On Wednesday, April 23rd, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-57, extending and building upon her earlier executive order expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
This new Order significantly expands the Work Share Program to further encourage employers to utilize the program to avoid layoffs. An employer may apply for a work share plan if layoff would be avoided for just 10 percent of employees in a unit; new employees with less than three months on the job may qualify for the plan and the range of work reduction permitted under the program is expanded to 10-60 percent from the statutory requirement of 15 to 45 percent.
The order also extends benefits to individuals who voluntarily left a job to accept new employment but were unable to start their new position due to the pandemic.
To help manage unprecedented levels of unemployment claims, Executive Order 2020-57 permits state retirees to return to work at the Unemployment Insurance Agency or MIOSHA without impacting their pensions. Additionally, the Unemployment Insurance Agency has released a number of videos to help claimants navigate the system.
MPSC puts hold on Line 5 siting approval and will take public comment as it considers Enbridge's request for a declaratory ruling on siting authority
The following is from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).
The Michigan Public Service Commission today put on hold Enbridge Energy LP’s application seeking siting approval to replace and relocate the portion of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac while the MPSC takes public comment and considers the company’s request for a declaratory ruling on whether new siting authority from the MPSC is needed for Enbridge to construct this segment.
Enbridge filed its application April 17 (Case No. U-20763) requesting siting approval under Act 16 of 1929 to replace and relocate the Line 5 section into a tunnel to be constructed beneath the Straits. In the alternative, Enbridge asked the MPSC for a declaratory ruling that it already has the authority from the Commission to construct the replacement segment based on the Commission’s original 1953 order granting authority for the Line 5 pipeline.
The Commission today said it would hold the Act 16 siting application in abeyance while it considers the request for a declaratory ruling. Should the Commission issue such a declaratory ruling that Enbridge already has the authority for its Line 5 project, no further proceedings will be necessary, saving time and resources of the Commission and interested persons. Conversely, should the Commission issue a declaratory ruling that Enbridge does not already have the authority for its Line 5 project, the application would be reviewed as part of a contested case, starting with public notice and a prehearing conference.
In addition, given significant public interest in the Line 5 matter, the Commission also established a public comment period on the request for a declaratory ruling. Comments should address only the declaratory ruling issue, and not the merits of Enbridge’s Act 16 application.
Any interested parties may submit comments, written or electronic, no later than May 13, 2020. The Commission explicitly invited commenters to provide legal analysis of the issues presented in the request for a declaratory ruling, which could include references to statutes, rules and prior Commission orders relevant to the matter and analysis of their applicability to the Line 5 project. Replies to comments on the declaratory ruling request must be filed no later than May 27, 2020.
Electronic comments are preferred and may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments should reference Case No. U-20763. All information submitted to the Commission in this matter will become public information available on the Commission’s website and subject to disclosure. Written comments may be addressed to: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, 7109 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48917.
A declaratory ruling is a legal determination that resolves uncertainty for the parties and is often made to clarify or determine certain rights or obligations. Under Michigan law and the Commission’s rules, the decision on whether to issue a declaratory ruling is at the discretion of the Commission and relates to the applicability of an actual state of facts to a statute administered by the Commission, or a rule or order of the Commission. A declaratory ruling is binding on the Commission and the party requesting it. However, a declaratory ruling is subject to judicial review in the same manner as a final decision or order in a contested case.
Opportunities to monitor MPSC’s Line 5 proceedings
The MPSC launched a dedicated webpage, www.michigan.gov/MPSCLine5, to enable the public to monitor Enbridge’s siting application and related requests. Background resources on the MPSC’s siting authority under Act 16 and opportunities for the public to participate are available. Individuals can sign up for e-mail updates on MPSC meeting notices, orders, press releases, or other developments specifically related to the Line 5 proceeding before the Commission. Instructions are also available for individuals seeking to sign up to be notified of all formal case filings through the MPSC’s e-dockets system. Additional information will be posted on the website as it becomes available.
To look up cases from MPSC meetings, access the E-Dockets filing system here.
To watch a livestream of the MPSC’s meetings, click here.
"We will likely need another short-term extension of the stay-home, stay-safe order," Governor Whitmer said in her Wednesday conference. She did not provide additional details, nor indicate if a possible extension would be less restrictive. It is anticipated that she will provide another update on Friday. The current "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Order goes through Thursday, April 30th as of now. Some states have begun easing restrictions already. We will keep you updated as additional details are provided.
MIRS News has reported that roughly 2,900 state employees who have been dubbed non-essential were laid off today (4/22) as part of a workforce-thinning in advance of a projected $2.6B state revenue shortfall.
MIRS reports that most if not all state departments are being impacted by the layoffs, which will involve employees dubbed as "level four" staff — in other words, non-critical infrastructure workers working remotely and working at lower-than-normal levels. It’s projected that the layoffs, which will last only ten days but could go up to 20 days under contract, could produce up to $5 million in savings.
U.S. Senate Passes $484 billion Relief Bill to help Small Businesses, Hospitals, and Expand Testing.
Background: As a result of the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) created additional loan/funding programs to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19. As of April 16, the SBA issued over $10.3 Billion in loans to over 43,000 Michigan small businesses. Nationally, SBA executed more loans in 14 days of CARES Act implementation than the agency had done in the previous 14 years. By April 16th, The Small Business Administration’s (SBA), Paycheck Protection Loan Program (PPP) intended to help small businesses, had doled out all of its $350 Billion in allocated funding, putting pressure on lawmakers to reach an agreement for additional funding to the program.
