Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written By Forrest Wall, CAE, Vice President Government Affairs And Industry Relations

Rental Assistance Funds Finally Flow

On March 9th, Governor Whitmer signed legislation appropriating over $282 million in rental assistance funding from the federal stimulus approved in December. As you may recall, the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, included $25 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Michigan’s allocation of this relief package amounted to $622 million. Although the legislature did not include the full $622 million in this bill, the initial appropriation gets assistance flowing into the system. The appropriation is broken into two parts: Over $220 million in direct renter assistance and over $62 million for administration of the program. With the funding now in place, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) has instituted the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program to deliver the assistance. MSHDA and its local partners – made up of Housing Assessment and Resource Agencies (HARAs) as well as nonprofits – began accepting applications in mid-March. The distribution network will follow the previous Eviction Diversion Program (EDP), which concluded at the end of 2020. However, eligibility and requirements under CERA differ from the EDP in a number of ways because EDP was established and funded by the State of Michigan, while CERA is funded by the federal government. Renters must be under 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), have a COVID related financial hardship, and be at-risk of homelessness or housing instability. The period of rental assistance (both future and arrears) is based on an AMI scale, and utility assistance is included. The federal law stipulates that Michigan must obligate at least 65% (so $405 million) of the available funds by September 30, 2021, or unobligated funds could be recalled by the Department of Treasury.

Legislation Proposed to Limit Evictions
A bill introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would further restrict evictions as a result of the pandemic. House Bill 4181, introduced in February, would amend the Revised Judicature Act to prohibit property owners from evicting residents or sending a notice to quit until 60 days after the termination of the COVID-19 emergency orders. The legislation also prohibits courts from the following: accepting a filing for summons or complaint; entering an order or judgment for a plaintiff for possession; issuing a writ of restitution or order of eviction; denying a stay of a writ of restitution or order for eviction or a continuation of a summary proceeding; or scheduling a court event. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary where AAM is opposing it.

Posted in 2021, APRIL 2021 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Be Prepared For Weather Emergencies

Written By Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

Whether it is sub-freezing temperatures in the dead of winter, extreme heat during the midst of summer, or the occasional severe weather that occurs anywhere in between, you should always be prepared for whatever weather might come. In the Midwest, we have an array of things we have to worry about– tornados (seldom in most areas) and high winds, heavy rains and lightning, hail, extreme heat and cold, and of course, snow and ice storms. While earthquakes are considered geological events, they can still bring similar effects as severe weather and should also be considered when becoming prepared for natural disasters and weather emergencies. Regardless of the weather, there are 3 main steps you need to take to ensure you and your employees’ safety: plan, prepare, and improve.

Take the time now to plan for any type of emergency weather and the long-term effects it may bring. This means creating an extensive plan that goes over what you need to do in order to prepare for known incoming severe weather, who all should be notified, where shelter should be taken (if applicable), procedures for accounting for everyone (both employees, guests, and visitors) once the event is over, and what actions may need to be taken if there is significant damage or injury. Using a tornado event as an example: Establish who notifies all employees that there is a tornado warning in the area and everyone should seek shelter (identify how you will notify employees, such as a “call-‘em-all” app, and where they should seek shelter at); after the tornado warning has lifted or the tornado has passed, determine how supervisors or managers are going to identify any injuries or damage and how that gets reported; and lastly, if there is any damage, determine what needs to be done in the interim: do you need to establish a back-up area where work can continue to commence if your building has been damaged? All of this should be figured out and written into procedure as soon as possible, as storms may come without warning and you don’t want to wait until it is too late!

