Factories close due to coronavirus concerns

Ventra, Original Footwear among companies laying off staff

Evart Ventra shut down March 23, following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay at home order. No recall date has been set as yet. (Submitted photo)

Evart Ventra shut down March 23, following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay at home order. No recall date has been set as yet. (Submitted photo)

EVART -- Employees at Ventra Evart received notice March 23 that the facility would be closed, according to a memo from the company's human resources department posted to Facebook.

The memo stated that at 11 p.m. that day, the plant would shut down "to be compliant with the stay home order" issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

This applies to all hourly employees, the memo said. Salaried employees were advised to contact their manager for other directives.

According to the memo, a recall date has not yet been determined. Calls to Ventra Evart went unanswered.

MichiganWorks! West Central Executive Director Shelly Keene said their business services team has reached out to Ventra's human resources staff regarding the shut down to make sure they are able to provide the employees with the necessary information to navigate the support systems in place, such as filing for unemployment.

According to Keene, two factories in Big Rapids have also shut down following the stay at home order.

On Tuesday, March 24, Original Footwear halted production until April 13, putting around 150 employees on leave without pay, she said.

In addition, Fluid Routing Systems (FRS) has put around 600 employees on leave without pay as a result of decreased production orders.

Because the auto manufacturers they supply, including Ford, GM and Chrysler, are halting production, the number of employees needed at the Big Rapids FRS facility has been reduced, Keene said.

"Employees placed on leave without pay are eligible to apply for unemployment," she said.

"The usual requirement from the state that an applicant must report to a MichiganWorks! Service center has been waived, and the maximum number of benefit weeks has been increased from 20 to 26."

Keene said there were 1.7 million calls made to the unemployment insurance agency (UIA) phone lines on Monday following the governor's stay at home order.

"Due to the overwhelming number of people currently out of work as a result of the stay at home order, we are asking that people be patient with the ability of the state's system to process their applications in a timely manner," she said.

Keene said the staff at MichiganWorks! Is monitoring the situation and providing assistance to employers and employees impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If employers need to reduce their workforce due to the current situation, our agencies across the state are encouraging them to place employees on temporary leave without pay, instead of issuing a layoff," Keene said. "Employers are also encouraged to advise their employees that they expect to have work available within 120 days, as opposed to termination.

"In doing so, there is no additional cost to the employer, and employees may remain eligible for potential federal assistance in addition to state unemployment benefits," she said.

The United States Congress passed a stimulus package last week that will help displaced workers and businesses that are suffering as a result of the pandemic.

"MichiganWorks! Is available to help any employer, employee or job seeker to navigate through this unprecedented situation," Keene said.

"If we all work together to prevent the further spread of the virus, we will all make it through as a country, state and region."

If those who have been displaced have the financial means to self-quarantine, they should do so, she added, but if someone needs to find work, they can contact MichiganWorks! for assistance.

"Our frontline staff is available remotely to help," she said.

"Right now, there is a high demand for grocery store workers to keep up with stocking shelves and the increased sanitization efforts."

For assistance in Mecosta County, call (231) 796-0049. Anyone looking to file for unemployment can do so at michigan.gov/UIA.