Detroiter's Think Big: A Small Business Podcast

COVID-19 Tele-Town Hall with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II

March 31, 2020 Detroit Regional Chamber Season 1 Episode 8
Detroiter's Think Big: A Small Business Podcast
COVID-19 Tele-Town Hall with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II
Show Notes Transcript

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II discussed the state of Michigan’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resources available for businesses. Lt. Gov. Gilchrist II engaged in a one-on-one discussion with Brad Williams, vice president of Government Relations for the Chamber. 

Brad Williams:   0:00
...Here at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Thank you so much for joining this, joining us this morning for another one in our series of Tele town halls. In response to the covid-19 virus, as a reminder for those of you have who have joined us in the past. You are all currently on mute so as not to jam up the conversation. But if you have a question, there is a chat function in the go to webinar program. And please, if you have a question, put it in the chat function. My colleague Tammy Carnrike is monitoring that, and we're going to get to as many of those questions as possible today with our guests: Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Those that we can't get to, the chamber team is going to try and follow up with as many people as possible and get answers for you. Our goal today is to answer your questions and be of service to you today. But with that, our guest this morning is Lieutenant Governor Garland Gilchrist who is serving alongside Governor Whitmer at the front lines of this crisis with the state's response, so Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much, uh, for your service to the state and for joining us today. I'll give you a few minutes to talk about the state's response, and then I'll have some questions for you and I'm sure Tammy's gonna have plenty from our attendees as well. So thank you for joining us,

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   1:38
Brad. Thank you for having me. I want to thank, uh, Sandy and the rest of the leadership of the Detroit Regional Chamber for the leadership that you are showing during this unprecedented time. And I want to thank everyone who's on this call for the leadership that you're showing in your communities. This is, uh, you know, Governor Whitmer and I, when we took office. We certainly did not think we were taking office to govern in such a time as this. But nevertheless, we are here. We work so hard, and we think many of you for working alongside us as we govern through this challenging time. We see it our primary responsibility to protect and promote the public health and public safety of the people in Michigan. I think that's really relevant to this conversation because when we talked about the public health aspect of this crisis and our response to it, and there is also an economic aspect of this crisis and how we respond to it as well. But I think those are inextricably linked because from my perspective, the people are our economy. And so as we work to make sure that people are safe and through the executive action taken, whether it's our state home and stay safe order and other measures that we've taken for doing this with people in mind, because it is those people who are the ones who ultimately do drive our economy and we want to make sure that folks are taking care of and that the people who are creating innovating managing businesses to and through this time. We want to make sure you are also taken care of so that we can work together during the crisis so that we can bounce back from the impact of covid-19 and Coronavirus. We can do so stronger together by standing with one another. So that is why part of the request and the advocacy that we're doing with our federal partners, a part of the federal government for everything that we've looked for from the feds. Included in that have been advocacy for support for businesses of all sizes and all types, as well as advocacy and support for the people who work in businesses, particularly the small and medium sized businesses. They're going to be most deeply impacted by the public health choices that we are forced to make in response to covid-19. Um, briefly, there have been some specific resources is that have been allocated at the state level of Michigan economic development corporation. We have an entire resource center available at where you can find things like our small business hotline. Um, different types of grant and loan programs that have been unlocked, thanks to monies being set aside by the Michigan Strategic Fund, $10 million in grants and $10 million in loans that are able to be distributed throughout the state. One of the first emergency declarations that the state received was a process that I drove to get the emergency disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration and at and you can see the process for working to apply for those SBA loans. In the most recent covid-19 response package passed, um, by Congress and signed into law by the President last week. Or excuse me, this past weekend. There is more support for small businesses and for employees, um, to ensure that again there are loans and grant programs that are available to you to help you manage through this crisis. Yesterday, we announced a new agreement with the Department of Labor at the state level that says that, um, if folks are working as independent contractors or 1099 that they will able to be, they will be able to be covered under unemployment. Which is a big question. Has been a big question for a lot of people, certainly were doing independent work or working in the gig economy in several. My neighbors have asked me about this specifically, and so we reach that arrangement and announced it yesterday, and that's going to be really critical again, so the people have a safety net so they could get back on their feet as quickly and as strongly as possible. Once we're on the other side of these of the measures that we needed to take from a public health and public safety perspective. I want to thank all of you for being courageous and creative during this time. I know one of the things that I am encouraging people to do is do what they can to support the small businesses that are able to stay open and some capacity during this time, whether that's buying gift cards, whether that is, some people just standing people of dollars of support for restaurants in your communities, making sure that you are trying to patronize as many businesses you can carry out, or delivery, or curbside services. It's been tough for a restaurant to try to change your operations. To manage that. So all the community support will help them and help our communities show pride during this time. And then it's a way we can do so safely again. That we can get on the other side of this will be closer, we'll be stronger, and I believe that even more innovation will come through it. So, um, I want to thank all of you for the leadership that you're showing and know that the governor and I are trying to think about this comprehensively, and we realize and recognize that the public health aspect of this the economic aspects are connected because it is the people of Michigan and make us strong and make us innovative and that enable us to continue to be such a great state with such great people. So I thank you for everything that you're doing. And I look forward to answer some questions from all of you and working with you through this crisis.

