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VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

Michigan to buy back liquor as Whitmer extends restrictions

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The state of Michigan will offer cash-strapped bars and restaurants relief by buying back their liquor inventory during the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order late Monday authorizing the program. She also is delaying the expiration of valid driver’s licenses and state ID cards. And she is extending a measure to keep intact a prohibition against dine-in service at restaurants and to continue the closure of many places of public accommodation through April 30. Michigan’s 8,500 on-premises liquor licensees will have until Friday to request that the Liquor Control Commission buy back spirits purchased before March 16. 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

Michigan governor: Virus infection curve starting to flatten

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the growth in coronavirus infections is starting to flatten due to the extraordinary restrictions on people’s movements. But she warned Monday that this doesn’t mean business as usual will resume quickly or soon. Whitmer says “we’ve got to make sure that we avoid a second wave at all costs.” Her stay-at-home order is in effect through April 30. The state has reported nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases and 115 additional deaths, bringing total cases to more than 25,600. Michigan has the third highest death toll in the U.S., with 1,600-plus deaths.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BALLOT DRIVE

Anti-LGBT discrimination ballot drive moves to e-signatures

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A group spearheading a ballot drive to add LGBT anti-discrimination protections to Michigan’s civil rights law is moving to collect voter signatures online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fair and Equal Michigan says Monday the electronic petition campaign is believed to be the first in state history. The group says the strategy is legal and secure. People who want to sign can go to a website with a two-factor authentication system and enter their driver’s license or state ID card number to be cross-checked against the voter file. The ballot committee has until late May to collect about 340,000 valid signatures.

LAWNS-TAX DISPUTE

Lawn company fails to reap tax break at Michigan court

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A lawn care company had hoped to harvest a significant tax break. But it has failed to break ground at the Michigan appeals court. TruGreen said it should qualify for a tax exemption on seed, fertilizer and other products that enhance the lawns of customers. It wants to be treated like farmers who till and plant. TruGreen latched on to a key phrase in Michigan law referring to “things of the soil.” But the appeals court said the company’s services don’t qualify for the tax break. Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said “things of the soil” doesn’t pertain to “blades of well-tended grass.”

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-ONLINE-MARIJUANA-SALES

Virus fuels pot industry’s push for online sales, delivery

DENVER (AP) — Colorado has made online sales of recreational marijuana legal during the coronavirus pandemic, fulfilling one of the pot industry’s biggest wishes. The move is also fueling the argument for more concessions that could be made permanent when the crisis eases. Dispensaries can remain open during a statewide stay-at-home order, and customers can now pay for marijuana online and then pick up their purchase at the store. Online sales had been barred in large part because most credit card companies shy away from dealing with a drug that is illegal federally. Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois and Oregon also allow online recreational marijuana sales. 

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-RESTAURANTS-GROCERIES

US restaurants turn to grocery sales to help offset losses

O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements tied to the pandemic have put restaurant dining on hold, forcing many to close and leaving others barely hanging on. From large chains to mom-and-pop eateries, many restaurants have opened make-shift grocery stores. Panera, Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Subway are among national chains that have begun selling grocery items. Several local restaurants across the country are doing so, too. The fallout from the coronavirus has devastated restaurants. Data from the National Restaurant Association says the industry has lost 3 million jobs and $25 billion in sales since March 1.

UPPER PENINSULA-ENERGY

Panel readies proposals on Upper Peninsula propane supplies

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A panel studying ways to secure energy for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is developing recommendations on propane supplies. The U.P. Energy Task Force will meet Monday by video conference to wrap up the list, which must be submitted to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by Friday. More than 800 public comments were received. The final recommendations, technical document and appendices will be posted online. The task force next will begin discussions on alternative solutions for meeting the U.P.’s energy needs. It will focus on security, reliability, affordability and environmental soundness.

CLEVELAND-CLIFFS-MINES IDLED

Cleveland-Cliffs to idle 2 mines over pandemic market shock

BABBITT, Minn. (AP) — Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. plans to temporarily idle two iron mines due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The mines are Northshore Mining in Minnesota and Tilden Mine in Michigan. Cliffs says it will work down current inventory levels from the two mines and continue to ship iron ore to fulfill its agreements with steel customers. CEO Lourenco Goncalves says the Cleveland-based company has evaluated market conditions “and the extraordinary disruptions in manufacturing and steel production in North America due to the impact of the COVID-19 market shock.” He says Cliffs decided not to continue to build additional iron ore inventory until market conditions improve.

AP-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-BUSINESS-FALLOUT

A pause on Wall Street; furloughs ramp up, travel winds down

Hundreds of companies have withdrawn financial guidance because of the unprecedented disruption to the global economy and to consumers. But details about the extent of the damage are beginning to emerge. Ford on Monday says it will likely lose $600 million in the first quarter with all of its US factories shuttered. US markets are selling off sharply after having their best week since the mid-1970s. And job cuts continue. 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-AUTO INSURANCE

Lockdowns cut driving and crashes, bring insurance discounts

DETROIT (AP) — People are driving less due to stay-at-home orders to stop the coronavirus from spreading, and consumer groups say that should mean lower auto insurance premiums. Some companies have responded, but the Consumer Federation of America reports that discounts may be too small and aren’t being applied evenly. In New York and Washington states, the number of traffic crashes fell by 30% last month. The federation says that means lower costs to insurance companies that should be passed on to consumers. The group suggests calling your insurer and commenting on social media if they don’t offer discounts.