U.P. Energy Task Force submits propane recommendations to Gov. Whitmer

The U.P. Energy Task Force today submitted to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer its 14 recommendations on propane availability in the Upper Peninsula. The report, Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force Committee Recommendations: Part I – Propane Supply, has been posted online at Michigan.gov/UPEnergyTaskForce.

“The report encapsulates hundreds of hours of discussion and work and includes important public input regarding affordable energy in the Upper Peninsula,” said Liesl Clark, chair of the Task Force and director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). “The Task Force looks forward to working with the Legislature and stakeholders on these common-sense ideas designed to protect U.P. propane customers.”

The U.P. Energy Task Force received more than 800 public comments on the draft recommendations and more than 1,000 total comments since it began meeting last July. An appendix to the report is a technical document, prepared for the Task Force by Public Sector Consultants, which explains how propane markets are changing across the country and explores how those markets might react to a propane disruption.

“We all know that there are unique challenges in the U.P. when it comes to energy and I appreciate Gov. Whitmer’s recognition of the issue and her desire to find possible solutions,” said Mike Prusi, vice-chair of the U.P. Energy Task Force. “The Task Force encourages legislators and state agencies to take quick action on our recommendations so the region’s residents and businesses can be confident that any potential disruption in energy availability won’t mean a huge hit to their budgets.”

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White House Issues Guidelines for Opening Up America Again

President Trump has unveiled Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.

"We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time," President Trump said at the coronavirus task force press briefing Thursday. The President emphasized the strategy is a "gradual process," with some states opening sooner than others. The guidelines, he added, focus on "sheltering the highest risk individuals." 

The guidelines are voluntary and governors will ultimately make the decision to lift stay-at-home orders and social-distancing restrictions,  President Trump said.

Each phase requires a 14-day period of "downward trajectory" of COVID-19 cases in order to move on to the next phase. Qualifying for each phase will be judged on certain criteria for widespread testing for patients and health care workers, contact tracing and hospital capacity. Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines to lifting restrictions could be implemented statewide or by county. 

View the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again here and click read more to see the phases in detail. 

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Senate Republicans Release Open Michigan Safely Proposal

Senate Republican Open Michigan Safely Proposal

*This proposal was released by the Michigan Senate Republican Caucus, not by the Michigan Senate work group that was formed last week to focus on the transition back to work. They are expected to release a proposal as well. 

Note: This document is a proposal that may be refined and improved over time with input from the medical community, healthcare systems and others with relevant expertise.

Proposal Overview

The Senate Republican caucus believes it is our responsibility to propose a framework for Michiganders to live life in the presence of COVID-19 while also minimizing risk. We now have data and experience to allow us to transition from the definition of “essential” to a new standard of allowed activity defined as “safe.” Specifically, safe workplaces. The premise and challenge: defining and executing safe workplace policies and protocols so individuals can approach being as safe in their workplaces as they can be in their homes.

The cornerstone of our proposal is strict adherence to handwashing, social distancing, and use of masks. Our proposed framework considers phases of transition, geographic differentiation, and plans for resurgence, as described below.

Phases of Transition

Transitions are separated into five phases. Each phase considers testing capabilities, healthcare systems capacity for COVID-19 patients and treatment, availability of personal protective equipment, available data, and ultimately a vaccine or similar medical breakthrough to combat COVID-19. Each phase outlines conditions in the state, suggested safe business operations, and guarded levels of citizen activity.

Geographic Differentiation

COVID-19 does not recognize geographical boundaries, but its impact on the state varies significantly by region. Different regions of Michigan should be permitted to operate at different phase levels based on the available data within the region. Areas such as southeast Michigan that are experiencing high case volume and high death rates should be restricted to early phases, while the Upper Peninsula may be able to safely operate under a later phase designation that appropriately reflects risk in that region.

Resurgence Plans

Michigan must be prepared to adjust to surges in COVID-19 cases. Until a significant medical breakthrough is achieved that markedly reduces risk for the entire population, such as a vaccine, our citizens will likely live with recurring outbreaks of the virus for months or longer. The state must develop resurgence plans that require tightening of restrictions on behavior and activity within regions of our state to combat COVID-19. Resurgence plans would utilize known strategies such as extreme social distancing, temporary closures, wearing masks, and/or other measures. The goal is for the phases represented to become a continuum so that, based on infection rates and healthcare capacity data, we may advance up or down in phases to mitigate risk and spread of the virus.

