Rep. Bronna Kahle today continued her fight on behalf of Michigan’s nursing home residents and the unemployed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Kahle and her Michigan House colleagues approved several measures in response to the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling that struck down Gov. Whitmer’s coronavirus-related executive orders. The House-approved measures would allow in-person visitation at nursing homes, extend unemployment benefits for those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, permit public bodies to meet remotely and safely, and make several other important changes.
“The governor and the Legislature can and should work together – always – to protect lives and livelihoods during this pandemic,” said Kahle, of Adrian. “These measures approved by the House will keep people safer, protect our most vulnerable, and better connect every citizen with their elected leaders at every level of state and local government. It’s strong action toward the continued safe, sensible reopening of Lenawee County and the entire state.”
Senate Bill 1094 helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes by implementing common-sense recommendations of the Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force. It prohibits the return of COVID-19-positive residents to nursing facilities unless they have recovered, or the facility has established a state-approved and dedicated area to care for people with the virus. The legislation also allows in-person, indoor visitation in nursing homes – a cause Kahle has championed during the pandemic.
“Many of our family members, friends and neighbors living in these homes have gone more than six months without an in-person visit from their loved ones – with absolutely heartbreaking consequences,” Kahle said. “The forced isolation sparks fear, anxiety and depression. Many of our seniors are simply fading away behind closed doors. I will continue to fight for visitation rights and other improvements in our nursing homes until all needed changes are established in state law.”
Senate Bill 886 safeguards the Unemployment Insurance Agency benefits put in place to address the pandemic and guarantees those claims will continue uninterrupted for the maximum number of weeks allowed by the federal government. The plan would protect workers who left work to self-isolate or quarantine, as well as people who are immunocompromised or need to care for a family member diagnosed with COVID-19. It also ensures job providers will continue to be held harmless for unemployment benefit charges if their employees were laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other measures approved by the House would:
• Extend the validity of vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses and state identification cards that expired after March 2020, and waive late fees associated with renewing expired documents (HBs 5756, 5757, 6192).
• Allow important documents, such as wills, deeds and other forms to be signed and witnessed electronically through the end of 2020 (HBs 6294-97).
• Allow retirees to return to work to help the UIA or the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration with the overwhelming number of claims without forfeiting their retirement benefits (SB 911).
• Prompts the full reopening of state unemployment offices and Secretary of State branches to better serve the public (SB 748).
• Provide local governments, school boards and other public bodies with a method to meet electronically, if necessary, to conduct business and engage with the public (SB 1108).
“In some parts of Michigan, local governments and school boards have already canceled or postponed meetings based on the elimination of the governor’s executive orders related to remote meetings,” Kahle said. “This new measure will provide the certainty our communities need to move forward with public body meetings in confidence, and when appropriate, meet remotely while providing proper public participation. I have listened to their concerns, and helped craft a safe and sensible solution that should work for everyone.”
A group of House Republican legislators today labeled the latest emergency order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding indoor visitation in nursing homes as a step in the right direction, adding there is still more work to be done.