Michigan Legislature approves unemployment extension, nursing home safety bills

The legislation was passed early Wednesday morning
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency(WJRT)
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 6:22 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan’s Legislature has passed legislation to keep intact longer-lasting unemployment benefits, nursing home protections and lawsuit protection for businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law that was the basis for now-negated orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The Legislature met until well after midnight Wednesday morning to pass the bills.

“It was imperative that the Legislature immediately take up certain coronavirus-related measures previously included in executive orders that were nullified due to the Supreme Court ruling,” said Republican State Rep. Rodney Wakeman of Saginaw Township. “Continuation of unemployment benefits is one of many pieces we had to put back in place before displaced workers lose the help they have already been receiving.”

The unemployment bill extends benefits to 26 weeks, which is the maximum allowed under federal law. Unemployed Michigan workers also are eligible for 13 weeks of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and 20 additional weeks of extended federal benefits for a total of 59 weeks.

The legislation will allow retirees from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency to come back and help the agency work through a backlog of claims.

“For the last several months, I’ve listened to countless individuals in our community whose lives have been unnecessarily harmed by the governor’s executive orders,” Wakeman said. “Families in Saginaw County expect and deserve better results, greater transparency and a voice in Lansing."

The bills also continue protections for workers who stay home when they experience coronavirus symptoms, care for a loved one with coronavirus or quarantine due to possible exposure to the illness.

The Republican-led House and Senate backed liability protections for businesses that are sued over COVID-19 infections.

Other measures sent to the Democratic governor would codify recently announced changes related to the care of nursing home residents. Facilities will be required to continue sending coronavirus data to state health officials.

Measures include continuation of in-person visitation requirements and a restriction keeping residents from returning to a nursing home until they have fully recovered from coronavirus or the facility has a dedicated wing for residents with the illness.

Other coronavirus measures approved Wednesday include:

  • A continuation of orders allowing public bodies to meet electronically.
  • A continuation of orders allowing electronic notary service for important documents.
  • Extension of driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations that expired between March and October.
  • A continuation of orders allowing licensed health professionals to administer coronavirus tests.

The legislation now heads to Whitmer, who can sign it into law or veto it.

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