Traverse City Business Groups React to President Trump’s Executive Actions
President Trump signed several executive actions over the weekend – including extending unemployment benefits, temporarily suspending the payroll tax, and protecting renters. But Democrats have criticized the actions, calling them “unworkable.” And party leaders say there could be legal challenges to the President’s actions.
Local agencies, like Northwest Michigan Works!, are still trying to figure out what it all means. Regional Director Lisa Schut says, “There certainly is a lot going on and there are a lot of different agencies and people trying to solve the issues really caused by our health pandemic.”
President Trump says Congress failed to act – so he took it upon himself. The President is calling for $400 in extra weekly unemployment benefits. That’s down from the $600 that already passed in Congress but expired in July. Congress has yet to reach another agreement.
Kirstie Sieloff is the Director of Government Relations with Traverse Connect and also represents the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance. “We’re continuing to review the House and Senate proposals as well as the Executive Orders from the President, and working to represent our northern Michigan businesses in these discussions, and monitoring all these things very closely.”
Sieloff says Traverse Connect and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance are part of 16 Chamber Groups and 7,000 member businesses that signed on to a letter urging Congressional action. “We are calling on Michigan’s Congressional delegation to unify behind smart, compromised legislation to provide financial relief to Michigan and other states, and address our tax revenue loss during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Aside from the partisan disagreements, the President’s executive actions are still causing some confusion at the state and local level. Schut says that “Washington and Lansing will do what they do. We’re really grateful to be a part of any sort of economic recovery. And whatever part we can play we’re ready and willing to do that.”
Governor Whitmer criticized the President’s plan over the weekend, saying –in part – that it does nothing to protect front line workers. Local groups say it is too soon to tell what it all means, and for now that leaves workers in the lurch. Schut says, “We’re certainly waiting to hear what our part may play in any of those Executive Orders, if any. But we’re definitely not waiting in that we’re still pushing forward with our mission to help people get jobs.”
Schut says federal action usually takes a while to make its way down to the local level. “The federal authorities usually work with the state level, then the state usually communicates that to Michigan Works and other local agencies.”
Sieloff says Traverse Connect and the Chamber Alliance are happy to be part of the discussion. “We’re advocating for relief and we’re hoping that the relief doesn’t come in a way that further burdens employers and our state’s current financial position.”
While there are new questions posed by the President’s weekend actions, businesses have been trying to navigate the constant changes for months. Sieloff says one ongoing concern is liability protection if workers get sick. “The business community is really seeking assurances that if they do the right thing, if they follow public health guidelines, that they won’t face unwarranted lawsuits.”
Meanwhile Schut says there are companies desperate to hire – now. “What we are looking to do as always, is connect people looking for jobs with jobs that are open. And sometimes that means training or re-skilling or learning a new skill.” That said, some people may not be ready to go back to work. They may be watching to see what happens with unemployment relief, or watching what their schools are doing to determine if they can go back to work, or will need to stay home with their kids. “There really are companies ready to hire. Of course you may wait, you can choose to wait or move forward. Whatever you choose we’re here to help you with that. We have employers who are desperate for workers, even now. If you are looking for work we can find employers to connect you with. That’s for sure. When you’re ready to move forward, Michigan Works is ready to help you.”
Also on Monday, Senator Stabenow issued the following statement on President Trump’s Coronavirus Executive Actions. It reads, in part:
“The President’s latest executive orders are another cruel political game pitting unemployed Americans against those providing essential state and local services. First, $400 per week is still a major cut in critically needed income for unemployed Americans. Then, instead of just providing federal funding for $400 a week to people who are struggling to survive, he requires states to provide 25% of the funding. At the same time, he refuses to provide desperately needed funding for state and local services, jeopardizing the jobs of first responders, health care workers, and others involved in critical essential services for all of us.
“So President Trump says that if states want to help their citizens who are currently out of work, they have to lay off workers! That is just a cynical game and just plain cruel.
“In addition, he pretends to protect people who are renters. But his executive order doesn’t help a single American family facing eviction right now—he merely directs his own administration to ‘consider,’ to ‘identify,’ to ‘review.’ It is clear there’s a serious problem and families are losing their homes right now!
“And, the President’s actions do nothing to provide funding to address the immediate worry of parents, teachers, and communities who are struggling with the decisions about re-opening schools.
“Bottom line, we need a bold, bipartisan COVID-19 package that meets the needs of Americans across our country. President Trump and Mitch McConnell, instead of playing political games, get back to the negotiating table. And do your job!”
9&10 also reached out to Republican Congressman Jack Bergman from the 1st Congressional District. At the time of publication we have received no response from the Representative’s office.