Michigan Legislature OKs unemployment, legal liability bills

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LANSING — Michigan’s Legislature early Wednesday passed a bill to keep intact longer-lasting unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic after the state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law that was the basis for now-negated orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The bill was among several that were approved during a lengthy session that began Tuesday. The Republican-led House and Senate backed liability protections for businesses, health providers and others that are sued over COVID-19 infections, as long as they have complied with safety rules.

Other measures sent to the Democratic governor following hours of negotiations would codify recently announced changes related to the care of nursing home residents recovering from the virus, let public bodies continue to meet electronically, and extend renewal dates for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

The sponsor of the unemployment bill, Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, said it would ensure that people out of work in the pandemic see no interruption in benefits. Whitmer last spring had issued an order extending the maximum length of state payments to 26 weeks, from 20 weeks.

The jobless can receive an additional 13 weeks of payments from the federal government once they exhaust their state benefits and, if the unemployment rate remains high, up to 20 more weeks.

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