Brad Williams:   7:14
Lt. Governor, both my wife and I are natives of Northern Michigan, and so we have family. Obviously who live up state, and there's a suggestion that, you know, we know that the bulk of the confirmed cases in the state are in metro Detroit. On there's a suggestion that the governor stay at home order is obviously a statewide impact. But most of the public health impact that we know of is in metro Detroit. What's the response to that? Based on what you know, as a leader, that the order has a statewide impact, but the public health impact is mostly concentrated in metro Detroit.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   8:01
Well, the first thing to clarify is that we have issues that we have instances positive test results for Coronavirus all across the state of Michigan, including the northern-lower peninsula and in the upper peninsula of the state. This is a disease that, unfortunately, doesn't tend to discriminate due to geography and partly because the people of Michigan are connected people. People travel throughout our state. And one thing that's been so difficult about this particular virus is that it spread so easily among people who may not even know that they're they have it because they're not showing symptoms. And so we have seen a much more deep, um, impact as far as the number of positive confirmed cases as far as the number of people passed away in the more densely populated parts of our state like Detroit. Where I'm speaking with you from right now, um, Oakland County and Macomb County. And again, that's because the virus spreads most efficiently due to human to human contact in close spaces, particularly indoors. And that is why we have we have, ah, that mandated the order that people not only practice social distancing but stay home and limit their non-essential trips. I mean things like that because we know that's how the virus spreads. Given what we've learned from its spread in Michigan, its spread in other parts of the country , and in other parts of the world. Not to this question, though of the differentiated impact in different regions of the state. One of the things that we're working with epidemiological experts from University of Michigan and Michigan State and others that are public health professionals. We don't yet actually still have our arms around how much or how wide this virus is spreading in in our community because we haven't had enough testing capacity yet. We're wrapping up the testing capacity every day. We're getting more testing kit from the federal government. Were working with private sources from all around the world, to get more testing kits and testing capacity that can get test results faster and things like that, Um so hopefully in the next week or so we'll significantly be able to ramp up so that we could do the models to understand how this is spreading in different parts of the state. And armed with that information, we may be able to consider more targeted responses that may indicate that we can have different public health responses in different parts of the state. But we don't have the data and information to be able to make that decision yet. And we don't want to ah, hastily or irresponsibly put people at risk by lifting things without having a full understanding.

Brad Williams:   10:38
Thank you for that. Can you talk a little bit about the administration's ethos around the stay at home order, particularly around the enforcement? Early on, I think there was some confusion around how the stay at home order should and would be enforced. It seems to have stabilized a little bit, but can you give us some insight into the administration's ethos?

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   11:03
Yes, absolutely, so the motivation for this order stay home to stay safe and save lives. That is coming from when I alluded to earlier. Which was that, the way this virus spreads most effectively and most dangerously, is through person the person interaction and contact, even small gatherings have led to large numbers of people needing to be either self quarantine, tested, and even testing positive. So that's what it is. That's where this is coming from. As far as enforcement. I want to put this in perspective. The biggest consequence of not interpreting the order. Frankly, as broadly as possible is that people can spread this virus. This virus does not only kill older, sicker people. Young and healthy people in Michigan have passed away from this virus. Two of my personal friends are among those who have passed away, almost 200 passed away the state of Michigan. One of them, one of which is a state legislator who passed away on Sunday night. And, um so so the risk here and when we're thinking about enforcement, what I want people to think about is, it isn't about trying to, you know, squeeze your way into something. It's about thinking hard about, uh, what what workers are doing essential work and who are not. Because those folks are taking a risk by even going out here. So that's the sort of background. Now, enforcement is a question of coordination and working together among state level law enforcement, the Michigan State Police, the attorney general's office and local law enforcement. We've done some work to clarify over the last several days how how that partnership will work across the different levels of government, and we've also clarified by offering some guidance on website for businesses is about how you can go through and look at your employees and look at their job functions to make the determination off whether the work that they're doing, um, it is exempted from honoring or respecting this particular emergency order. So we tried the more clear about that, Um, you know, we designed our order a little differently than other states have and that may have led to some early questions, and we certainly are continuing to be open for questions and interpretation, but we do want people to stay on the side of interpreting this broadly so that we can keep the most people safe.

Brad Williams:   13:36
It looks like we're getting some questions in from our attendees of Tammy Carnrike. The COO at the Chamber has been monitoring those. So, Tammy, why don't I hand it off to you for a few minutes, [Tammy Carnrike]: Okay. Thank you, Brad. Welcome, Lieutenant Governor. First question with those participating in work share and who would receive partial unemployment insurance benefits also qualify with the additional $600 per week in the CARES act?

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   14:09
I'm sorry, Tammy, could you repeat the question one more time.

Brad Williams:   14:11
[Tammy]: Oh, sure. Um, would those participating in work share and who would likely receive partial unemployment insurance benefits also qualify or the additional $600 per week in the CARES act.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   14:30
Okay, thanks for that. So, um, I want I'll make sure that we could follow up to have, a, some confirmation and answer. My understanding is that the answer to that question is yes. In terms of the way that our federal delegates, you should know that our congressional delegation, um, was really working together quite well. On a bipartisan basis to try to advocate for as many resources as possible to come into the state of Michigan and in particular, we have members who were fighting hard for the expanded eligibility for federal unemployment. Um, so my understanding is that those folks would be covered. I can make sure we get a specific legal answer on that. But certainly the intent is to cover folks like that, and as many people as possible.

Brad Williams:   15:16
[Tammy]: Okay. Thank you. Um, this one is a little interesting. Still related to unemployment. So, um, can you speak to the impact of the unemployment executive order and nonprofits who are self funded as it relates to unemployment accounts through The Cares Act, will those self-funded nonprofits be liable for 1/2 of the covid-19 related unemployment?

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   15:47
So my understanding, I don't know about the distinction I'll have to get back to you on the distinction. But for self-funded nonprofits, my understanding is that for nonprofits that are below a certain size. They would be, ah, those folks will be eligible for unemployment from these nonprofits and that also nonprofits that are below a certain size will be eligible for for support under the under the SBA loan and grant programs that have been part of what the feds have passed. Due to the emergency actions that have been taken, Um, so I'll have to get back to you on this specific question about self funded nonprofits. I don't have an immediate answer to that.

Brad Williams:   16:26
Would you know on some of these questions regarding unemployment, very specifically, we do have later this week: Jeff Donofrio, who is the director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. Under which unemployment falls, is going to be a guest on of these calls as well. Sure can get very deep into the weeds on some of these questions as well.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   16:51
Absolutely right Brad. Thank you.

