By State Rep. Mike Mueller, of Linden
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several challenges and obstacles for people across this state. Despite these difficulties, Michiganders continue to step up to the plate – health care professionals work around the clock with limited supplies, engineers are constructing makeshift hospitals, automakers have begun producing ventilators, and our grocery stores continue to meet the many demands of consumers. While it’s reassuring to see these challenges met, obstacles remain for those who are out of work, and it’s incumbent on the governor to fix it.
Michigan’s unemployment filing system is failing to meet the needs of the displaced workers, and it must be fixed immediately. The governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order began March 24, shutting down businesses and leaving many people out of work, unsure of how they would pay their bills. Since then, navigating the unemployment system has become nearly impossible for thousands of people. Individuals report being locked out of the website, waiting on hold for hours on end only to be hung up on, and being unable to submit a claim. The agency is seeing a volume of claims like it’s never seen before, but after two weeks, we have yet to see any improvements. People need to make ends meet, and the state has made it impossible to do so. I am calling on the governor to make this issue a top priority.
The governor has now extended her stay-at-home order through April 30, and job providers need answers. Starting with the hundreds of Michigan industries that by nature operate without violating physical distancing protocols. Lawn care services, greenhouses, construction firms, contractors, and mechanic shops are just a few of the many industries that can easily operate without putting workers at risk. These workers should be allowed to return to work.
Spring is a critical time of year for lawn care, greenhouses, and nurseries due to the abundance of growth. Local greenhouses and nurseries will lose thousands of dollars as their inventory withers, and lawn care services will be unable to perform essential treatments that reduce the spread of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. Construction crews with state contracts continue to work on roads, yet home construction has been halted, putting people at a financial risk as they search for temporary living. These double standards must be addressed. The governor must acknowledge that this health crisis has become an economic crisis as well.
Our governor has called on the federal government for a more unified response, and now that they have issued guidelines on critical occupations, she refuses to adopt the federal CISA guidelines in her new executive order. Michigan residents deserve to know why certain businesses are forced to close when they could safely operate, why the state’s unemployment filing system is failing when Michiganders need it most, and what her plans and timeframe are for allowing people to return to work so they can support their families. While saving lives is my top priority, this one-size-fits-all approach will ultimately do more harm than good.
I have always maintained that the governor is in the best position to make decisions through this crisis, and I have supported her in her decisions thus far, but now I am asking that more be done. It’s time for a new, effective plan to get our state back on track.