Resources on Michigan’s price gouging law and state closures/updates on COVID-19

Empty shelves in store in Humble, Texas USA. Supermarket with empty shelves for goods.

In this issue:

  • Gov. Whitmer declares state of emergency COVID-19 confirmed in Michigan
  • Worth remembering: price gouging = prices grossly in excess of normal price points
  • Supplemental approved to partially restore Pure Michigan funding
  • Ypsilanti adds criminal felony convictions to anti-discrimination ordinance
  • Resources for retailers
  • Regulatory round-up

NOTICE TO MRA MEMBERS – MRA will remain open and available to assist you

Members, while MRA is taking precautions to keep our employees safe, it will be business as usual in our efforts to provide business services and answer your questions. If you have questions or need assistance, please call us toll free at: 1-800-366-3699 or send us an email at or

Gov. Whitmer declares state of emergency as COVID-19 confirmed in Michigan

On March 10, Gov. Whitmer declared a state of emergency via Executive Order 2020-4 in Michigan when two cases of Coronavirus were confirmed in Michigan residents. Yesterday that number rose to 12 confirmed cases. Gov. Whitmer also issued detailed recommendations to residents earlier this week to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. MRA helped the administration with the phrasing to avoid having panicked residents rush to stores and wipe shelves clean. We continue to try and push that messaging to the media to remind customers that there is no reason to panic: stores will remain open and there are lots of alternative shopping methods (curbside pickup, home delivery, scanning apps) they should consider. The administration is asking retailers to stay open to serve customers.

Various state closings and instructions:

  • Large gatherings: On March 13, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-5 prohibiting large gatherings of more than 250 people but specifically exempts assemblies for the purpose of industrial or manufacturing work or the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.
  • Youth employees: While schools are closed, youth employees (under age 18) will be permitted to work extra hours like they can when school is out of session (up to 48 hours a week). Other normal restrictions still apply.
  • Public universities: On March 11, most of the state’s public universities moved to online-only instruction and asked students to return to their permanent place of residence, if possible.
  • Schools: On March 12, Gov. Whitmer ordered all schools in Michigan to close from March 16-April 5.
  • In-person state board and commission meetings (under the Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) are canceled through March 31. An exception to this is the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s administrative (licensing) hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 17 which is still scheduled at this time.
  • The legislature: The legislature has asked all staff to work from home on non-session days and non-essential staff to work from home until further notice. All non-essential out-of-state work travel by Senate and House employees have been scrapped. The House and Senate are scheduled to be in next Tuesday, March 17. The Senate may not meet again until after spring break unless needed. The House may meet more regularly.
  • State Capitol and related public gatherings: All state Capitol public tours, receptions and legislative public gatherings are canceled until April 20. (MRA’s legislative reception scheduled for April 28 is still expected to continue but we are monitoring the legislative schedule and recommendations for gatherings. We will reassess in mid-April.

Food and food benefits updates:

  • Self-serve salad/hot bars: Guidance from MDARD and MDHHS asks retailers to consider temporarily limiting self-serve operations including salad bars, buffets and dispensers. Replace utensils frequently (approx. every hour) for self-serve operations.
  • WIC: MRA inquired as to how the state agency would handle retailers who are out of stock on required WIC items due to product shortages. The state’s WIC office reports it will continue doing stocking compliance checks but does not intend to cite retailers during the state of emergency. Compliance investigators will likely ask retailers about their restocking plans. If you hear differently, please reach out to us.
  • SNAP: According to FMI, the USDA and FNS are working to add benefits to families’ food assistance cards who may be impacted by school closures. This would provide additional monthly benefits for families with kids who rely on school meal programs.

COVID-19 resources:

Worth remembering: price gouging = prices grossly in excess of normal price points

Michigan’s price gouging law prohibits charging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold. The requirement is included in the state’s consumer protection act and applies whether or not there is declared a state of emergency. The current attorney general policies the consumer protection act fiercely and has issued multiple notices warning consumers of potential “price gouging of supplies related to the coronavirus such as: masks, disinfectants and other cleaning supplies.” Violations of the act carry civil, not criminal penalties but can be a real headache for retailers suspected of a potential violation.