Brad Williams:   16:55
Okay. There's a question about, um, what's being done about non-essential employees who are being required to report to work. Um, and so why aren't we limiting the number of people allowed in the essential businesses that are still open we should be protecting both are essential employees is in the public. All other measures that have been put in place are pointless of everyone hanging out in overcrowded grocery stores.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   17:33
Yeah, I appreciate this question, and we have taken some steps again since that stay home, stay safe, order to try to clarify who is essential and who's non-essential. When I talked about the guidance that we have offered in the website. It's been an attempt to do this. Now the our goal again, getting back to the ethos behind the order itself. Is to make sure people are safe while they're conducting this business while they're they're workers were working in areas of businesses that are protecting, and sustaining life. And we certainly are encouraging business to make smart choices with the health of their employees with the public in mind. We're asking folks that if the business is that, if people can work from home or work remotely, please please make sure they do so and make sure they are able to do that if they're required to work. We're really hoping that businesses are gonna take those protective steps. For example, you talk about grocery stores. We've seen images and grocery stores across state, large and small, who have done things like put markers on the floor in there aisles to show like you know what six feet actually looks like, you know, six feet is like farther away than actually some people might think, and they're doing this to protect their customers, but also their employees who are in there working. So I think, um, this is ultimately going to be a decision that could be made on a business by business basis because so many businesses are that just so diverse and different. But we're really asking employers. To be smart. To not put people unnecessarily in harm's way, um, and take precaution and to make provisions for people to understand how to work safely. If they are still working.

Brad Williams:   19:24
[Tammy]: Okay, that's great. Let's change a little bit and go over to the side of healthcare providers. We have one of our attendees whose daughter is on the front lines of a Detroit area hospital. And even though they keep being told that supplies are coming, um, they aren't there. So do you have more information on what the actual timeline is, to, when the supplies will be arriving on the doorstep for our hospitals.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   19:51
Yeah, this is our number one our number one issue right now, testing kits and PPE. The Governor and I are doing everything in our power to secure this PPE. For folks, that means getting shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile as well as our procuring PPE from other sources around the country and around the world. This weekend, we had a shipment of 112,000 masks come through, for example, and they're being shipped out to our health care professionals such as the caller's this participant's daughter ASAP. We're going. We're having distribution support from from ... into these as well as even the National Guard. So they're helping us get this stuff out of soon as possible. We're also working with businesses in the state to produce more because we necessarily can't rely on these shipments from the federal government. So that's why the news that you've been reading about the Big Three  GM and Ford in particular, but also other companies in the manufacturing supply chain stepping up to make more equipment. I'm actually gonna be putting out a call to action this week for people to do things like use their 3-D printers that they may have to print to make the components for face shields and other sorts of materials. There are ways that we're really asking everyone to step up in this all hands on deck moment. Um, make sure that we get everything that we need. So the other thing that there there are other types of businesses that may have supplies that resource is that are that are that are usable. For example, we did an emergency order related to temporarily seizing elective surgeries, and the reason for that is all those elective surgeries, like the people who are conducting them and the nurses and technicians. They also have to wear PPE during those surgeries. That is PPE that could be used for health professionals who are on the front lines of covid-19 response. So we're asking whether it's businesses or other entities that may have this kind of equipment to please make it available to the hospitals that are on the front lines of this crisis that are at capacity

Brad Williams:   22:02
[Tammy]: I think we all agree that we had a lot of businesses step forward. Let's turn now to education, though, um, the state of K through 12 and closing schools for the balance of the school year. Does that affect both private and public schools? And then talk to how the business perspective will have to consider, um, how to continue to support flexible work arrangements for employees when they will now need to stay home with their children because of the school year being cancelled?