Believe it or not, planning for a weather emergency is probably one of the easiest steps in being prepared. The hardest step is being prepared. Being prepared for any kind of emergency is not just a “do once and you’re done” type of task – it requires continual training, checking on supplies, and conducting drills to test knowledge. At the very minimum, all companies should conduct new-hire orientation training that includes your own procedures in what to do in the event of severe weather, perform annual drills, and conduct inspections or checks on all emergency equipment, quarterly or annually (such as batteries in flashlights, expiration dates on emergency food and first aid materials, and to ensure all items are still accounted for). There is a saying that “people do not rise to the occasion of an emergency but rather fall to the level of training”. Keeping up on training and preparedness with drills and inspections ensures that your employees are always prepared for whatever emergency may occur.

The last step you should be taking to be prepared for weather emergencies is to always update and improve your procedures, polices, drills, and training. With global climate change slowly increasing the frequency and severity of severe weather emergencies, and new information coming out every few years on how to best prepare for events, we must stay one step ahead of the worst-case event. At the very minimum, you should do an annual review of your policy to check for accuracy and ensure that all emergencies are covered. Information such as contact numbers should be checked as well. Going over your listed shelter locations and ensuring that it is still the best location should also be done annually. There is always room for improvement with everything and your emergency procedures are no exception! There are several outlets to get more information on emergency weather, such as government websites like ready.gov or emergency.cdc.gov, or you can reach out to me with any questions at daday@compone.net or by call me at 734-309-3456.

Posted in 2021, APRIL 2021 | Comments Off on Be Prepared For Weather Emergencies

Advocacy Update

Written by Forrest Wall, CAE, Vice President Government Affairs and Industry Relations

Michigan Allocated Over $600 Million In Rental Assistance

The federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, included $25 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Michigan’s allocation of this relief package amounts to $622 million. Although the money is now available, the Michigan Legislature must approve legislation in order for the funds to be appropriated to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for distribution. At the time of this writing, bills appropriating a portion of this money were moving in the legislature. MSHDA and its local partners have a structure and process in place to quickly begin accepting applications and delivering assistance once the legislation is approved. The distribution network will follow the previous Eviction Diversion Program (EDP), which concluded at the end of 2020. The new program will be called the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program and it will differ from the EDP in a number of ways. While EDP was established and funded by the State of Michigan, CERA is funded by the federal government and as such its eligibility and requirements come from federal law and the Department of Treasury. Renters must be under 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), have a COVID related financial hardship, and be at-risk of homelessness or housing instability. The period of rental assistance (both future and arrears) is based on an AMI scale, and utility assistance will also be included. The federal law stipulates that Michigan must obligate at least 65% (so $405 million) of the available funds by September 30, 2021, or unobligated funds could be recalled by the Department of Treasury.

Security Deposit Legislation Proposed In Michigan House

Introduced in early February, House Bill 4180 would amend the Landlord and Tenant Relationships Act to allow a resident to request that their security deposit be used to pay rent during a state of emergency as declared under the Emergency Management Act or an emergency order under the Public Health Code. The bill does not compel the landlord to agree to the request. The legislation has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Posted in 2021, March 2021 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Winter PPE – Personal Protective Equipment

Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

It should not be a surprise that winter brings cold temperatures every year in the Midwest, which makes just about every job a bit harder. Whether we work inside or outside, everyone should have some means of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help combat the winter’s bitter cold. Although PPE may be the last thing to be considered for the control of a hazard, as seen in the hierarchy of controls, it is sometimes the only means of control for being in the outside elements. While most people think gloves when someone mentions protective gear, there is so much more that should be considered to ensure your safety and the safety of your employees. This may mean including things that you may have never considered to be “safety gear,” such as a base layer (or long johns), a decent pair of socks and a caffeine-free drink to help maintain body temperature.

The key to getting and maintaining proper body temperature during cold winter months is to dress in layers. And yes, to answer the question, this means for both those who work inside and out. Additionally, when working outside in the cold weather, there are both hazards of being too cold and of being too warm. Start with a lightweight base layer – something that alone will not be warm enough – yet still light enough that it can be worn with another layer – while still being cool enough to rest inside while not doing any physical work. The next layer, after your base layer, should also be something lightweight and breathable at the same or similar thickness as your base layer. The third layer should vary depending on the temperatures and your susceptibility to the cold. If the temperatures are above freezing, you would want medium-thick waterproof outerwear as this final layer. If the temperatures are below freezing, this should not be your final layer and it does not have to be waterproof, but something that is still breathable and heavier than your two initial layers. Lastly, if needed, an additional (fourth) layer as your outermost layer: a water-resistant and windproof zip-up or button-up layer.

The importance of socks cannot be overstated for personal safety, period. I would almost go as far as to say that if an employee’s job description requires them to work outside in cold weather for the duration of their shift, then an employer should either supply adequate socks or require that employees wear adequate socks. While there is no regulation in OSHA’s standards that specifically states the need for protective socks, there could be an argument for it in the General Duty Clause that OSHA provides, if there is a known hazard or previous injury with cold stress.

So, what make a sock a form of protective gear from cold weather? There is a combination of thickness, material and height of sock that differentiates a good sock from a bad sock! Preferably, for winter, a sock made up of wool, fleece, a combination of the two, or a similar synthetic blend, should be used. The reasoning behind this is that these materials are able to get wet, either from stepping in some water or from foot perspiration, and not lose their insulation properties! Depending on your shoe/boot selection and your preference, a sock should always be at least an inch higher than the top of your footwear. The thickness should depend on how cold it is and what physical activity you are doing. If you are on your feet often, thicker padded bottoms are preferred. Try to avoid layering socks and choose a single sock that works best for you as it can be difficult to take off layers of socks while working.

Lastly, caffeine-free and alcohol-free hot drink works best to keep your temps stable and keep you hydrated. Both caffeine and alcohol hinder the body’s ability to create heat, which makes the body’s core temperature drop, despite how it makes you feel mentally. Instead, enjoy caffeine-free tea, warm apple cider or even a caffeine-free hot cocoa. If you are interested in more help with winter PPE, feel free to reach out to me at 734-309-3456 or daday@compone.net.

Posted in 2021, March 2021 | Comments Off on Winter PPE – Personal Protective Equipment

Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Vice President Government Affairs and Industry Relations

Emotional Support Animal Legislation Vetoed By Governor Whitmer

In a disappointing end to the 2019-2020 Michigan Legislative Session, Governor Whitmer vetoed the emotional support animal legislation supported by AAM and other rental property organizations. The veto came on the heels of Senate passage of the bills on December 18th. The Michigan House of Representatives originally passed the bills in March of 2020, and then concurred the Senate-amended legislation on December 21st. As you may recall, this legislation was a two-bill effort to help prevent the false representation of possession of an emotional support animal (ESA). The first bill, House Bill 4910, would have created the “Misrepresentation of Emotional Support Animals Act.” This bill proposed:

  • A definitional framework for state law
  • Bars individuals and health care providers from falsely representing a disability or possession of an ESA
  • Allow disability documentation requests by housing providers after resident signs authorization
  • Requirements for health care providers who prescribe ESAs
  • Penalty provisions for violations of the law
  • Allowance for lease termination for false representation
  • Directive to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to establish a hotline which would receive reports of false representations and complaints

The second bill, House Bill 4911, would have amended the Revised Judicature Act to support termination of a lease for misrepresentation of an emotional support animal.
In her veto letter, the Governor stated, “While I appreciate the intent behind these bills – to ensure that housing providers are able to verify the need for emotional support animals – these bills result in too great an intrusion on the privacy of people with disabilities.” Encouragingly, however, the Governor committed to working toward a compromise on the issue. The final sentence of her letter states, “Nevertheless, I look forward to working with the legislature to craft a solution that strikes a better balance between the need of housing providers to verify information and the privacy rights of people with disabilities.” With the veto and the end of the legislative session, the bills will need to be reintroduced in 2021 and the process starts over.

Posted in 2021, February 2021 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update