Whitmer signs worker protection order after Feds let unemployment benefits lapse

Blasts Trump effort, says he’s more interested in re-election  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday blasted a set of Trump administration COVID-19 economic relief executive orders and promoted a directive of her own.

“Once again, the president has refused to work together with Congress on a bipartisan recovery package that supports our states, families, front-line workers, and small businesses,” Whitmer said. “He has routinely proven that he’s more focused on his chances in the November election than fighting the virus that has killed more than 160,000 Americans.”

On Friday, she signed Executive Order 2020-166 to reinstate protections for Michigan workers as the state continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Whitmer measure comes after Congress the federal government allowed pandemic unemployment assistance for Americans who have lost work as a result of the virus to lapse at the end of July. She said that Congressional inaction, due to the Republican-controlledU.S. Senate’s GOP lack of response, puts “pressure on more people to return to work, even if they’re sick.” The Whitmer order prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, or retaliating against employees who make the responsible choice to stay home when they or their close contacts are sick. 

“Since day one of this fight, I have urged people to do their part to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19, and that includes staying home when you are sick,” Whitmer added. “But after the federal government allowed pandemic unemployment assistance benefits to lapse at the end of July, more working people are feeling pressure to return to work so they can provide for themselves and their families, even if they’re sick.”

Americans who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic had been receiving an additional $600 per week in benefits as part of the CARES Act. The legislation, which was signed into law March 27 after being passed through Congress with bipartisan support, expired on July 31.

Trump on Saturday went around Congress and signed three presidential memoranda and an executive order, at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. The order president wants to provides $300 per week in federal unemployment assistance with another $100 a week kicked in by states, considers temporarily stopping residential evictions, pauses federal student loan payments and defers payroll taxes. 

Trump moves to extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes after talks break down

Whitmer pushed back against the Trump plan.

“As we have re-engaged sectors of our economy, and in turn put thousands of Michiganders back to work, it is still vital that employees feel empowered to make the right choice to say home if they, or someone they have been in contact with is sick,” Whitmer said. “These protections will help to slow the spread of the virus and save lives, but we still need the federal government to work together in a bipartisan way to expand unemployment benefits and provide support for our workers and their families.”  

 

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.