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   22:42
Okay, so let me speak to the education part first. Um, this is really, real and we feel it in the Gilchrist household, like a lot of families do. I alluded to earlier. Maybe I have twin first graders and I was doing my best to conduct a math lesson to them before getting on this phone call. We have twin first graders at nine months old and I am working as a servant. Your lieutenant governor and my wife works for Detroit Public Schools Community District, and we're trying to bandage a tremendous amount. We know families across the state are. We will have an announcement on a path forward for schools this week and know that the choices that we made to close down the school was again to protect the health and safety not only of our students but also of the professionals who work in our schools. The actions that we've taken and that we would take on forward will impact public schools, private schools, charter schools, parochial schools. It will impact everyone because we want everyone to be safe during this time. We still have to work out some things with the Legislature, Um, related to the sort of from the funding mechanisms and things like that. So those are things that we're working out before we make this announcement. So this question about businesses, I think this is going to be a time need to be a time for empathy. Um, these are not, uh when I would call normal or traditional work from home circumstances because you know, typically when you may be working home, but your kids are going to school. My kids would normally be in school right now, um, your kids would be in school right now. So there are folks working from home. They're trying to manage their kids in a way they wouldn't normally have to. The childcare options for non essential workers are essentially not available to them. So you have kids who may be ah, young in the child care, but you have to manage. So managers need to be empathetic. Need have realistic expectations, frankly, about the level of productivity in the level of focus that people will be able to deliver because in addition to managing, all your children were also dealing with the state being in the midst of a global pandemic, that's stressful. That is, that can that's gonna weigh on people and take a toll on folks as they're thinking about themselves, their health, their family, their friends, what they can and can't do. So this is really a time for empathy for managers, and I think I need to be realistic about what folks can do. I do believe that once we reach the other side of this and we're coming into whatever our new normal is going to be. I do think that many businesses will have an opportunity to re evaluate their relationship with remote work. Um, as someone who had a job earlier in my career where I work remotely, completely for three years, I think this may make plain that many more people can work remotely than we otherwise considered. And so there could be an opportunity for business to kind of innovate and how they're enabling their Their employees have a little bit more location flexibility, and that could be beneficial for businesses from infrastructure standpoint. Maybe you don't know what space boards that when they change your expense structure.

Brad Williams:   26:00
[Tammy]: Right. Well, we're getting close to the end of our time, so I'm gonna give you one last question before I turn it back to Brad. Um, so this individual would like to know your perspective on how long you anticipate Michigan bars and restaurants are going to continue to be shut down. And in an honest projection, um, of where you'd how long you think it's going to be?

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   26:25
Yeah, I appreciate the question. This is the question that is on our minds or really all of the actions that we take in the context of emergency. How long are we gonna have to be in this unprecedented state? Um, the biggest driver in that question will be where we stand from a public health perspective. Do we have our arms wrapped around? Do we understand the community spread of this virus? You know, you we're working with these epidemiologists. We're trying to model the spread. You heard people use the phrase 'flattening the curve', that curve, what they're talking about is sort of how many people have tested positive for this virus. We still believe that we may be on the upside of the trajectory by identifying people, but we need more testing toe happen so that we can build the right models. The goal of these measures that were taken closing the bars, and restaurants, asking folks to stay home so they can stay safe. That is so that we can try to slow down the increase in cases so that we do not overwhelm our health care system by having a bunch of new cases pop up at one time in places all over the state. If that happens, then we get into a situation like Italy was in and still in frankly today, and that would be a catastrophe. We already have hospital systems that are nearing. We're at capacity in the metro Detroit area, and that may be coming to other parts of our state as well. The orders are in place through the second week of April. We're reevaluating because we're getting new data and more testing capacity every single day. Um, it's difficult for me to say or to make a determination. I know that the president yesterday or the day before yesterday extended the CDC guidance for social distancing measures to go through April 30th. We haven't yet made that determination, but generally speaking, we try to be consistent with the CDC guidance. So I wish I had more information to give you, Ah, more concrete answer. But just know that we will continue to be as transparent and accountable. It's possible we have sort of a regularly scheduled press briefings that governor's conducting at least twice a week. That we're putting out information multiple times a day, every day, about where things stand where we think things are going. Um, but I can't give you a concrete answer that we just don't have enough information. I don't want to say something irresponsible.

