Michigan worked with business groups to develop plans for shutdown

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — The state's stay-at-home executive order will cost small businesses, but government officials say it's necessary, and they worked with business groups over the weekend to develop a plan for an orderly business shutdown that would lessen the impact.

The order, announced Monday, will require Michigan businesses to suspend in-person operations from 12:01 a.m. Tuesday through April 13, unless the business operations are part of the "critical infrastructure workforce" or those needed for "minimal basic operations.

The state worked with groups including the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Small Business Association of Michigan to create the guidelines for what businesses can operate.

The state worked with groups including the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Small Business Association of Michigan to create the guidelines.

For example, the order allows critical businesses to designate what suppliers or service providers they believe are necessary to complete their missions, which is where Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley thinks "this executive order shines compared to other states."

"It has to documented, but you don’t have to report it or get anybody’s permission," Calley said during a Monday conference call with the Detroit Chamber and its members. "The supply chain and the critical infrastructure areas will not be interrupted."

The critical infrastructure workforce exempted from the order includes: health care and public health; law enforcement, public safety and first responders; food and agriculture; the news media; and energy.

Workers needed for "minimum basic operations" are individuals whose presence "is strictly necessary to allow the business or operation to maintain the value of inventory and equipment, care for animals, ensure security, process transactions or facilitate the ability of other workers to work remotely," according to the order.

Businesses must determine which workers "are necessary" to conduct these minimum operations and designate them in writing by March 31.

Read more: Homeland Security guidelines on essential workforce

The state's latest data shows 108,710 unemployment claims were filed between last Monday and Friday and Calley says most of those were made by small business employees. 

"Obviously this has been devastating for small businesses," Calley said. "They really do want to people to take this seriously. This is a way to get everybody’s attention. We are going to have enough compliance with this that it's going to bend this curve down."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signed an executive order on Monday expanding unemployment benefits to sick workers who are quarantined or immunocompromised, workers caring for loved ones and first responders. 

It also extends benefits for unemployed workers by increasing the amount of coverage from 20 weeks to 26, creating a longer application time from 14 to 28 days and suspending the in-person registration and work search requirements. 

Additionally, the order through April 14, says employers will not be charged for unemployment benefits if their employees become unemployed because of an executive order requiring them to close or limit operations.

Last week, the governor announced that the U.S. Small Business Administration  approved her request for a statewide Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration, opening the opportunity to small businesses to access low-interest loans from the SBA.     

The state is seeking solutions for self-employed workers and independent contractors who traditionally do not have access to unemployment insurance. The governor has requested that President Trump issue a Major Disaster Declaration so that Individual Assistance and Disaster Unemployment Assistance through FEMA may be made available to those workers.

“The action the governor took today will impact all of us but was necessary to ensure that all Michiganders have the best opportunity to remain healthy through this crisis," Business Leaders for Michigan, the state's business roundtable, said in a statement. 

"We understand that the economic impacts of this period will be painful for Michigan’s residents and businesses, and we stand ready to help the Governor and our state manage both the mitigation process and the recovery that will follow.”