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After stay home extension, UP lawmakers prepare re-opening plan to bring to Lansing

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Published: May. 8, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT
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Upper Michigan lawmakers are preparing a plan to re-engage more of the region's economy, which State Rep. Sara Cambensy says will be given to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's coronavirus recovery team next week.

"Instead of waiting for Lansing to come to us and include us, I think you're going to see us be more aggressive and bring our plan downstate and say we're ready," Cambensy said Friday. Cambensy, a Democrat, represents the 109th State House District.

The extra motivation from U.P. lawmakers comes a day after Gov. Whitmer extended the state's stay home order until May 28. The governor said auto and other manufacturing workers can return to work Monday. Construction and real estate work resumed Thursday.

Despite dividing the state into eight regions, Gov. Whitmer says the entire state is on stage three of

.

Upper Michigan,

, is its own region in this plan. Whitmer said it's possible individual regions will move to different stages in the future based on criteria she's laid out, like improved testing and strong health care capacity.

"The worst thing we can do is open up in a way that causes a second wave of infections and death, puts health care workers at further risk, and wipes out all the progress we've made," Whitmer said Thursday. "That's why we will continue to monitor the spread of this virus, hospital capacity, testing rates, and more as we work toward reaching the ‘improving’ phase.”

Rep. Cambensy says Upper Michigan lawmakers want to see the regional plan enacted now.

"All of us as (U.P.) legislators were surprised to see that we didn't have that regional approach or that talk from the governor yesterday," Cambensy said.

Cambensy says Sen. Ed McBroom, Rep. Beau LaFave, Rep. Greg Markkanen and herself will form a U.P. re-engagement plan by working with local small businesses, hospitals, universities and economic development groups, such InvestUP and the Lake Superior Community Partnership.

"We're going to do it safely, but we feel we're further along and ready to reopen based off of what the governor gave us yesterday with that one-blanket approach where we're all at level three still," she said.

Cambensy says the plan should be ready in the next week. They will bring it to the Michigan Economic Recovery Council.

"(We'll) show them how we can do it," she said. "Show them that already our manufacturing up here, whether it's our mines, our paper mills, have already been doing this, have already implemented these safe practices. And if we can do it there, where we have the most employees gathering and working together without any outbreaks and cases, we feel that we can allow our small businesses to start doing that as well."

Also Friday, Cambensy encouraged small businesses to look into the

as a solution for employers who are struggling. Businesses receiving federal Paycheck Protection Program money can apply to be part of the program after their eight weeks of federal support ends.

Michigan’s Work Share program allows employers to keep employees working with reduced hours, while employees collect partial unemployment benefits to make up a portion of the lost wages. Employers can retain trained employees, restart their business and bring back employees from unemployment while having the flexibility to choose which of their employees are part of a Work Share unit.

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