By Sen. Jim Stamas
The COVID-19 outbreak has had an enormous impact on our state, but it was made even worse by several major mistakes by the governor.
Gov. Whitmer failed to anticipate the effect of her stay-at-home order on the livelihoods of Michigan families and then failed to ensure that the people who lost their jobs due to her order receive critical unemployment assistance. She also failed to protect our most vulnerable residents from the virus, with deadly consequences.
When COVID-19 first appeared in the U.S., one of the few things we knew about it was that it was much more dangerous for the elderly. As a result, the national Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued guidance in mid-March about how to control COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Nursing homes are not hospitals, and they are certainly not an appropriate place to house patients with COVID-19 unless they have a confirmed plan to isolate those patients from the other residents. However, Gov. Whitmer on April 15 issued an executive order requiring certain nursing homes to care for COVID-19-affected patients — despite the risks.
When the state finally released nursing facilities’ COVID-19 data on June 15, we learned what a disaster her policy had been.
At that point, over 1,900 deaths from COVID-19 had occurred in nursing homes — more than a third of all Michigan deaths from the virus. This figure could be even higher because Michigan’s data does not include other long-term care facilities and assisted living centers.
To prevent this tragedy from happening again, I supported Senate Bill 956 to ban the admission and retention of COVID-19 patients in nursing home facilities, unless they have state-approved designated areas and programs to isolate and care for these patients.
The governor’s actions have also had a devastating effect on our ability to earn a living.
Due to the governor’s orders, over two million Michigan workers have lost their jobs and our unemployment rate spiked to 24% in April — the second-highest rate in the country.
Unbelievably, the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) could not handle the increase in claims and the governor failed to fix it.
I continue to hear from frustrated unemployed workers who have yet to receive any support payments and are worried about how they are going to pay the bills and feed their families.
The governor failed to listen to others about the full impact of her actions, failed to understand the size of the problem at the UIA, and failed to take the quick and decisive action to fix it. As a result, thousands of families are still struggling to make ends meet.
Thankfully, the governor recently signed my legislation to immediately hire 500 temporary UIA employees to help our unemployed workers.
The governor has failed to preserve our economy, support unemployed workers, and protect our most vulnerable residents. We all deserve better, and the governor needs to be held accountable.
Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, represents Michigan’s 36th District.