Coronavirus Update: June 30
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is developing very quickly, and I know many people have questions and concerns. I will try to answer some of them below.
These are incredibly stressful times for all Michiganders. I am working, along with my staff, around the clock, seven days a week to answer your questions, provide community resources and provide up-to-date, accurate information. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office anytime by calling (810) 238-8627.
Governor Whitmer has extended Michigan’s state of emergency until July 16. The state of emergency, which was first implemented at the end of March due to the coronavirus pandemic was set to expire Friday. More information can be found here.
The Governor also signed Executive Orders 2020-114 and 2020-115 to reopen more regions and economic sectors under the MI Safe Start Plan. Starting on June 10, Regions 6 and 8 — which include much of northern Michigan and all of the Upper Peninsula — will advance to Phase 5 of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. Phase 5 allows the reopening of salons, movie theaters, and gyms, subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19. More information can be found here.
The Governor announced that Michigan schools may resume in-person learning in phase 4 of the MI Safe Start plan, with strict safety measures in place. The Governor also announced that on June 30th, she will release an executive called “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap” that will provide details on what will be required and what will be recommended for schools. More information can be found here.
The Governor recently launched a new, online dashboard that visually illustrates coronavirus risks and trends in Michigan, providing residents with important information about the pandemic status where they live and work. More information can be found here.
HOUSING AND UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE RESOURCES UPDATE:
Governor Whitmer today signed Executive Order 2020-134 extending the temporary suspension of evictions until July 15 and creating the Eviction Diversion Program, which outlines a process for renters to get fast rental assistance or establish a manageable payment plan to help them stay in their homes. The program also includes assistance to landlords. Rental assistance under the Eviction Diversion Program will be available beginning July 16. More information can be found here.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Deparment of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have announced a new website to help renters and homeowners understand their housing assistance options. This includes information on mortgage and rental relief as well as resources for additional help that may be needed. More information can be found here.
On May 1, I introduced the Strengthening UI for COVID Impacted Workers and Students to expand unemployment insurance for American workers. This new legislation would address gaps in coverage for those who are willing and able to work, but who are unable to maintain employment due to the global public health crisis. For more information, visit here.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits: During the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment eligibility has been expanded to include those who are sick or caring for a family member as well as self-employed, contracted, and gig economy workers. Individuals should apply online at www.Michigan.gov/UIA or call 866-500-0017 and are encouraged to follow a filing schedule based on last name and use off-peak times (8 p.m. – 8 a.m). The UIA offers resources to help workers resolve online technical issues with their account. More information can be found here.
Governor Whitmer has expanded the state’s workshare program. More information can be found here.
Unemployment Insurance Scam: On May 27, the UIA warned residents of attempts by criminals to file fake unemployment insurance claims. The U.S. Secret Service recently issued a national alert regarding an international criminal ring exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to commit largescale fraud against state unemployment programs. Because of this, some existing claimants may have received “Stop Payment” notices on their accounts and have been sent instructions on how to submit the additional information. More information can be found here.
Suitable Work and Refusal to Work: The UIA has issued guidance regarding “Suitable Work and Refusal of Work” for workers and employers. This guidance reminds employers of workplace safety laws and guidance related to COVID-19. Michigan allows individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits to refuse “suitable work” if they have a “good cause,” this guidance expands good cause exemptions in light of COVID-19. More information can be found here.
Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a consumer alert that offers to help with unemployment insurance claims on social media that are likely scams. More information can be found here.
COMMUNITY RESOURCES UPDATE:
Meijer, Kroger and other grocers that accept aluminum cans and plastic containers have reopened their bottle return services. More information can be found here.
All registered voters in the state of Michigan have the right to vote by mail. More information can be found here.
Personal Protective Equipment: The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has launched a platform to help re-opening businesses acquire PPE. More information can be found here.
Michigan’s Virtual Food Bank: Seniors in need of food support can sign up for assistance, including meal delivery, delivery of non-perishable food items, and daily wellness-check calls, through the MDHHS coronavirus website, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging. More information on the virtual food bank can be found here.
Flint Cares Help Centers: The city of Flint is offering resources and services including bottled water and food assistance. Services will continue to be provided from two semi-trailers staged in church parking lots across the city to distribute items directly to cars as residents drive through. For more information please call 810-410-2020 or visit here.
Map of Coronavirus Cases in Michigan: An up-to-date map of coronavirus cases in Michigan, provided by the Michigan State Police, can be viewed here.
On May 12, the U.S. House of Represntatives passed The Heroes Act. The Heroes Act includes a number of key policies I have advocated for, including additional direct payments to families and seniors, expanding unemployment insurance, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and funding to prevent water shutoffs. More information can be found here.
On May 15, I introduced a bipartisan bill, the Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund for Main Street Act (RELIEF for Main Street Act), with Reps. Evans (D-PA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Upton (R-MI). The bill creates a $50.5 billion Small Business Local Relief Program to provide direct federal support to cities, counties and states in order to seed and scale local relief funds and target small businesses with 20 employees or fewer, or with 50 employees or fewer located in low-income neighborhoods. More information can be found here.
Congress has also passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the CARES Act, Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to help families and health care facilities respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
CORONAVIRUS TESTING UPDATE:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a website and app with a coronavirus screening tool and resources to help people protect their health. The website can be found here and the app can be accessed here.
New Information from IRS on Cash Payments: The IRS has begun distributing payments, beginning with individuals that have direct deposit already on file. These payments are distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. SS, SSI and Veterans beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file to receive a payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts. For more information, visit here. A fact sheet with detailed information for SS and SSI recipients can be found here.
Direct Deposit Information: The IRS launched a web tool to allow individuals who were not required to file a 2019 tax return to securly provide their bank information in order to receive their cash payments. For taxpayers who did file 2018 or 2019 taxes but do not have direct deposit information on file, the IRS relased a new tool for those individuals to enter that information as well as track the status of their cash payments.
Learn About and Report Coronavirus-Related Scams: The U.S. Treasury has set up a website where you can learn about ongoing coronavirus IRS related scams, along with new information about scams that may be still be out there. For more information, visit here.