Speaker Chatfield: Gov. Whitmer, think 'safe' not 'essential'

Lee Chatfield

Michigan had a real chance recently to both protect the public health and take a positive step toward a recovery, but the expanded stay-at-home order unfortunately missed the mark. Because of that, Michigan families will continue to suffer.

Instead of the government defining who in our state is essential or non-essential, we need to transition and begin asking which activities are safe or unsafe. Everybody in Michigan is essential, so let’s start thinking safety first and adjusting our strategy.

If we don’t adopt this reasonable, risk-based approach soon, the COVID-19 disaster will be much worse than it needs to be for thousands of Michigan families.

New House Speaker Lee Chatfield applauds his colleagues during opening ceremonies for the 100th Legislature.

Some of the steps we are all taking right now are necessary to stop the illness. But they were never going to be a permanent solution. We have to come up with a better, smarter way of living our lives and keeping the risk as low as possible.

That would rightly allow anyone who is in a low-risk situation to restart their lives, visit family or even start earning a paycheck again.

This approach continues to prioritize the health of Michigan residents by making safety the deciding factor. It also improves on the status quo by allowing for common-sense changes to the governor’s current executive orders.

The government has forced people to stay home and now says you can’t even buy certain supplies to maintain the upkeep on your house.

Seniors are now forced to mow their own lawns, but government deems it unsafe to allow someone to help them.

Construction projects are on hold in every community across our state, even though a small team of builders working separately and spread across a large construction site poses very little risk.

These rules are simply not logical. This can’t be a long-term solution.

There are 26 states that use the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) standards to determine what is essential and nonessential. Twenty of them — both Republican and Democrat — are using the new standards updated this year that make smart, common-sense changes to allow life to continue.

Michigan is not one of them. We are an outlier. If the governor refuses to adopt the new model of safe vs. unsafe, then at a bare minimum, she should adopt the new, more forgiving standards.

People in our state are hurting right now. Job providers and small family-owned businesses have been forced to shut down. State government has taken away jobs from over 800,000 people in the last month and the system is failing to provide them with swift support.

Our state government has not been there to answer the call and many questions remain unanswered. This is unacceptable.

This isn’t about politics. This is about people. I want both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Donald Trump to be successful, because that means success for Michigan and America. But we have to start thinking more strategically.

The people I have talked to across the state want to know what the long-term plan is for themselves, their family and for their community. They are confused and frightened about an uncertain future and a lack of clear direction. They have been patient as government works overtime to stop this pandemic. Now they deserve to have peace of mind about their paycheck and their security.

It will take much longer to reopen the economy than it took the governor to shut it down. We need to start helping people get back on their feet and back to work now before it’s too late.

Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, is the speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.