sen. Gary Peter’s Hero’s Fund – congressional support for critical infrastructure workers. $25,000 premium increase for Critical Infrastructure workers through 2020.

MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun

  • Michigan has shown good progress, continuing plateau of new cases. Social distancing has been the key driver.
  • As of today, Michigan has experienced COVID-19 40,399 cases and 3,670 deaths.
  • Some counties have seen an increase of cases (particularly the Westside) – working on ID-ing sites where cases have increased.
  • The goal is to expand testing as much as possible. This week, the state can conduct 6800 tests per day. We still need to expand testing further.
  • Taskforce on racial disparity is working to ensure equal testing opportunity.
  • Southeast Michigan hospitals are doing better with PPE supplies; hospital visits are also on the downturn. We need to make sure other areas of the state do no experience these same shortages.
  • Do not put of medical treatment out of fear of clogging the hospitals.
  • Urged social distancing with people going outside in warmer weather.
  • We will need to keep some precautions going as far as next year.

LEO Director Jeff Donofrio

  • LEO has had three focus areas:
    • Flatten the curve
    • Provide emergency financial relief
    • Facilitate safe reengagement of the economy
  • Workers will need to be safe and protected when they go to work
  • LEO worked on homeowner and unemployment assistance – $2.7 billion of payouts so far.
  • Need to make sure comeback is long term and good for the worker.
  • Future for Frontliners program will ensure investment in:
    • Contact tracing
    • Hospitals
    • Ag processing
    • Police/ fire
    • Testing
    • Grocery stores
  • Unemployment benefits have been extended as part of the workshare program and will continue to expand. Includes weekly $600/ week from federal funding.
  • Workers need to be recognized for their sacrifice and efforts
  • MIOSHA will be setting up guidelines for COVID precautions and will expand their presence in the future. More info at michigan.gov/miosha.
  • Cannot open to full capacity too soon, or we’ll see another resurgence of infection rates. I will be working with partners in organized labor.

Questions (To Governor Whitmer):

What can you do with the legislature to handle this disagreement on the stay-at-home extension?

[Gov. Whitmer]: Republicans are negotiating with sectors of the economy. This is a global pandemic, not a political game. Not willing to engage in political negotiations with lives on the line. Will base decisions on facts, data, and risk. We are still in a state of emergency, no other legislature is viewing this situation like ours. No intention of rescinding the emergency declaration.

Why May 7 for construction to resume?

[Gov. Whitmer]: Gives industry enough time to notify workers and step up testing and safety protocols. We also need to observe all areas of the State to make sure risk is reduced.

CDC data suggests an increase in deaths is not necessarily COVID-related. Do we have data differentiating between the two deaths types?

[Dr. Khaldun] We’re looking at all deaths and working with academics. It is too early to tell for sure.

Where are we at for lifting elective and dental procedures?

[Gov. Whitmer]: As we proceed, there will be something in the next few days.

Will the legislature’s decision on the state of emergency change your timeline?

[Gov. Whitmer]: No. The construction industry is happy with our process.

Regarding confusion on EO authority, why do you get to decide which statue to follow?

[Gov. Whitmer]: I’m citing all realms of authority available to the Executive branch. This is about public health.

How will you enforce that workers will not be punished for self-quarantining?

[Gov. Whitmer]: Working with business leaders to make sure the workplace is safe.

Where is the money going to come from for the Futures for Frontliners?

[Gov. Whitmer]: Federal funds, mostly from CARES Act and up-training money.

How much longer will the TCF Field hospital be open?

[Gov. Whitmer]: The alternate care sites are thankfully not filling up, will be adjusting and letting you know in the next few days.

 

 

 

 

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