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Michigan lawmakers take action in response to COVID-19 pandemic

(L-R Reps. Manoogian, Pohutsky & Kuppa)

Package of bills would address wage loss, treatment costs, paid sick days, price-gouging

A group of state lawmakers working together to address the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan outlined proposals Thursday to deal with the financial impacts of the outbreak, including testing and treatment, while plotting a direction forward.

“We need strong leadership in this uncertain time, and that means getting our public health institutions and families the resources they need to weather the storm,” said Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn). “This bill package goes a long way to ensure that everyone has access to care and is protected from losing their wages. We need to support each other, and the legislature is going to do its part.”

House Bills 5629-33 seek to create a pandemic preparedness plan, restore paid leave, cover the uninsured, cover wage loss and otherwise curb the costs of COVID-19 treatment and prevention. House Resolution 242 will also urge Congress to provide financial support in the effort to combat the novel coronavirus.

Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) is also working on a bipartisan package of bills to protect Michiganders from price-gouging.

"We're all in this together, and that means no one should be able to price gouge Michiganders for the things they need during a crisis," said Pohutsky, "That's why I'm proud of the bipartisan group of legislators that has come together to protect our families and ensure that no one is profiteering from this outbreak."

Currently, there are over one hundred people in Michigan who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency on March 10 and has since closed all public schools. Many colleges and universities across the state have switched to online-only classes until mid-April.

“No one should be denied testing or treatment because of the cost of care,” said Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown), who sponsored a bill to eliminate private insurance co-pays for testing, treatment, and other COVID-19-related costs. “Everyone deserves help during a crisis, regardless of income level.”

Among other actions, this package would allow for the creation of a pandemic outbreak fund, remove cost barriers to testing, treatment, and other COVID-19 costs, and urge Congress to provide Michigan with increased support in this time of uncertainty.

“The only way we're going to stave off the worst effects of this crisis is to be proactive and get ahead of the curve,” said Rep. Cara Clemente (D-Lincoln Park). “That's why my legislation requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide pandemic preparedness plans to all parts of state government. We need strong planning and transparency to ensure that we're all prepared.”

The actions of this group of legislators did not go unnoticed at the local level. Westland City Councilwoman, Tasha Green applauded their efforts. “People need to know that their leaders are looking out for them, not the stock market and not their own image,” said Green. “It's so important to get people resources, like expanded health insurance and paid sick days. No one should be in the position of deciding whether they have to go to work sick and potentially infect others, or miss a paycheck, and as a result lose their rent money.”

“We have to work together to keep our community safe and healthy,” said Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham). “If we take strong proactive steps as part of a coherent plan, we can save lives and overcome this virus.”

"Sadly, many people are likely to be sickened by this virus," said Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy), "and when that happens, they need to stay home to prevent others from becoming infected. Workers shouldn't have to make the choice between staying home to recover and being able to make their rent. That's why my bill would restore the full benefits of Michigan's paid sick day law that were stripped away by Republicans in 2018. Working families need those sick days more than ever."


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