This relief bill includes $310 billion for the depleted Paycheck Protection Program, in addition to $60 billion in loans and grants for economic disaster assistance, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to expand coronavirus testing across the country.
MOGA will keep you updated as this relief bill moves to the house and the President's desk.
The White House has released a Fact Sheet on Federal Assistance to Michigan, detailing Federal coordination and assistance provided to the State of Michigan and the people of Michigan to combat the coronavirus. The linked information is bolstered by hundreds of additional actions by the Federal government to help the people of Michigan in partnership with State and local leaders.
The White House thanked Michigan Leaders for their continued efforts in the whole-of-America approach to respond to and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) for the benefit of the people of Michigan and said will continue to share pertinent information as it becomes available.
President Donald Trump has instructed his administration to look into ways to make funds available to domestic oil and gas produces who are struggling amid the lowest oil prices in two decades. On Tuesday, the President tweeted his support for U.S. oil and gas producers.
“We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down. I have instructed the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Treasury to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future!” President Trump tweeted on Tuesday, a day after the front-month U.S. benchmark oil futures contract crashed by more than 300% into negative territory.
State to Host Second High Water Summit Webinar on April 28th . With focus on shoreline processes, permitting
The ad hoc Michigan High Water Action Team has scheduled a second High Water Summit webinar town hall for April 28 that will focus on Great Lakes shoreline erosion and permitting. Registration is open and limited to 1,000 attendees.
The webinar is open to the public, community officials, private property owners and businesses affected by Great Lakes shoreline erosion.
Presentations will be made by staff of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE); Dr. Guy Meadows of Michigan Technological University; Charlie Simon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District Regulatory Office; Dan Dietz of Dietz House Moving of Muskegon; and Brian Majka of GEI Consultants in Grand Rapids. Topics will include permitting processes and alternatives for homes or critical structures that are in jeopardy.
The webinar is from 5-6:30 p.m. April 28 and will include ample opportunity after the presentations for questions and comments from the public. Register here.
The first High Water Summit webinar, which was March 26, had more than 750 attendees and covered a broad spectrum of high water impacts around the state. A recording of the webinar can be found at Michigan.gov/EGLEHighWater. Over the past six months, EGLE has participated in more than 30 community meetings around the state to discuss high water issues.
The Michigan High Water Action Team was formed during the Michigan High Water Coordinating Summit in February, which brought together state, federal and local officials, as well as representatives from tribal governments and groups that represent local units of government. A series of town halls is planned to inform Michigan residents of issues related to high water levels around the state with dates and topics to be announced as they are scheduled.
Along with organizing town halls, the multi-agency ad hoc Michigan High Water Action Team will also collaborate to:
- Identify available assets that can be marshalled in response to high water incidents.
- Coordinate communications across agencies and levels of government to ensure residents receive information in a timely, accurate and consistent fashion.
Michigan’s water levels are at their highest in more than two decades. From Detroit’s Belle Isle to the U.P.’s Keweenaw Peninsula, these exceptionally high water levels have caused millions of dollars in damage to private property and public infrastructure, including roads and state parks, impacted community water systems and caused public health concerns.
For more information on high water levels and resources such as fact sheets, FAQs, a link to the MiWaters permit portal, safety information and resources for permit holders, go to Michigan.gov/EGLEHighWater.
As the COVID-19 situation in the State of Michigan evolves, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Servies (MDHHS) continues to adapt resource and capacity planning to support the varied needs of partners in healthcare and public health. Given the continued expansion of COVID-19 testing capacity in Michigan, MDHHS is expanding the COVID-19 testing prioritization criteria to broaden the populations eligible for testing.
- MDHHS is expanding COVID-19 testing prioritization criteria to include all health care workers and first responders (even if they do not have symptoms) as part of the Priority Three group for testing.
- MDHHS has added a Priority Four group that includes critical infrastructure workers (i.e., any worker still leaving the home for in-person work), whether they have symptoms or not.
- Health care providers should still prioritize test capacity for higher-risk patients, but if additional specimen collection and testing capacity is still available after serving these patients, providers should also test exposed critical infrastructure workers.
The addition of a fourth priority tier for critical infrastructure workers without symptoms is based on the availability of tests after the first three tiers have been met.
The current MDHHS COVID-19 testing prioritization criteria are as follows:
• Hospitalized Patients
• Healthcare facility workers with symptoms
Note: MDHHS interprets this to include all workers within a healthcare facility, not just providers of direct healthcare services.
• Patients in long-term care facilities with symptoms
Note: MDHHS interprets this to include any resident with symptoms in congregate living arrangements, not only long-term care facilities.
• Patients over age 65 years with symptoms
• Patients with underlying conditions with symptoms
• First responders with symptoms
• Critical infrastructure workers with symptoms
• Individuals who do not meet any of the above categories with symptoms
• (Newly added) Asymptomatic health care workers and first responders
• Individuals with mild symptoms in communities experiencing high COVID-19 hospitalizations
Note: MDHHS interprets the full state of Michigan to be a community with high
Newly Added Priority four
• Critical infrastructure workers, including asymptomatic workers
Note: these individuals may be tested only if specimen collection and testing capacity remains after serving all patient groups above
Perspectives From Across the Patch: President of Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association Shares his Thoughts on the Local Industry
Like Michigan's Patch, the Kansas oil and gas industry is made up of small businesses that fuel the state's economy. In a recent op ed, Edward Cross, president of the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association shared his thoughts on powering the industry forward after the pandemic.