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Gov. Whitmer: Michigan Supreme Court Ruling Jeopardizes Public Health, Unemployment Benefits

— October 7, 2020

A recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court unraveling many of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders may throw the state’s public health and unemployment systems into utter disarray.

While the Supreme Court made its 4-3 ruling late last week, Gov. Whitmer has since asked the justices to give Michigan another three weeks to prepare for the fallout. Although some Republican legislators have requested the decision be granted immediate effect, the governor wants to give the state congress time to codify her most important orders.

“The matter demands immediate consideration to enable an orderly transition to manage the ongoing crisis,” Whitmer and Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon wrote in a joint petition to the court.

Gordon, reports the Detroit Free Press, later said that state law dictates the Supreme Court give litigants anywhere between 21 and 28 days to request a rehearing.

Whether the period preceding a rehearing may delay the implementation of an order is not yet certain.

Nevertheless, Gov. Whitmer has insisted that a lack of delay could be debilitating for Michiganders—including hundreds of thousands who have been laid off due to coronavirus-related reasons and continue to receive unemployment benefits.

“We need this transition to protect the 830,000 Michigan workers and families who are depending on unemployment benefits to pay their bills and put food on the table and to protect Michiganders everywhere who are counting on their leaders to protect them,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement.

Individuals wearing masks during coronavirus outbreak; Image via Pixabay. Public domain.
Individuals wearing masks during coronavirus outbreak; Image via Pixabay. Public domain.

Whitmer further said that, even though she “vehemently” disagrees with the ruling—which her office recently condemned as overtly partisan—she is “ready to work across the aisle with Republicans in the Legislature where we can find common ground to slow the spread of the virus and rebuild our economy.”

Speaking in a Monday news conference, Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, of Levering, said the ruling should already have taken effect.

However, Chatfield also said that he will call the House back into session from a scheduled recess to figure out what steps must be taken regarding restrictions and Gov. Whitmer’s longstanding state of emergency.

“We will be coming back and we take COVID-19 very seriously,” Chatfield said. “We’ve attempted to partner with the governor since Day One.”

Whitmer has since said that several of her executive orders—especially those pertaining to mandatory mask usage and social distancing—remain in effect, since the orders have since become part of official DHHS policy.

What is less clear is what may happen to Michigan’s unemployed. Whitmer’s executive orders, beginning in April, broadly expanded unemployment benefits to categories of people who were not previously eligible for such, including the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers. Michigan had also recently extended the normal period for which unemployed persons may receive benefits from 20 weeks to 26. Barring swift action from the state legislature, thousands of workers could find themselves suddenly without benefits or with drastically reduced benefits.


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