LaSata: We can reopen the economy and stay safe

LANSING, Mich. — State officials announced Thursday that more than 817,000 Michigan residents have filed for unemployment in the wake of executive orders that have effectively shut down the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s new jobless claims now total more than that of 2018 and 2019 combined.

Additionally, on Thursday afternoon Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-42, extending her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order through April 30. It was her 39th COVID-19-related executive order to date.

“COVID-19 is killing more than just people — it is also destroying livelihoods and severely damaging our economy,” said Sen. Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township. “It is truly unfortunate that Gov. Whitmer has not taken the economic impact of her decisions more seriously.

“The Legislature took the governor seriously in extending the state’s emergency declaration, and she should have taken seriously requests to allow safe business operations in today’s order. We must strike a balance between protecting the public’s health and keeping the economy going.

“I have heard from numerous businesses from our district lamenting the fact that, while under similar circumstances, their competitors in Indiana are open for business while they are ordered closed. Our business owners and job providers are more than capable of operating safely — they have so far trusted the government during this crisis and it is time the government trusted them.”

On Tuesday, the Senate announced a bipartisan “Safe Behavior for Safe Workplaces” workgroup to begin the process of developing a plan to reopen the economy.

The workgroup will gather information from businesses, medical professionals and residents from throughout the state to create recommendations for best practices in the workplace in preparation for the transition back to work. The workgroup set an aggressive deadline to deliver its recommendations to the governor by April 17.

“I am confident that the new Safe Behavior for Safe Workplaces workgroup will develop sound recommendations that can help get our state back to work quickly and safely,” LaSata said. “I will continue to share feedback from my discussions with Southwest Michigan businesses with the workgroup as they conduct their thorough and expeditious work.

“Michigan can reopen its economy and stay safe, and we must do so before it is too late.”