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Implementing a Returning to Work Plan

Governor Whitmer, Leader Shirkey and Speaker Chatfield:

Together, our organizations represent a diverse set of employees across Michigan. While diverse, we are all wondering what a return to work will look like. Like you, employers across our state agree the first order of business should be to mitigate the spread of the virus.

We understand there cannot be a choice between protecting life or returning to work, it must be about both protecting lives and livelihoods. Businesses care for our employees and our communities; we are already taking steps to protect our workers and our customers.

Unfortunately, the requirements within the current “Stay at Home” Order have not come without significant loss to economic security. A quarter of the Michigan’s workers are now unemployed. Businesses are on, or past, the brink of collapse.

Michigan workers need to work. In addition to a paycheck to support their families, it gives them a sense of identity, purpose, and pride. Meaningful and safe work is an important part of their and our well-being. We need to come together to seek solutions that contain the virus and safely reduce the negative economic impact on our communities. Focused work on both these fronts will make for a better, more healthy recovery.

Early and deliberate planning now will allow businesses to be prepared to resume operations safely and help mitigate the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The business community needs more certainty and pathways for regions where the curve has flattened to responsibly reopen so we can rebuild our economy as safely and as quickly as possible. The time to formulate a detailed, comprehensive return to work plan is immediate. It should be both fact-based and data driven.

We know that it won’t be back to normal on May 1. Our call to action is to be prepared, focused and strategic with a phased-in approach based on protecting the public’s health, safety, and economic security. This approach can focus on regional infection rates, industry sectors that can operate safely and individual accommodations, such as social distancing, expanded use of personal protective equipment, and other countermeasures, so Michigan businesses can rebuild our state and workers can thrive as quickly as possible.

The following reflect shared principles we hope you will consider:

  • Public health and safety are of paramount concern.
  • Defining metrics for allowing us to work safely.
  • Creating a framework for reopening based upon activity, risk, safe work and geography, as well as individual vulnerability. We recommend:
    • Assessing both the risk of transmission and the ability to work safely for each sector to protect health and work safety. This can be achieved by empowering employers and employees to follow recently issued OSHA guidelines
  • Develop a matrix with local data to allow for regions of the state to operate appropriately where the curve has flattened to incrementally reopen based on data.
  • Provide adequate time for businesses to prepare for future orders before they take effect.  We recommend a minimum of 72 hours.
  • Create broad understanding of the risk profiles and the effectiveness of risk mitigation measures based upon credible and scientific sources for employees and citizens to feel safe.

This effort and the entire conversation must be transparent and open. We must rely on known standards, trusted and credible experts, and seek to develop consensus among political leadership. The data and models used must be published in an easy to read manner and updated daily by the state.

The clarity this will provide employers and the workforce will empower individual decision making and aid the recovery process.

Thank you again for your focus on public health during the critical time. We know that we can work safely and protect lives and livelihoods. We appreciate your consideration of our input and we look forward to working with you to ensure Michigan has an opportunity to be healthy and strong.

Respectfully,

The Grand Rapids Chamber