Resources available for people affected by virus quarantine

Guest column


While there’s no doubt this is a difficult time for people in our communities, we also must remember that nothing is more important than the health and safety of our families, friends and neighbors.

I remain in close contact with state officials, hospitals, health experts, school groups, local governments and others who are working on this full-time, and I will continue to monitor this situation closely and keep our community informed as developments arise. In the meantime, I want you to know what is being done to protect people from this virus and go through some of the resources available to workers and small businesses hurt by mandatory closures:

Emergency budget action plan

The Legislature recently approved two emergency budget action plans to address evolving challenges with the coronavirus. Steps are being taken right now to help mitigate our risk and provide help to people who need it.

The most-recent measure brings the total state funding approved to $150 million. The plan will provide $50 million for immediate needs such as virus monitoring and testing, $50 million for critical health care providers to expand capacity for coronavirus response, and $50 million to keep in reserve for when necessary. The financial support also comes with important accountability and legislative oversight provisions to ensure money will be spent in the best interests of the public and taxpayers.

Expanded unemployment benefits

The governor has temporarily expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits due to the high number of people and businesses affected by the coronavirus. In addition, the executive order allows unemployment benefits to be increased from 20 to 26 weeks, increases the application eligibility period from 14 to 28 days, and suspends the normal in-person registration and work search requirements.

Under the order, employers will not be charged for unemployment benefits if their employees become unemployed because of an executive order requiring them to close or limit operations.

Eligible residents can apply for unemployment benefits online at Michigan.gov/UIA. A fact sheet on how to apply for benefits can be found at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/uia/160_-_Claiming_UI_Benefit_In_Michigan_-_Jan2014_444213_7.pdf  

Emergency aid for small businesses

The Michigan Strategic Fund this week voted to approve a $20 million economic relief program meant to help struggling small businesses make payroll and cover their bills during the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. The decision gives the Michigan Economic Development Corporation the ability to distribute $10 million in grants and $10 million in low-interest loans to businesses across the state. Additional information about the Michigan Small Business Relief Program can be found online at michiganbusiness.org/covid19.

In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, recently approved a statewide Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration. This means Michigan small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and nonprofits that have suffered substantial economic losses because of the COVID-19 outbreak now can apply for low-interest loans as part of $1 billion in funding made available to the SBA by Congress earlier this month. The application for disaster loan assistance is available at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Providing accurate information

As information about the coronavirus is changing daily, it is important to seek information from reliable sources.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has created a new coronavirus hotline and email address. Public health experts are available to answer questions about COVID-19 and direct residents to the right resources in their local communities and within state government.

Residents can call the state coronavirus hotline at 1-888-535-6136, email COVID19@michigan.gov or go to www.michigan.gov/coronavirus to find the answers they need. The hotline is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As always, please feel free to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. My staff is working from home during this time, but you can still reach us by calling 517-373-0850 or emailing GregMarkkanen@house.mi.gov.

This public health crisis has created a lot of uncertainty, but I am confident we will get through this challenging time together and things will return to normal. In the meantime, please continue to wash your hands often with soap, clean frequently touched surfaces well, and stay home as much as you can, especially if you are feeling ill.

State Rep. Greg Markkanen of Hancock is serving his first term in the Michigan House representing residents of Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties, as well as Powell and Ishpeming townships in Marquette County.


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