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AG's Office, Mason County Prosecutor Crack Down on Community Action Agency for Violating Stay Home, Stay Safe Order

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office – in coordination with Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola – sent a cease and desist letter Thursday to a community action agency in Scottville after receiving complaints that the organization was continuing to require non-critical infrastructure employees to report to work, despite warnings from local police.

The letter was sent to Five CAP for failing to comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order, which limits the operations of businesses and other entities during the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Stay Home, Stay Safe order prohibits any person or entity from operating a business or conducting operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence, except to the extent those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct basic minimum operations.

The order does not prohibit or suspend work that can be performed remotely, and if an entity is fulfilling an essential service on-site and in-person, such as providing food to the general public, it should not be conducting nonessential functions.

“I appreciate Prosecutor Spaniola’s cooperation and the local law enforcement authorities in Mason County who are working to enforce the Stay Home, Stay Safe order,” Nessel said. “The intent of this order is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting person-to-person contact wherever possible, and that means businesses and other entities must reduce their staffing levels to what’s needed to perform only the most essential work. Any agency not complying with those instructions puts all of us at risk.”

The Attorney General’s office and Prosecutor Spaniola were made aware of several reports of Five CAP employees being called to work to file documents, draft letters and other clerical operations that are not critical to securing the safety or welfare of the people the organization serves.

The cease and desist letter demands Five CAP take action to follow social distancing guidelines and comply with the order by only maintaining necessary on-site operations.

“The services which Five CAP provides to the citizens of Mason, Lake, Manistee and Newaygo counties, particularly to the disadvantaged residents, are very important and crucial for the residents’ well-being,” Spaniola said. “This is a very trying time for many of our fellow residents who find themselves recently unemployed, without health insurance and waiting for the uncertainty of unemployment payments to begin. Certainly, a number of the services provided by Five CAP meet the Governor’s definition of ‘critical infrastructure workers.’ However, the social distancing and other safety directives set forth in the Governor’s Executive Orders continue to be applicable to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to Five CAP’s employees, volunteers and consumers.”

Willful violations of the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order can result in a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail for each offense, as well as licensing penalties for businesses and other entities. Violations should be reported to law enforcement agencies overseeing the jurisdiction in which the alleged offense occurred.

The Attorney General’s office recently added a new section to its website, Know Your Employment Rights, to provide Michigan residents with more information on the legal rights of employees and employers under the executive order.

Additional information for employers can be found on the Guidance for Business page on the state’s website devoted to COVID-19.

A summary of the activities people can and cannot do under the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order can be found online here.

The state’s COVID-19 website also has information on the Governor’s other executive orders, directives and FAQs which allows for review of each order and its own questions and answers.