 

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Midwest Governors Announce Partnership to Reopen Regional Economy

Governors Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Mike DeWine (OH), Tony Evers (WI), Tim Walz (MN), JB Pritzker (IL), Eric Holcomb (IN), and Andy Beshear (KY) have announced that they will work in close coordination to reopen the economy in the Midwest region. 

The governors said, “We are doing everything we can to protect the people of our states and slow the spread of COVID-19, and we are eager to work together to mitigate the economic crisis this virus has caused in our region. Here in the Midwest, we are bound by our commitment to our people and the community. We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet. 

“Today, we are announcing that Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky will work in close coordination to reopen our economies in a way that prioritizes our workers’ health. We look forward to working with experts and taking a fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening our economy in a way that protect families from the spread of COVID-19. 

“Our number one priority when analyzing when best to reopen our economy is the health and safety of our citizens. We will make decisions based on facts, science, and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor, and education. 

“We will closely examine at least these four factors when determining when best to reopen our economy: 

  • Sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations. 
  • Enhanced ability to test and trace. 
  • Sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence. 
  • And best practices for social distancing in the workplace. 

“Phasing in sectors of our economy will be most effective when we work together as a region. This doesn’t mean our economy will reopen all at once, or that every state will take the same steps at the same time. But close coordination will ensure we get this right. Over time, people will go back to work, restaurants will reopen, and things will go back to normal. We look forward to working together as one region to tackle this challenge together.” 

 

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Funding Exhausted for $350 Billion Small-Business Paycheck Program

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA), Paycheck Protection Loan Program (PPP) intended to help small businesses, has doled out all of its $350 Billion in allocated funding.

The Small Business Administration announced that it has approved more than 1.6 million loan applications as of Thursday, April 16th and is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding. They are also unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time. It’s anticipated that this will put more pressure on lawmakers to reach an agreement for additional funding to the program, but a final agreement has yet to be made. We will keep you updated as this continues to develop.

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Treasury: Business Taxpayers Can Pay Monthly, Quarterly Sales, Use and Withholding Tax in May

Certain businesses that have experienced disrupted operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic now have even more time to make monthly or quarterly sales, use and withholding tax payments, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. Business taxpayers scheduled to make sales, use and withholding tax payments for March and April or for the first quarter of 2020 can postpone filing and payment requirements until May 20, 2020. The state Treasury Department will waive all penalties and interest.

"Our administration is doing everything we can to support Michigan businesses during this crisis," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "Postponing payment and filing deadlines, and waiving penalties and interest will provide much-needed relief to business owners."

Specific information about Treasury providing continued tax assistance to businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic can be found in Penalty and Interest Waived for 30 Days for Monthly and Quarterly Sales, Use and Withholding Returns due April 20, 2020.

Business taxpayers are encouraged to file sales, use and withholding tax returns and pay taxes owed as of the original due date if able to do so.

 “Under Governor Whitmer’s leadership, across state government we are utilizing a variety of options to assist Michigan businesses during this global pandemic,” State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks said. “By moving sales, use and withholding tax payment deadlines from March and April to May, it gives small businesses critical time to figure out the next steps as we continue to move forward.”

On March 18, the state Treasury Department first announced tax assistance for businesses scheduled to make their sales, use and withholding payments in March.  

The waiver is not available for accelerated sales, use or withholding tax filers. Businesses with questions should inquire through self-service options using Michigan Treasury Online.

To learn more about Michigan’s taxes, go to www.michigan.gov/taxes or follow the state Treasury Department on Twitter at @MITreasury.

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Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Order Temporarily Extending Expiration of Driver's Licenses, State ID Cards, Vehicle Registrations

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed Executive Order 2020-47, temporarily extending the expiration of valid driver’s licenses, state identification cards and commercial vehicle registrations that would otherwise expire during the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.

The temporary extension does not apply to motorists with suspended or revoked driver’s licenses.

“In times of crisis and uncertainty, the last thing you want to think about is having to renew your driver’s license or state ID card,” Gov. Whitmer said. “It is my sincere hope this order gives all Michiganders with expiring identification some peace of mind as we continue our united front to slow the spread of COVID-19 across our state.”

