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Rep Sarah Lightner
Rep. Lightner: Michigan House helps unemployed, other residents get through COVID-19 pandemic
RELEASE|October 15, 2020

Rep. Sarah Lightner of Springport this week joined the state House in advancing several measures that will help guide Michiganders through the COVID-19 pandemic – including extended benefits to help the unemployed and better protections and quality of life provisions for nursing home residents.

The measures are advancing in the Legislature with strong bipartisan support after the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling that struck down the governor’s coronavirus-related executive orders.

Senate Bill 886 safeguards the Unemployment Insurance Agency benefits put in place to help those who have lost jobs because of 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 jobs 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.

“In addition to the all the health and safety issues related to COVID-19, we can’t forget the economic devastation this virus has caused in Michigan,” Lightner said. “Hardworking Michiganders have been forced to the sidelines through no fault of their own. Families are struggling to make ends meet. These measures will help families cope as our state continues to fight the virus and plan for better days ahead.”

Senate Bill 1094 and related legislation helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes by implementing 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.

“Something that has been lost in all of this is the mental anguish our seniors and their families that have not been able to see each other during this time have had to endure,” Lightner said. “Allowing for in-person, indoor visitation in a safe environment will help us ensure that we are protecting our seniors’ mental health while we continue to fight this virus.”

Lightner personally sponsored measures that will help ensure important business and personal transactions continue during the pandemic safely. They also ensure that anything signed electronically during this crisis is not rendered null and void as a result of the Supreme Court decision. House Bills 6294-97 allow important documents such as wills, deeds and other forms to be signed and witnessed electronically through the end of 2020.

“I am glad the Legislature was able to put politics aside and work together in a bipartisan way to ensure that we are protecting Michigan from this virus,” Lightner said. “The system works, and I am optimistic that we will continue to find common ground throughout this process and keep Michigan safe, healthy, and thriving. At the end of the day, this is about people, not politics.”

Other measures approved today 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 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).
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