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Opinion: Michigan Democrats are trying to help small businesses

Adam Hollier

Michigan’s small businesses are the backbone of our state’s economy. They employ nearly 50% of our workforce and make up more than 99% of our businesses. They are the farms that grow our delicious food, restaurants sharing their family’s recipes with the world, and entrepreneurs providing community-sourced goods and services.

It’s integral they keep their doors open and employees on the payroll during this pandemic, and part of that responsibility right now is following the law to protect themselves, their employees and their patrons during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A sign at a restaurant in downtown Lansing near the Michigan Capitol tells people to wear masks until they are seated on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

Contrary to what some seem to think about the enforcement of our health and safety standards by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration — which now include wearing a mask, requiring social distancing and doing health screenings of employees — these standards are not new. Previously, MIOSHA may have worked to enforce standards protecting us from foodborne illnesses or lead abatement; now, they’re simply adding protections for COVID-19.

Business owners don’t get to pick and choose which laws they follow and ignore. Just as they aren’t allowed to negligently dump toxic chemicals into the environment, they shouldn’t expose their workers and patrons to COVID-19 if there are reasonable actions to take to prevent its spread. It is the assurance of protecting people from COVID-19 as best as possible that allowed businesses to get back to work in the first place, and continued enforcement of these rules will be what keeps them open.

Further, the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (where MIOSHA is housed) offers a plethora of resources to help small businesses during COVID-19.

If the goal is to truly help our small businesses, then let’s get to work. While members of the other party publish inflammatory social media posts about our governor or walk around the Capitol without masks, the Michigan Senate Democrats have introduced bills to keep Michigan safe and help everyone adjust to this new normal, including:

►Allow local governments to hold digital public meetings during state health emergencies;

►Make telehealth affordable;

►Make elections safe, secure and expeditious;

►Expand unemployment benefits for Michigan residents;

►Allow our small businesses to serve liquor and alcoholic drinks to-go; and,

►Protect tenants from eviction during the pandemic.

Sadly, none of these bills have been given committee hearings by the GOP majority in the Senate. Instead of praising an administration that has allowed more than 200,000 people to die because of COVID-19 — the most deaths of any country in the world — and criticizing a governor who has worked tirelessly to keep us safe, they could be acting on legislation that truly impacts the health, safety and wallets of Michigan residents and small businesses.

During trying times, we need leadership. As elected officials, it’s up to us to write and pass laws to help and protect our residents from a virus that does not differentiate between Republicans and Democrats. I will work with anyone, from either side of the aisle, on any bills that will help our residents and businesses while protecting their safety and well-being.

We can — and we MUST — do better.

Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, represents Michigan’s 2nd District.