Four major business organizations in the state, citing the work already done to flatten the curve and safely reopen many sectors of the economy following the outbreak of the COVID-19 in March, on Thursday delivered a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requesting that she allow more industries to open their doors.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis,” the letter reads. “Our business community has supported actions to flatten the curve as protecting the health of our fellow citizens is our shared responsibility.”
The leaders of the four business organizations — Rick Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce; Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan; Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber; and Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber — called on the governor to help more companies safely relaunch their operations.
“We believe that if industries like restaurants, public swimming pools, casinos, and others can find a way to safely open in some capacity, we can also find a way to safely open gyms, theaters, bowling alleys, and other industries,” the business leaders wrote.
“Michigan is one of a handful of states that has not allowed these sectors to open in any capacity. These businesses have been completely closed after months of the public health emergency, while still facing property tax bills, rent, payroll, and other expenses. This has placed businesses in extreme hardship, resulting in permanent closures and layoffs.
“As an example, more than 1,000 layoffs were recently announced by the YMCA in Grand Rapids. Our members of these industries would be happy to meet with you and your team to work through your concerns and discuss how they can reopen safely based on science and the latest research.
“We recognize and acknowledge that some businesses may have infrastructure and environments to support the needed social distancing to open safely, while others in the same industry may not. In addition to calling for the safe and appropriate reopening of these sectors, we hope you and your administration will work with stakeholders to find a solution to the issue of property tax deferral for these severely impacted industries.
“Property taxes are often the largest bill a business receives. This is a threat to the long-term viability of many businesses, and they should not be forced to bear the additional burden of interest, penalties, and fees on property taxes they cannot pay due to their closure.
“Finally, we urge you to work with Legislature to pass legislation assuring that employers in all sectors who take reasonable steps to follow public health guidelines will be protected against needless COVID-19 related lawsuits. We ask that you and your administration find ways to give businesses, especially those that remain closed, a fighting chance – and soon.”
Since March, Whitmer has signed more than 150 executive orders, some of which have contradicted previous orders, suspended licenses of companies that don’t abide by her directives, and declared an ongoing state of emergency while refusing to work with the Legislature to pass laws.
The latter matter is now the subject of several ongoing lawsuits that question Whitmer’s continuation of a state of emergency without the Legislature’s approval. A petition drive also seeks to curtail Whitmer’s state of emergency powers.