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Michigan GOP to Whitmer: Use your powers to ease toll of coronavirus crisis

Michigan Republicans are calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to use her enhanced powers during the state of emergency in the coronavirus crisis to relax regulations and expand unemployment benefits.

On Friday, House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, sent Whitmer a detailed wish list that he said would help millions of residents “make it through this crisis, get back to work and get back to normal.”

Among the suggestions: letting workers collect unemployment and still work part-time; extending jobless benefits to independent contractors; accelerating or suspending license requirements for healthcare workers to respond to the emergency and allowing Canadian doctors to practice in the state.

The letter also urges Whitmer to allow online work by students during the crisis to count, one day after State Superintendent Michael Rice said state law doesn’t allow it.

“Many of these reforms would normally be pursued through legislative action and the passage of bills, but the immediate need of a response and constitutional limits on the speed of the Legislature have led us to offer these ideas to you and request their implementation through executive action,”Chatfield wrote.

“The challenges we are facing today are unprecedented, and our response must be as well.”

Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Whitmer, said Saturday the governor is considering the suggestions.

The GOP is advocating changes in healthcare regulation to create a bigger pool of potential workers as the number of infected is rising rapidly and hospitals are beginning to see the first waves of critically ill patients and deaths.

Besides relaxing licensing requirements, Chatfield’s letter also suggests expanding or dropping limits on “scopes of practice” — rules that say what exactly healthcare workers can and cannot do.

Republicans also want the state to allow more students in childcare facilities, which have stayed open as many businesses in the state close, expanded hours and make free childcare available to more families.

Currently, families of three have to make less than $25,116, or 123 percent of the federal poverty limit, to qualify. The GOP wants to push that to 130 percent, or about $28,900 for a family of three.

Whitmer and others have long sought to increase the threshold, one of the lowest in the country, but have met opposition from the Republican-led legislature.

Among the other GOP proposals:

  • Suspend fees for hunting and fishing licenses
  • Allow  restaurants and bars to sell alcohol for take out during their temporary closure. (Whitmer last week ordered dine-in restaurants to close)
  • Expand the moratorium on tax foreclosures past the May 29 deadline Whitmer ordered last week.

“Together, we can keep people safe, lessen the negative impact of this crisis on families who are living paycheck to paycheck, and fix some of the unintended consequences of government action,” Chatfield wrote.

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