Lansing -State Rep. Greg VanWoerkom joined the Michigan House in approving several bipartisan measures to continue protecting and helping Michigan families during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic.
VanWoerkom, of Norton Shores, said the proposals would extend unemployment insurance payments, force UIA and Secretary of State offices to open their doors, and protect nursing home residents in the wake of the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling that struck down the governor’s coronavirus-related executive orders.
“Thousands of Michigan families continue to struggle to pay their bills, put food on their tables, and meet their other basic needs,” VanWoerkom said. “This is through no fault of their own, yet the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency and Secretary of State offices continue to be closed down. This is unacceptable. These offices must open their doors because Michiganders everywhere desperately need their services.”
Senate Bill 886, which received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, safeguards the UIA payments 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 those 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 1094 and House Bill 6137 aim to reduce 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 fully recovered, or the facility has established a state-approved dedicated area to care for people with the virus. In addition, the plan allows safe and responsible in-person visitations for all nursing home residents, requires health data reporting and a plan to address the testing needs for our most vulnerable. This measure also received overwhelming bipartisan support from legislators.
Other measures approved by the House the same day would:
- 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).
- 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).
- Establish a plan to open state unemployment offices and Secretary of State branches to better serve the public (SB 748). The legislation also clears the way to allow in-person, indoor visitation in nursing homes, and acknowledges the great need for increased testing and faster results for COVID-19 in these facilities.