Legislators announced yesterday their plan to introduce bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would define price gouging as charging profits in excess of 10% over normal prices. The proposed law would only be trigged under a declared state of emergency and would not apply to price increase was related directly to the cost of obtaining products/materials. The attorney general has already voiced her support of this legislation. MRA has requested copies of the draft bills to review.

Supplemental approved to partially restore Pure Michigan funding

This week, the Senate approved a supplemental appropriations bill that would restore some Pure Michigan funding for the current fiscal year. SB 151 would add $16 million to fund the campaign through the end of the state’s current fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2020). The original budget line item that Gov. Whitmer vetoed included $37.5 million for Pure Michigan. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk and she is expected to sign it into law.

Ypsilanti adds criminal felony convictions to anti-discrimination ordinance

On March 3, the city of Ypsilanti approved changes to their anti-discrimination ordinance that will prohibit the denial of employment related to a criminal felony conviction unless there is a direct relationship between the conviction offense and the housing, the job, the opportunity or unless hiring or accepting the person would create an unreasonable risk to property or safety. The ordinance regulates both businesses and public entities. The exact language of the ordinance change is listed below and can also be found by following this link to the city’s website and is on pages 16-17 of the document. The ordinance states it will take effect 30 days after it is approved and posted.

Resources for retailers:

  • MDHHS has scheduled a Medicaid Pharmacy Provider Liaison Meeting to allow Medicaid staff and Medicaid Pharmacy Providers to meet and discuss policy and operational issues on March 19th, 2020 from 2:30-4:30pm. The meeting is held in the Capitol Commons Center, Lower Level, Conference Room E, 400 South Pine Street, Lansing, Michigan 48933. Pharmacies can also dial in to a conference line: 888-363-4734, Access Code: 3367361. (As far as we know, this meeting has not yet been canceled.)
  • Save the date for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) premier compliance assistance event, the 2020 Michigan Environmental Compliance Conference (MECC), September 9-10 in Lansing, MI. Join businesses, municipalities, and environmental professionals at the conference.
  • The Michigan Department of Treasury regularly hosts free education events on important tax topics. The Treasury Outreach schedule is available on Treasury’s website.
  • The February 2020 edition of theTreasury Update is available online. The update covers the implementation of our Marketplace bills that require online retailers to collect sales and use taxes on facilitated sales.
  • The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) launched a unique searchable renewable energy zoning database of municipal ordinances across Michigan that address siting for renewable energy installations. Over half of Michigan’s more than 1,800 municipalities have considered renewable energy in their zoning ordinances. This source is the first compilation of all renewable energy ordinances across the state and the first database of its kind in the nation.
  • Sponsorships available for events related to energy waste reduction, renewable energy, recycling, and/or sustainability. (EGLE) is offering up to $2,500 for events related to energy waste reduction, renewable energy, recycling, and/or sustainability. Public sector, 501c3 or 501c6 organizations, and small businesses (<500 employees) are eligible to apply. To be considered for funding, an application must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the planned event. Sponsored events must take place before 9/30/2020. You can find the application and additional information at
  • REMINDER: EGLE offering $3 million in organics management grants for the development of food waste management programs. Grants are available for up to $1 million for government entities and nonprofits for projects focused on food waste that result in a finished or partial compost product. The Request for Proposal and additional information is posted on EGLE’s recycling grants web page. The application deadline is 5 p.m., April 20.

Regulatory round-up:

  • Larry Bell, founder and president of Bell’s Brewery, appointed to the Michigan Craft Beverage Council. Mr. Bell will represent large brewers for a term commencing March 2, 2020 and expiring September 30, 2020.
  • Whitmer proclaimed March as Michigan Food and Ag Month to recognize the industry’s impact on jobs and the economy. The state recently launched the 2020 Edition of Michigan Agriculture Magazine in conjunction with the March celebration. March is also recognized as National Nutrition Month and the state is encouraging residents to make healthy choices.
  • Environmental Rules Review Committee approves and advances PFAS in drinking water standards. The committee, housed under the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) approved draft rules limiting PFAS contamination in drinking water on Feb. 27, moving them forward in the state rule-making process. More information is available here.