Governor Shares MI Safe Start Plan and Updates on Resuming Construction Projects

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, April 29, 2020

On April 24, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her stay-at-home order through May 15, 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19, but with some significant lifting of restrictions on retailers and outdoor recreation.

Under the new order, landscapers, lawn service companies and nurseries may return to work effective immediately following certain operational guidelines, such as wearing personal protection equipment and maintaining social distancing. Retailers that do not sell essential supplies may reopen for curbside pickup and delivery, and closed areas of retail stores such as garden centers and paint departments may reopen. In addition, motorized boating and golf will be permitted, as long as social distancing best practices are followed. Travel between residences is also allowed, although strongly discouraged.

Starting April 27, 2020, residents will be required to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces. All businesses and operations whose workers perform in-person work must provide face coverings to their workers. The closure of restaurants and bars to dine-in service and the prohibition on all public and private gatherings remain in place.

One of the biggest questions we have been receiving is when school construction can resume. Currently, the only construction allowed on structures was to maintain the integrity and safety of that structure. MASB has been in conversations with the Governor’s office and the Legislature about allowing construction to resume in a safe manner. For schools, this could mean starting projects before the usual June date so they can be completed earlier in August, giving more flexibility in negotiations over when to start school in the fall.

Today, it’s being reported that the construction industry will be allowed to reopen on May 7, 2020. The Governor is expected to officially announce it during her 3 p.m. press conference this afternoon. You can watch it live on any local affiliate for the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), her Twitter feed or Facebook page. We will include further details from the announcement in Friday’s News From the Capitol. This follows her announcement on April 27 when she noted that, under the initial recommendations of the MI Safe Start Plan, there would be an incremental opening of industries and construction could be one of the first to return. She also mentioned that industrial sectors will be evaluated as well and more information would be coming soon. 

Other concerns exist for districts in the last year of their bond. If the funds are not expended on schedule there are federal tax repercussions, creating an expense for which the district did not budget.

We have also spoken with a few of the trade unions and know they too have been contacting the Governor and pertinent state departments about what a safe return to work would look like and how prepared they are to adhere to it.

The MI Safe Start Plan also speaks to requirements of businesses when they are allowed to reopen such as monitoring employee symptoms, supplying personal protection equipment and maintaining social distancing protocols. There will also be a risk assessment of segments of the economy to determine the safest course for opening businesses. This will include how workers interact, the characteristics of the workplace and the type of worker (i.e., preexisting conditions, demography, immunity and outside contacts).

As you know, things can change rapidly as Michigan responds to this ongoing pandemic. We will continue to keep you informed the best we can; in the meantime, we encourage you to contact your Government Relations or Legal Teams with any questions or issues.

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