By Bryan Davis, MAP Legal Analyst

Due to the widespread economic impacts realized as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), federal funding has been a subject of significant concern and importance. Over the past several weeks, emergency federal funding has been allocated towards combating the spread of COVID-19 and, at this point in time, funding has occurred through two separate bills.

The first phase of federal funding was found in an emergency spending bill, aimed at bolstering response efforts to the outbreak of the coronavirus, with approximately $7.8 billion being allocated to directly address the outbreak and another $500 million allocated to extend telemedicine services to seniors. Notably, the bill also appears to dedicate $300 million to ensuring the purchase of vaccinations when such vaccinations become available.

The second phase of emergency federal funding was found in the form of the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” signed into law March 18, 2020. The Families First Act was primarily aimed at addressing issues such as unemployment benefits and paid sick leave. Specifically, the Families First Act provides that, for employers with more than 50 employees and less than 500 employees, two weeks of paid sick leave are to be provided if such employees are confronted with the coronavirus, including: medical diagnosis; quarantine due to COVID-19; symptoms from COVID-19; care for another who is quarantined; or care for children due to school or childcare closing due to the coronavirus.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) introduced legislation to improve the latest package to address the Coronavirus pandemic and helped the Senate pass this bipartisan legislation. The third Coronavirus package includes Peters’ legislation to expand unemployment benefits and support small businesses, hospitals and health care professionals.

The bill includes Peters’ Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, which would create an unemployment compensation program to provide federally funded benefits to people unable to work because of the Coronavirus. It would expand who is eligible for unemployment to include workers who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits or other workers who would not usually qualify, such as self-employed workers like small business owners, freelance workers, independent contractors, and seasonal workers as well as individuals who’ve recently started or were about to start a new job. Workers could receive benefits for up to 39 weeks.

Click here for more information on Peters' involvement in the coronavirus legislation.

More state funds were approved for coronavirus (COVID-19) response. The Legislature approved $125 million additional General Fund dollars for coronavirus response with $50 million specifically set aside to expand health care capacity before recessing until March 25 and scaling back session days to just one day per week through mid-April. With COVID-19 impacting governments, schools, businesses and the public, the effects are crippling Michigan as well as the entire country. Some actions taken by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to curb the spread of COVID-19 include: Healthcare workers, police, sanitation workers, correctional officers, postal workers and other key governmental employees will be able to drop their kids off at emergency, unlicensed day care operations from now until April 15. Employers and schools will be allowed to maintain a disaster relief child care center without a state license for those people working that is defined as “essential” jobs. The entire U.S.-Canada border will be closed to non-essential traffic and so willl the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Some Amtrak routes affecting Michigan are being modified. The Governor has requested the U.S. Small Business Association issue an Economic Injury Disaster declaration for the state and is in talks with Michigan companies about producing medical and other items needed for the coronavirus pandemic. She extended weight and other delivery-related restrictions for vehicles carrying essential supplies to mitigate the spread of the virus until April 13 at 11:59 p.m.

For more information on COVID-19 legislation and other recent legislation, please click here for the March 2020 Karoub Report.

The Department of Insurance and Financial Services is rolling out a new website and phone access to live personnel to answer Capital Building Lansing Croppedquestions about the new no-fault auto insurance reforms that take effect July 1, 2020. Vaping would be treated like a tobacco product under legislation (SB 781) introduced in the Senate. It is part of a six-bill bipartisan package of legislation that requires a license to sell vaping products, creates marketing restrictions, age verification, and changes the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Democrats have proposed a package of bills (HBs 4386, and 5452 through 5456) that would increase financial and criminal penalties for companies that poison the air, water, and land while incentivizing corporate leaders to behave more responsively, according to a press release. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law SB 340 which allows people to fill their prescriptions at “remote pharmacies” staffed by a pharmacist available through a live video feed. A recent poll shows that a 60% majority of Michigan voters support moving to a vote-by-mail election system, with 32% opposed.

Click here for more on these issues and other legislative news in the February 2020 Karoub Report.

In an unusually short State of the State address before a joint session of Legislature, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a $3.5 billion borrowing plan to ‘fix the damn roads,’ and bypass the Republican-led Michigan Legislature. Her Plan B, which does not require legislative approval, adds or expands 122 road projects. It will nearly double the Capital Building Lansing Croppedamount of money to fix roads over the next five years. Gov. Whitmer called it a “fiscally responsible plan” with “no tax increase.” However, as she was preparing to announce the new plan, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a seven-bill transportation package (SB 517) on Jan. 28 that requires the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) work with an outside consulting firm to study the possibility of bringing toll roads to Michigan. In her address, Gov. Whitmer urged the Legislature to enshrine many of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions into state law to protect Michiganders if the federal government chooses to repeal the ACA. The protections would prohibit insurance companies from denying people due to pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men for the same plan, charging sick patients more than healthy patients, and cancelling coverage when an individual gets sick. The Governor also intends to expand Pre-K for kids who need it most by providing additional funding to the Great Start Readiness Program. Gov. Whitmer announced she's also directed the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to expand the right to overtime pay to thousands of Michigan workers. Currently, only workers making $35,000 or less have overtime rights.

Click here for more information in the Karoub State of the State Special Report.