Legislator: Key protections allow state to move forward effectively during crisis
State Rep. Jack O’Malley and the Michigan House today approved several measures to continue protecting and helping Michigan families during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic.
O’Malley, of Lake Ann, sponsored legislation within a trio of bills extending the validity of vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses and state IDs that expired after March 2020 and waive late fees associated with renewing any expired documents. The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a significant backlog in renewals as Secretary of State offices closed.
“This will continue to give drivers who have struggled to set appointments to get needed documents renewed the time they need,” O’Malley said, noting SOS offices are currently by appointment only and appointments are often booked up for days or weeks. “It may seem like a little thing, but in the times we are facing a little peace of mind can go a long way.”
Protections for nursing home residents, assistance to workers and job providers and extended unemployment benefits were also included in the Legislature’s proposal after the Michigan Supreme Court recently struck down coronavirus-related executive orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“We needed to develop a way for Michigan to effectively emerge from this,” O’Malley said. “We have spent months hearing from people about what they need to be able to live, work and raise a family in our state and we needed to set to work to see it through now that Gov. Whitmer is tasked with working with the Legislature.
“The Legislature represents the voice of the people – and we needed to deliver a plan that was representative of what people need during this crisis. It was about hearing what’s working and what’s not working and then rolling up our sleeves to deliver a smarter approach for people in northern Michigan and across the state.”
Other measures approved by the House would:
- Safeguard the Unemployment Insurance Agency benefits put in place to address the pandemic and guarantee 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 (Senate Bill 886).
- Reduce the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes by implementing recommendations of the Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force. The plans prohibit the return of COVID-19-positive residents to nursing facilities unless they have fully recovered, or the facility has established a state-approved dedicated area to care for people with the virus. In addition, the measures allow safe and responsible in-person visitations for all nursing home residents, requires health data reporting and a plan to the address testing needs for our most vulnerable (SBs 1094, 6137).
- 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).
- Provide flexibility to allow licensed health care workers such as physician assistants, registered nurses and pharmacists to continue testing people for COVID-19 (House Bill 6293).
- 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).
- Establish a plan to open state unemployment offices and Secretary of State branches to better serve the public (SB 748). The measure also acknowledges the great need for more COVID-19 testing in nursing homes with faster results.
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