The Michigan Chamber of Commerce today released its “COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Agenda” that discusses how to get Michigan’s economy restarted. The agenda outlines liability protections, taxpayer protection and relief, and regulatory assistance. It also encourages the state to make small-business friendly investments.
“Chamber members agree that public safety is paramount while we also focus on protecting our economic health,” says Steve Mitchell, chair of the chamber’s board. “The policy recommendations contained in this agenda will assist businesses in their efforts to provide safe workplaces and spaces for their employees and customers and create more certainty and clarity to reenergize Michigan’s economy.”
The agenda says employers should be protected from liability, including adverse employment actions, if they rely on state and federal guidance for re-opening and implementing safety protocols. The chamber also wants the state to limit the ability of plaintiffs’ attorneys to sue on behalf of individuals who did not develop COVID-19, were asymptomatic, or experienced common flu-like symptoms. Without protections, the chamber warns lawsuits will place further strain on businesses and the economy and clog courts.
The agenda also says Michigan’s Good Samaritan laws should be expanded to provide retroactive and prospective product liability protection to companies involved in creating and/or donating products including personal protective equipment, drugs, ventilators, hand sanitizer, soap, and other cleaning supplies in response to the crisis. The law should also be extended to businesses that provide property or services to aid in the COVID-19 response, the chamber says, such as hotels or facilities that provide space to treat patients or house emergency personnel.
Under taxpayer protection and relief, the chamber says Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order prohibiting unemployment insurance benefits paid due to the COVID-19 emergency should be codified so they don’t count against employers’ experience ratings for unemployment tax calculations.
The chamber also says sales, use, and withholding tax payments that were due during the months COVID-19 affected business operations should be deferred without penalties or interest until Dec. 31. The relief should include accelerated filers.
The agenda calls for the May 31 property tax deadline to be extended by 60 days, and consideration should be given to allow severely distressed businesses to defer their summer property taxes, interest and penalty free, to the due date of the winter levy. The chamber says taxpayer appeals must be maintained.
The chamber wants hard-hit businesses to be allowed to enter a special payment agreement with the Department of Treasury to establish a payment plan to meet their obligations and avoid penalty and/or interest.
Under regulatory assistance, the chamber encourages the state to ensure all regulatory agencies are providing compliance flexibility to assist businesses as they continue to deal with COVID-19. The state should also pause new and non-essential government rules and regulations through the end of the year, the agenda says.
Finally, the agency wants the state to restrain spending and avoid tax increases.
“Michigan’s employers and employees are resilient, and we cannot ignore the negative impact that Michigan’s response to COVID-19 is having on our economy,” says Rich Studley, president and CEO of the chamber. “Some have already closed their doors for good, and others are on the brink of losing everything. By implementing the policies outlined in the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Agenda, businesses will be able to get back on their feet with greater strength and return to work more quickly.”
Local chambers that support the agenda are:
- Adrian Area Chamber of Commerce
- Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce
- Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce
- Bay Area Chamber of Commerce (Bay County)
- Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce
- Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce (Port Huron)
- Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce
- Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce
- Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce
- Fenton & Linden Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce
- Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce
- Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce
- Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce
- Jackson Chamber of Commerce
- Lake Gogebic Area Chamber of Commerce
- Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce
- Midland Business Alliance
- Monroe County Chamber of Commerce
- Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce
- Oscoda AuSauble Chamber of Commerce
- Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce
- Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce (Taylor)
- Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce (Benton Harbor)
- Stockbridge Area Chamber of Commerce
- Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce
- Tecumseh Area Chamber of Commerce
- Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce
- Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce
“From the U.S. Chamber in Washington, D.C. to the Michigan Chamber in Lansing and local chambers in communities all across Michigan, the Chamber Federation remains strong,” says Jim Holcomb, senior executive vice president for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “The Michigan Chamber and the local chambers who signed on to our agenda will advocate for policies that help our members recover quickly from this public health emergency and promote free enterprise and entrepreneurism. Now, more than ever, we must get back to the basics and foster our economic recovery from the ground up. That starts with our main street businesses in cities and towns all across Michigan.”
The Michigan Chamber is a statewide business organization that represents about 5,000 employers, trade associations, and local chambers of commerce. It represents businesses in 83 counties in the state and was established in 1959 as an advocate for Michigan job providers in the legislative, political, and legal process.
The full agenda is available here.