The order, which takes effect April 13 at 11:59 p.m., temporarily extends:

  • Commercial vehicle registrations, including temporary registrations set to expire on or after March 1, 2020 to June 30.
  • Driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and commercial driver’s licenses set to expire between March 1 and May 31, to June 30.

People looking to renew their licenses should do so online at Michigan.gov/SOS.

The order also suspends penalties for driving with a recently expired but otherwise valid registration.

To view executive order 2020-47, click here. EO 2020-47.pdf

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Governor Whitmer Extends Executive Orders on Places of Public Accommodation, Weight Restrictions on Roads, and Administrative Hearings by Video Conference

Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed Executive Orders 2020-43, 2020-44 and 2020-45, which extend three Executive Orders signed last month. The Executive Orders:

  • Confirm that various places of public accommodation remain closed to the public for the time being and that restaurants must continue to limit service to carry-out and delivery orders;
  • Maintain relief from weight and other delivery-related restrictions for vehicles carrying essential supplies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19; and
  • Continue to allow certain state administrative hearings to be held by video conference or phone in place of in-person hearings.

“By extending these Executive Orders, we ensure that our state continues to do all it can to suppress the spread of COVID-19 by limiting in-person interactions and services as much as possible right now, while also ensuring that vital goods and supplies get to the people who need them most as quickly and safely as possible. The orders also ensure that certain agencies and commissions can continue their important work remotely during the continuing crisis,” Governor Whitmer said. “By working together and doing our part, we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of all Michiganders.”

To match the duration of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, Executive Order 2020-43 extends until April 30 the restrictions that are already in place regarding public access to restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, casinos, and other places of public accommodation.  

Executive Order 2020-44 extends until May 11 the suspension of all state and local seasonal load restrictions, as well as other restrictions on the timing and loading of deliveries, for deliveries that meet immediate needs for medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, as well as other critical supplies, equipment, and personnel.

Executive Order 2020-45 continues to permit until May 11 the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, Unemployment Insurance Agency, and other administrative hearings to be held by video conference or phone in place of in-person hearings. The order also temporarily allows e-signatures in place of written signatures on related documents.

To view executive orders 2020-43, 2020-44 and 2020-45 click the links below:

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MI's 6 Republican U.S. House Members Send Letter to Gov. Expressing Concerns about "New Stay Home, Stay Safe Order"

According to a Press Release from the Office of U.S. Congressman Paul Mitchell (MI-10), he and the other Republican members of the Michigan Delegation –  Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06), Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07), Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Congressman John Moolenaar (MI-04), and Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01) have sent a letter to Governor Whitmer to express their serious concern with her most recent update to the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order (Executive Order 2020-42).

In the letter they stated that while as Governor she was right in issuing the initial executive order in an effort to protect public health and slow the spread of the virus, and that she had the constitutional authority to do so, her latest order “is far too restrictive and includes provisions that seem arbitrary and internally inconsistent.”

Mitchell stated of the order “The public health crisis of the coronavirus is tragically real, and at the same time there is a widespread economic crisis going on. The Governor’s latest executive order is not constructive, and I join my Congressional colleagues in calling for her to reconsider this order.”

The letter from the members was a call for Governor Whitmer to act prudently as the Governor of the state of Michigan and realize the economic impacts of the recent iteration of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

A full copy of the letter is available by clicking here.

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Self-Employed, Other Newly Eligible Workers Can Now Apply for Unemployment, $600 Federal Payments Also Begin

Michigan’s self-employed workers, gig workers, 1099-independent contractors and low-wage workers affected by COVID-19 can apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) beginning Monday, April 13 at 8AM. Under the federal CARES Act, workers on state unemployment have already begun receiving the set $600 federal weekly payment in addition to their state benefit amount. Michigan is one of the first states to begin sending the $600 payment.  

Customers are encouraged to use off-peak times 8 p.m. – 8 a.m. Earlier today, the UIA announced new resources to help workers resolve online technical issues with their account. 

  • Last names beginning with letters A-L: file claims on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays. 
  • Last names beginning with letters M-Z: file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays. 
  • Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window. 
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Michigan Petroleum Directory Now Available!