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Stop telling people their jobs aren’t essential

Right now, Michigan residents can purchase marijuana products curbside from a dispensary, but they can’t purchase plants and gardening supplies curbside from a local greenhouse. People can line up at the party store to purchase liquor and lottery tickets, but they can’t buy paint or flooring to spruce up their homes. And paying someone to mow the lawn isn’t allowed, even if it means an 80-year-old woman with respiratory issues is left struggling to do it on her own.

These are just a few of the absurd rules put in place by Gov. Whitmer and her executive orders that have understandably left residents frustrated and confused.

While the COVID-19 crisis must be taken seriously, there’s no reason why we can’t inject some more common-sense into the precautions we’re taking to protect our state. That’s what my colleagues and I were hoping for when we reached out to Gov. Whitmer in the days leading up to her announcement on Thursday of the extended and expanded COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

We asked her, at the very least, to consider adopting the latest guidelines issued by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which were revised in recent weeks to provide clarity and address critical seasonal jobs that can be done safely outdoors. Our neighboring states – Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio – have all adopted the new guidelines, allowing tens of thousands of people who have jobs that can be done safely to return to work.

There’s no reason why Michigan workers in these fields – like lawn care and construction – should be forced to stay home. There are safe practices they can easily implement that would allow them to return to start collecting a paycheck again – like prohibiting workers from traveling together to job sites and restrictions on how many individuals can be on site.

Moving forward, Michigan must have a plan that will help restart our economy. The restrictions the governor has put in place cannot go on forever, and there is going to come a time where people will need to return to work.

We can and should start now, by adopting a mindset that looks at which jobs are “safe” or “unsafe” instead of continuing a muddy debate about which jobs are essential. This logical approach will help start the process of reversing the mandatory business closures that are crippling our community, without compromising public safety. It also will relieve some of the pressure on our unemployment system, so people whose jobs are truly unsafe can get the help they need to put food on the table for their families.

As legislators, we share a common goal with the governor. We all want to stop the spread of COVID-19 and help Michigan families during this crisis. Rather than picking and choosing which jobs are essential, let’s work together to form a plan that will keep people healthy while allowing Michigan families to return to their normal, everyday lives.

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