Legislators Move COVID-19 Bills on Unemployment, Virtual Meetings to Governor for Signing

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Updated legislation on business liability, unemployment benefits, nursing homes, and virtual meetings are headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for signature following Tuesday’s House session. These bills are in response to the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating the Governor’s emergency powers in response to COVID-19.

The updated legislation includes:

  • Senate Bill 886: Expands unemployment benefits to 26 weeks and puts into statute other COVID-19-related provisions previously covered through an executive order. The bill would waive the requirement that an unemployed individual be actively seeking work if they are laid off, and if the employer says it is temporary, allow work-share plans to continue. It would also account for COVID-related reasons a person may have involuntarily left work for medical reasons like having close contact with a COVID-positive person or needing care for someone with the virus. A tie-bar originally attached to a business liability package was removed from this bill.
  •  Senate Bill 1094: Requires the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to implement dedicated housing facilities for COVID-19 positive patients. The House separated a data reporting requirement into House Bill 6137 after it was discharged from the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee. The revised bill also provides a temporary exemption for facilities to retain positive patients until the new recovery centers are up and running. The bill would create care and recovery centers within nursing homes similar to what the state moved toward following a task force’s recommendations. These recovery centers would have to apply to DHHS and demonstrate various requirements to implement a recovery center, including having a three-star rating and that they have enough dedicated staff.
  • Senate Bill 1108: Allows public bodies to conduct remote meetings including two-way communication and allowing public participation in certain instances. Further, it states that public bodies are allowed to meet remotely through Jan. 1, 2021 starting at March 18, 2020, under any circumstances; for the entirety of 2021 for a medical reason, a state of emergency, or because of military duty; and after Dec. 31, 2021, only in the circumstance of accommodating members absent due to military duty, as is current law.
  •  House Bills 60306031, 6032, and 6101: In HB 6030, the main bill in the package, an S-2 substitute removed several definitions and provisions while also making the bill retroactive to March 1, 2020, instead of Jan. 1, 2020. The bill also outlines that anyone in compliance with all federal or state laws, local rules or regulations, executive orders, or public health guidance would not be liable for an employee’s COVID-19 exposure. Updated language in this version includes references to local statutes, rules, or regulations, and also stated, “An isolated, de minimis deviation from strict compliance with such rules, statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders unrelated to the plaintiff’s injuries does not deny a person the immunity provided in this section.” This version also removed language saying that employers that willfully exposed an employee to the virus would not be granted immunity. The S-1 substitute for HB 6031 codifies Section 5 and multiple other provisions from HB 6030 into the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. HB 6032, codifies protections for employees who test positive for the virus or are in close contact with someone else who does. Under the bill, employees would be encouraged not to come to work due to COVID-19 exposure. Civil action would be allowed for aggrieved employees.A key change to the entire bill package was the removal of a tie-bar attached to the unemployment legislation previously mentioned.

These bills now head to the Governor for signature.


 

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