Michigan’s state of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic should be extended, Rep. Jason Sheppard said today, but for a shorter period than the 70 days initially requested by Gov. Whitmer.
The Legislature this week is expected to consider a concurrent resolution to continue the state of emergency and the governor’s emergency powers until May 1 – a period that could later be extended if circumstances warrant it, Sheppard said. Gov. Whitmer’s request would extend the state of emergency until June 16.
“As fast as this situation is evolving, at this time I simply can’t justify telling Michigan families and businesses they’re likely to be shut down for another 10 weeks,” said Sheppard, who serves as House majority caucus whip and chair of the Government Operations Committee. “We need more answers from the governor about some of the actions she’s already taken, and we need to hear her plan for restoring normalcy as we move through this crisis. Until the people of Michigan get those answers, the prudent thing to do is extend the state of emergency for a few more weeks and see what the situation looks like at that time.”
Sheppard, of Temperance, said people need to know what’s being done to fix the state’s failing unemployment benefits filing system.
“Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents have been forced out of work due to coronavirus and the governor’s executive orders, and many are having trouble applying for the unemployment benefits they need to put food on the table and pay and their bills,” Sheppard said. “Fixing that system has got to be a priority.”
Sheppard said more clarity is needed on some of the governor’s existing executive orders – including questions about why some businesses have been forced to close when it appears they could easily follow social distancing guidelines and operate safely. He said workers and businesses also deserve more information about longer-range plans to help them stay afloat and reboot the economy.
More information is also needed – on a region-by-region level — about hospital capacity and the ability to test for and monitor the virus, Sheppard said.
“People expect their elected officials to work together in their best interests in good times and bad times alike,” Sheppard said. “The Legislature has an important oversight role in state government, and we cannot abandon that responsibility – especially in times of crisis. Protecting public health is the most important mission, but we also must do all we can for families, workers and small businesses dealing with the ripple effects of this COVID-19 crisis. We cannot ask them to abandon all hope until mid-June – we need more clarity on what lies ahead.”