Southwest Michigan businesses tell of impact from state’s COVID-19 response at committee hearing

LANSING, Mich. — The Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic took testimony from small businesses from throughout the state on Tuesday about how they have been affected by the Whitmer administration’s response to the virus.

Mark Lemoine, from Riverside, is the owner and managing partner of the Coloma/St. Joseph KOA campground, which is the closest KOA to Lake Michigan. Lemoine shared with the committee the challenges he has experienced throughout the governor’s extended stay-home orders.

“The biggest restriction experienced by our industry isn’t even in the orders itself, but in the FAQ documents, which have prohibited ‘recreational camping’ for ‘non COVID-19-related purposes,’” Lemoine said. “This creates a burden that appears to require private RV park and campground businesses to discriminate among their guests and imposes an expectation that we judge the validity of a guest’s purpose for leaving their home and coming to us.”

Lemoine also spoke about serving on the governor’s hospitality work group on behalf of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds. He noted the work group predominately included representatives of state, federal or municipal campgrounds, which operate differently than private campgrounds. He said by the time the work group came together, the industry had figured out how to open safely and had already implemented these plans in other states.

Sen. Kim LaSata thanked Lemoine for putting a name and face to the many voices from Southwest Michigan who have experienced similar challenges.

“I thank Mark for sharing his story with the committee,” said LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township. “I appreciate his willingness to stand up for his business, and for others like his, in speaking out about how the governor’s orders, FAQs and comments at press conferences have affected him.

“He proved that it didn’t have to be this way — had the Whitmer administration listened to businesses and community leaders, such drastic measures would not have been needed and, like in Indiana, businesses could be trusted to operate safely. These stories need to be told, and heard, and I invite everyone to share theirs.”

LaSata welcomed other Southwest Michigan businesses and residents alike to share their experiences and struggles during this ongoing public health and economic crisis. Visit www.micovidstory.com to share your experiences.

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Editor’s note: To watch Lemoine’s testimony in full, visit StateSenatorKimLaSata.com/video/.