May 16, 2022

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Business Groups Respond to Easing Michigan COVID Restrictions

Following closely on the heels of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announced relaxation of some of the state’s restrictions lingering from the pandemic, several business groups have stepped out in response.

Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association President & CEO Justin Winslow, issued this statement in response to Gov. Whitmer’s announcement regarding capacity restrictions:

“The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association welcomes the clear guidance today from MDHHS towards Michigan’s full economic reintegration and take​s solace in knowing that our advocacy on behalf of event and banquet centers will prevent the outright loss of another wedding, graduation and conference season.    

As Michigan’s hospitality industry now pivots to meet unprecedented pent-up demand to dine and travel free of occupancy restrictions, our focus will turn aggressively to securing workforce solutions that help restaurant, hotel and resort operators meet staffing needs. It would be a preventable tragedy if Michigan’s hospitality industry, which endured 159 days of closure and 16 months of occupancy restrictions, was rendered incapable of realizing its newfound opportunity because well-intended, but outdated policies discouraged a full return to the workforce. Michigan’s labor participation rate ranks 42nd in the nation and as such we need bipartisan solutions to address this immediate threat to our hospitality revival.   

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The MRLA has authored bold solutions to lead that revival and will continue to work with the legislature and governor to realize our comeback.”  

Meanwhile, one of the state’s leading small business advocates, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), is urging the Governor to withdraw the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) proposed permanent COVID-19 employer rules.

NFIB leaders note that the governor has said that, as of June 1st, capacity limits will lift for outdoor events. Additionally, indoor capacity limits will increase to 50-percent for indoor social gatherings such as weddings and funerals. As of July 1st, the state will no longer limit capacity at indoor or outdoor gatherings. The Governor also indicated that a new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) epidemic order would be issued on Monday, May 24th that would include an update on current MIOSHA COVID-19 rules on employers.

NFIB Michigan State Director, Charlie Owens, used the occasion today to call for and end to the rules, saying, “The confusion among employers as to the contradictions between COVID-19 orders emanating from the MDHHS and MIOSHA needs to end now,” and contends, “We have been waiting for clear direction from the administration on this issue for too long”.

Owens says that claims by the administration that offices could reopen under the MDHHS order changes are in conflict with current MIOSHA COVID-19 Emergency Rules that prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to work in the office unless that work cannot be performed at home. Recently MIOSHA posted a notice on its website that it would consider compliance with MDHHS orders as a “good faith” effort to comply with MIOSHA’s rules. MIOSHA is also proposing to make the temporary emergency rules permanent and has posted a public hearing on the issue for May 26th.

NFIB and other business groups in Michigan have sent a letter to MIOSHA and the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity requesting that they withdraw the proposed permanent rules and stop the rulemaking process on permanent COVID workplace safety rules by this Friday, May 21st.

The letter states: “Businesses in Michigan have been put into a difficult position in the last few days – victims of contradictory emergency orders issued by the administration. Rescinding these outdated draft rules is the first step in providing clarity for all employers and employees across the state.”

Owens says, “We are hopeful that the changes being promised on Monday will include the withdrawal of these unnecessary and burdensome permanent rules.”

Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley issued the following statement in response to Governor Whitmer announcing changes in Michigan’s Vacc To Normal Plan:

“Today marks an important step for small business owners everywhere. The revised Emergency Epidemic Order accomplishes several important goals. First, and more importantly, it gives a date certain when epidemic emergency orders will end. Second, it makes near term changes that will allow banquet halls, convention centers and other indoor gathering facilities to start to ramp up operations in June. And finally, it will allow for many of the festivals, fairs and other community events that make our state so special to commence this summer.

“We look forward to changes to MIOSHA workplace safety rules that will hopefully streamline the temporary rules, bringing them into compliance with CDC guidelines and abandon the proposal for permanent rules.”

Also responding to the governor’s announcement today that COVID-19 restrictions would continue to be eased was Dr. Pino D. Colone, MD, President of the Michigan State Medical Society, who says, “The Governor and state health officials have laid out a path for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan, and that is a tribute to the sacrifice of people and the willingness of so many to get vaccinated. But let this be clear: we still need to do more when it comes to vaccinations. While our numbers have slowed, we need to continue our progress in order to protect people and further our move back to normal.”