Striking a balance

I have had numerous conversations with constituents throughout this pandemic about actions the state has taken and what folks believe is the best action going forward. Many believe we only have two choices: Save lives or save the economy. This is a false narrative that I feel needs to be addressed. This is a dynamic situation — not one where we must commit to choosing one or the other.

I want people to know that as public officials, our number one priority is keeping the general public safe. We care about those who have been affected by this pandemic and all the lives that have been lost. We also care about the livelihood of our residents and feel compassion for those who have been negatively impacted by the situation.

Small businesses are facing closure. Some have even had to make the heartbreaking decision to permanently close their business. As someone who owned his own small business, I truly feel for these people and their families. It is important that we work to strike a proper balance, so we can protect lives and livelihoods.

For the immediate future, I believe it is prudent and responsible to listen to medical experts and heed their advice during this time. It is also wise to use a little common sense and start looking for ways we can slowly begin getting people back to work and start the transition back to our normal lives.

Big box stores and grocery stores are remaining open and following the guidance and advice of experts to keep both customers and employees safe. Stores that are open are practicing social distancing and are providing a roadmap on how to successfully and safely operate during this crisis.

Many industries, particularly outdoor workers such as lawncare, landscaping and greenhouses, but also construction, plumbers and electricians, among others, typically follow social distancing guidelines even during “normal” times because of the nature of their work. I believe many of these workers should be allowed to safely return to work and provide for themselves and their families rather than rely on state resources, which in many cases don’t fully replace their lost income. Many people want to return to work and earn their way, and they should be allowed the freedom to do so.

I am also willing to acknowledge that some businesses and activities will have to wait until we’ve defeated this virus, but many workplaces have gone above and beyond to improve safety measures for workers and customers. We’re coming together to stop the spread — and we are making progress. We need to carefully look at protocols moving forward and be sure they are not at the expense of productivity or purpose.

The Senate has established a Safe Behavior for Safe Workplaces work group. This bipartisan work group was established to consider how Michigan can begin to safely reopen our economy once health experts agree it is appropriate to do so. The group created a survey that Michigan employers and employees can complete to provide input to the work group. This input will help them better understand the needs of job providers and employees. You can participate in the survey by going to www.MiSafeWorkplaces.com.

I want to close by saying my office remains open. My staff and I continue to be available remotely to assist you throughout these unpredictable times. You can call and leave us a message at 1-855-347-8034 or send us an email at [email protected]. Also, please check out my Facebook page for updates.

Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, represents the 34th state Senate District, which includes Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties.