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MichiganUpdate: On April 24, Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-59 (COVID-19), which allows for lawn care and landscapers to get back to work in the state.

While EO 2020-59 extends the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order through May 15, it lifts “some restrictions on outdoor activities and allow some workers who perform previously suspended activities to go back to work.”

Read the state press release here, and the executive order 2020-59 here.

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The Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA); five landscaping, lawn-care, and retail-garden-center businesses; and an employee filed a class-action lawsuit Saturday regarding Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-42. The plaintiffs’ accompanying emergency motion—for an order allowing them to immediately reopen and resume service and sales—explains that the Order’s application to businesses in the landscaping, lawn-care, and retail-garden-center industry violates the Commerce Clause and Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also requests class-action status and damages on behalf of every business in Michigan affected by the shutdown and adds to a growing number of suits filed around the State.

“While we fully support the Governor’s focus on keeping people safe, ours is an outdoor industry and one that can get Michiganders back to work safely,” said Amy Upton, MNLA’s Executive Director. “Every state in the nation except Michigan recognizes our ability to work safely and allows our industry to stay open. The other states’ approach makes sense. It’s easy to mow the lawn, trim trees, install plantings, and sell plants and seeds for curbside pickup without person-to-person contact. We can keep workers employed without increasing the public-health risk.”

In addition to its ability to easily practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawn, landscape, and retail-garden-center industry plays an important public health role, Upton added. “We are a family’s frontline defense against the infestation of fleas, spiders, ticks, and mosquitoes that can spread dangerous diseases such as Lyme, Canine Heartworm, West Nile virus, Zika virus, yellow fever, and encephalitis. At a time when our healthcare providers are taxed with serious cases, we help prevent needless additional cases coming to them.”

Attorney John Bursch, of Bursch Law PLLC, filed the suit on behalf of MNLA and the other plaintiffs. “[Coronavirus] public- health protections need to be balanced by common sense,” Bursch said. “The Governor’s order already allows public employees to mow and trim public parks, and homeowners can do the same in their backyards. But an elderly or infirm homeowner cannot hire someone to do this work for them, even if they need it. Yet local governments are now giving citations to such homeowners, calling their overlength grass a public nuisance. What’s more, hundreds of businesses face permanent closure. This has got to stop.”

As the lawsuit explains, the Executive Order’s ban on sales by retail garden centers are equally difficult to understand. Property owners can order plants and seeds online and have them delivered to their home. But the Order prevents brick-and-mortar retail garden centers from selling the exact same products, even for curbside pickup. At the same time, the Order apparently allows curbside pickup of fast food, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.

Michigan Landscapers Speak Out

Turf, as part of the LawnSite Network, recently conducted a COVID-19 Impact Survey. Here’s what we heard from some survey participants in Michigan (edited for clarity) regarding the shut down and non-essential designation:

“The state of Michigan is mowing public areas while they have us shut down! They talk out both sides of their mouths.”

“I’m ALL for keeping my employees/family safe but there are measures that can be taken.  I’m in a hot spot and have kept this position all along.  However, I do NOT agree with the over extension from our tyrannical Governor. There ARE ways to keep everyone safe.  You’re closer to people at the grocery store and that’s allowed. I just want the Michigan government to ease up.”

“This has been a tough time for everyone but as long as the State allows us to work by May 1st my business should recover.”

“This situation can be handled safely with our business. Our Governor has opted to do an over-reach in our opinion.”

“Absolutely ZERO consistency in ‘Stay at home’ orders throughout the country. Total chaos.”

“Other states that are in operation, their numbers have not peaked dramatically, as we are being told by our Governor.”

“Some customers are shocked that outside work is being stopped by executive order. Michigan has threatened revocation of business license if caught violating the order. Local police have stopped and ordered contractors to stop work.”

“Not allowed to work…unemployment not received yet…but grass keeps growing….hmmmmm”

“Many of our clients don’t understand or agree with the lawn and landscape sector being shut down. They see that we work outside, wear PPE and can easily maintain proper social distancing. The financial assistance that is available doesn’t truly help landscape/lawn contractors as the requirements for loan forgiveness contradict the Executive Orders. The unemployment process is a nightmare. We have employees who were approved as far back as March 20th who have yet to see a payment almost a month later.”

“Feel it’s crazy not to let a owner operator perform his job. This time of year I have zero contact with customers.”

“Governor Whitmer banning single person crew makes no sense whatsoever.”

“Quiet here in Michigan waiting for the governor to lighten up on her restrictions.”

“Protests, but hoping we get cut loose May 1.”

“This has been a tough time for everyone but as long as the State allows us to work by May 1st my business should recover.”

“This is typically our slow time. Doing maintenance on vehicles and equipment and meeting people for estimates. If we stay shut down in May…………..”