Legislator says planning must now be done to get people back to work
State Rep. Jack O’Malley, of Lake Ann, today commended new directives issued by the governor within an extended stay-at-home order in an effort to keep people in Northern Michigan safe – but underscored needed work to get livelihoods upended by the coronavirus outbreak back on track.
The order will now extend through the end of April and prohibits intrastate vacation and any other nonessential travel. O’Malley recently sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer explaining the difficulty in mitigating spread if people continue to frequent secondary homes and tourist areas in different parts of the state.
“If we want people to stay put to slow spread, that should mean stay put. It shouldn’t mean you can travel up north for the weekend if you want,” O’Malley said. “I believe some portions of the expanded measures are overly harsh, but I was pleased to see this inclusion. It will help keep northern Michigan communities safer and smaller hospital systems that cannot handle a sudden influx of ill people from being overwhelmed.”
In addition to over 21,000 reported cases and nearly 1,100 deaths statewide, the ongoing public health emergency has led to severe financial impacts for Michigan workers. Nearly 385,000 filed for unemployment benefits between March 29 and April 4. Added with previous weeks since the stay-at-home directive was put into place, the total amount of filings is at nearly 820,000.
“We need to start planning for what’s next, because it’s going to take longer to power Michigan’s economy back up than it did to put it in the sleep mode it’s in now,” O’Malley said. “I believe we can get to a point where we can open up certain industries that make sense and have built-in distancing principles. Much of our seasonal economy could open up safely, as long as strict measures are adhered to in order to keep people protected and healthy.
“At this point, every job is essential to the worker who is without one. We need to generate a plan to allow some of workers back where it’s practical. We need to give that small business owner an idea of when they’ll be able to turn that sign on their door over from closed to open. Delaying that process – even while we are in the midst of an ongoing stay-at-home order – will only prolong their hardship.”