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.
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.”Read more
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.Read more
*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.
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.
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.
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.