Brad Williams:   28:52
[Tammy]: Well, thank you, Lieutenant. Governor, I'm gonna turn you back over to Brad for some final questions. [Brad]: We appreciate the opportunity to work with you to highlight some of the restaurants that are still open for takeout service in our area and so that we can make sure that to the extent that people are able to order takeout, uh, that they are are frequenting, particularly local businesses. That's going to be a great opportunity, I think just to wrap things up, Lieutenant Governor, um, I'm curious about, um you said at the very beginning this is first and foremost a public health crisis and it certainly is, you know, how are you holding up? And I was the governor holding up. I can't imagine the stress that you're under. And how are you dealing with that stress? Uh, and just knowing that this is not what you signed up for in 2018.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   29:59
Well, I appreciate this Brad, and like I said, a top in my family were happy and healthy. We're blessed. We're okay. And you know, Governor Whitmer and I worked really hard to get in this position, and we had the support of a lot of people across the state, including people who may be on this call and I do believe that the reason that we work so hard is so that we would have the opportunity to serve and to lead during a time like this, even if we didn't predict the time ,um, this specific kind of situation. We're doing, okay, the Governor and I check in with one another on a personal basis quite regularly and, um, we are all getting used to what we have to do here this unprecedented time, you know, um, and on a personal level, I mean, we both have children. The governor's daughter just had her 18th birthday last weekend and like, that was a very different kind of birthday that they were expecting to have. You know, my six year old daughter came to my wife a couple of nights ago, and asked her if we still were gonna be able to have Christmas. Um, because she could tell that things were wrong. We're not leaving as much. We're only going outside limited. Can't go see Grandma. So we're trying to manage that the way the families across the state are trying to manage. Um, we're not making these choices to take these unprecedented actions lightly. This this has far reaching impact, and we don't know how long these impacts will last. And that's why we're trying to be a conscientious as possible to recognize and be mindful of the economic and public health and personal and mental health impacts that things will have. That these choices will have, um, on our people, on our communities, on our businesses. But know that, uh, we're confident that we can get through this because we have seen some incredibly inspiring things. We have seen people step up in ways that certainly they did not believe they were gonna be able to do. We've seen, um, you know, breweries transition into hand sanitizer factories. We've seen people innovate in food distribution in a safe, social distancing manner. We've seen educators pull out all the stops to ensure that their kids have access to information so they can still learn something while they're at home. We've seen these nurses, um, and folks who are answering the phones in the hospital system. Just to make sure that people have someone to talk to and someone who can help them because they're scared. That kind of bravery have been on display all across the state of Michigan. People been stepping up in ways that are inspiring, and we certainly need inspiration during this kind of time. So that's helping me stay motivated and stay energized as I figure out how to not only serve but also, you know, be a good husband to my wife, and father of my children during this time that are there to talk with them through these really unique circumstances. So I know that all of you are managing these things too in your own life, just like the governor and I are. We appreciate and empathize with that. I appreciate your energy. Your ingenuity and frankly, your perseverance and resilience, we can get through this if we work together and I can see the State of Michigan has been working together to get through it. And I actually think that when we emerge from this, we're gonna be a stronger people, a better connected people, a more empathetic people and people who are more willing to be more creative in finding ways to support one another to support the businesses that keep our communities vibrant. And that is inspirational. And that's the normal that I'm ready to get to.

Brad Williams:   33:38
Well, thank you, Lieutenant Governor, that is really helpful and, uh, please send our best to Governor Whitmer. We're all counting on you. Ah, and we know that you are up to the challenge. For those of you who are listening in, know that this is gonna be posted. A replay of this will be posted on our website: when you go there, you can also find a host of information on how to best respond to this virus. Resources as well as a schedule for the upcoming tele town halls, including just in an hour and 1/2 with U.S. Congresswoman Haley Stevens coming up this afternoon We hope you can join us for that. Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and thank you all for joining us on. We hope too that you can join us again soon.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II:   34:36
Thanks, Brad and thank you everyone be safe.