Chamber Gets Businesses the Answers They NeedApril 30, 2020
Explore below some highlights of key questions the Chamber has asked to top business and government leaders during the Tele-Town Hall Series.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Can you give our audience more of the insight into what you are doing with other business representatives and business leaders to smartly restart our economy?
I’ve been working with the University of Michigan. Experts in epidemiology and health as well as experts from across the country. Everyone from Dr. Scott Gottlieb, people you see on television all the time because they are some of the national experts. We’re also working with experts in business here in Michigan. What is the real risk geographically? Where are people traveling the most to get to work when that work needs to be in person. These are all factors that enhance or bring down risk.
We are determining which might be the first wave of openings, they’re being driven by these types of factors and what actions that employers can take to mitigate that risk both to their employees as well as their customers. One of the things that I’m hopeful is that leaders in different sectors are promulgating and coming together to share their best thoughts on that.
As we get into next week I’ll share more and more each day so that people can really understand the regional aspect, the work aspect, and the type of work so that you can understand where there’s the least amount of risk and where we can get started first and eventually each wave will come if we are successful and we will ramp back up to full production.
Clark Hill’s Maria Fracassa Dwyer
If an employer brings their employees back and someone contracts COVID-19 from exposure in the office place, is that employer liable for not keeping them safe and exposing them?
That’s a valid concern and one we’re hearing a lot and [Occupational Safety and Health Admininstration] has indicated that this is a worker’s comp. We know that as it relates to our organizations and businesses and our employees and tort claims right physical injury in the workplace that the employees are limited to workers’ compensation.
So this could be a workers’ compensation issue and OSHA has indicated that if an employee is able to establish that he or she contracted COVID-19 from the workplace it would be a workers’ compensation claim. So that’s why we want to make sure that we have these health screenings in place so that our employees can be checked in the morning and we can limit that liability.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II
How can businesses support flexible work arrangements for employees who need to stay home with their children because of the school year being canceled?
I do think that many businesses will have an opportunity to re-evaluate their relationship with remote work. And so there could be an opportunity for business to kind of innovate and how they’re enabling their employees to have a little bit more location flexibility, and that could be beneficial for businesses from an infrastructure standpoint.
How long do you project that Michigan bars and restaurants will be shut down?
The goal of these measures that were taken closing the bars, and restaurants, asking folks to stay home so they can stay safe. That is so that we can try to slow down the increase in cases so that we do not overwhelm our health care system by having a bunch of new cases pop up at one time in places all over the state. If that happens, then we get into a situation like Italy was in and still is frankly today, and that would be a catastrophe. We already have hospital systems that are nearing. We’re at capacity in the Metro Detroit area, and that may be coming to other parts of our state as well. The orders are in place through the second week of April. We’re reevaluating because we’re getting new data and more testing capacity every single day. It’s difficult for me to say or to make a determination.
Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield
Michigan is a small business state, and you talk to small business leaders on a fairly regular basis. What are they telling you about the federal programs, the state programs, and in some cases, some local programs, that are in place? Do they feel these small business programs are going to meet the needs of the challenge?
It’s tough to answer that question because no one knows what the challenge would look like next week. And we’re learning more about this virus on a daily basis and on a weekly basis. It’s difficult to answer the question, but I would tell you, Brian Calley is the president of the small business association of Michigan and I’ve had several communications with him. I’m actually talking with him later today as well and updating their members. But it’s a partnership between the state and the federal government and this is our way of ensuring that they’re going to have the resources they need, whether it’s additional loans, but it’s also just coping with the new challenges that we have.
There are many different things that we have coming down the pipe right now to work with small businesses. Whether or not they feel like it’s adequate enough, we’ll only be able to tell in time, but I will tell you our small businesses have really stepped up around the state recently and I’m very proud of the efforts.
We went through the eight years of the Snyder administration where we saw a tremendous growth and really almost all parts of the state businesses doing well, families doing better. What is a big crisis like this that’s yet undefined in terms of its scope do for a Michigan’s long term economic picture?
I think the answer to that will depend on how we address COVID-19 in the coming weeks. How can we ensure that people are kept safe but transition to what work can be done in a safe manner rather than in a bottle of essential versus nonessential and I’ve had many conversations with the governor and I’m sure many other people are reaching out to her as well on whether that’s landscaping, whether that’s manufacturing, whether it’s construction, where we think CDC protocols and social distancing guidelines can be followed and trying to work with her best we can to ensure certain practices can continue that are being done safely.
I think if we can transition to that quickly the recovery will be more smooth because you are correct. We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years and before, you know, over 10 years ago you couldn’t see any sign that said, you know, jobs were available. But now, you know, as of a month ago, you couldn’t drive 10 minutes in Michigan without seeing a help wanted sign. And that means that the jobs are available. So we have a long way to get back to that.