Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
U-M Study: More than 4 in 10 Detroiters Have Lost Jobs During Pandemic
Forty-three percent of Detroiters who were working before the COVID-19 pandemic have since lost their jobs, either on a temporary or permanent basis, according to a new University of Michigan survey.
The latest rapid-response COVID-19 survey from U-M’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study shows how Detroiters are adapting to try to make ends meet in the face of widespread job loss and economic upheaval. The representative survey was open from April 23 to May 7.
“We found that job losses were especially prevalent among people who were earning less income before the pandemic, people with less education, and people of color,” says Jeffrey Morenoff, one of the faculty research leads for DMACS, professor of sociology and director of the Population Studies Center at U-M’s Institute for Social Research.
“Even among Detroiters who are still working, 27 percent said their hours have been reduced since the pandemic. This loss of income takes a significant toll on people’s long-term financial security.”
Given the number of people who have lost their jobs in recent weeks, the DMACS results suggest the unemployment rate in Detroit is now 48 percent — twice the statewide unemployment rate and more than three times the U.S. unemployment rate.
“While these job losses are staggering, we likely won’t know the full weight of the pandemic for some time,” says Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at U-M who analyzed the DMACS COVID-19 survey data. “Two-thirds of those newly unemployed report that they have been temporarily laid off or furloughed from their jobs, but only time will tell if their positions and their employers actually come back.”
Of the Detroiters who are still working, 43 percent primarily work outside their homes, 42 percent primarily work from home, and 15 percent split their time between working from home and outside their homes.
In Related News: Disabled American Veterans and RecruitMilitary will host a Cincinnati/Detroit/Pittsburgh Areas Virtual Career Fair for Veterans on Thursday, May 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. online. This free virtual event is open to all members of the military community, past and present, as well as military spouses and dependents. To register, visit here.
Federal Government – Emergency Food Benefits Extended Through May
Approximately 350,000 Michigan families will continue to have access to additional food assistance benefits in the month of May in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Administered locally by the state’s Food Assistance Program, which tends to take credit for the funding, nearly 1.5 million people in Michigan received federal SNAP benefits in April. The additional food assistance was initially approved for March and April – and now that is being extended for May.
Households eligible for Food Assistance Program benefits will receive additional benefits in May to bring all current SNAP cases to the maximum monthly allowance for that group size. The 350,000 households that receive increased benefits represent about 50 percent of the Michigan households that received food assistance in April. The remaining households already receive the maximum benefit.
Eligible clients will see additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Card this week and by May 31. The maximum ranges from $194 for a one-person household through $1,164 for a household of eight.
Eligible families do not need to re-apply to receive the additional benefits. People who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Card here at or by calling a consumer service representative 888-678-8914.
State Government – Change in Reporting of COVID-19 Testing Data
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) last week changed the way it reports data on COVID-19 testing.
The change makes the data more accurate and relevant as the state continues to expand diagnostic testing to help slow and contain the spread of COVID-19. The update to the website separates the results of two different types of tests – serology and diagnostic. Michigan – along with some other states – has not separated data for diagnostic and serology tests.
Data on serology testing – also known as antibody testing – is separated from the other testing numbers. Currently, serology testing can be used to help determine whether someone has ever had COVID-19, while traditional viral diagnostic tests determine if someone has active disease.
MDHHS emphasizes that the change in reporting does not affect the number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan. It does lower the percentage of positive tests over the last nine days – when serology testing became more common. Michigan’s overall percentage of positive tests since the beginning of the outbreak remains virtually the same – changing from 14.2 percent positive tests to 14.3 percent.
Diagnostic tests are most helpful in tracking the spread of COVID-19 since they can show the number of people who currently have the COVID-19 virus. Serology tests still are being studied regarding their utility. They are currently most helpful in understanding how much a community may have been exposed to the disease. It is unknown, however, if the presence of an antibody truly means someone is immune to COVID-19, and if so, for how long. Results of antibody tests should not change decisions on whether an individual should return to work, or if they should quarantine based on exposure to someone with the disease.
State testing data can be found here.
Panel to Discuss Area’s Current Economic Hardships
Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills will host a Zoom webinar “Rebuilding the Economy Post-COVID-19: A Panel Discussion with Business Leaders” on Wednesday, May 27 at 7 p.m. It will bring together business leaders in the entertainment, manufacturing, banking, food, and additional sectors of the economy who will voice their views of what the present and future holds for metro Detroit and beyond.
The panel features Paul Glantz of Emagine Entertainment Inc., Jason Paulateer of Fifth Third Bank, Stephen Polk of Highgate LLC), Richard Brodie of Wico Metal Products, and Linda Jacob of The Kowalski Companies Inc.
This webinar is free and open to the public, however, registration is required, which can be done here.
Rent Prices Slow Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Rent prices in April slowed more than they had in at least five years when the coronavirus pandemic hit, according to the April Zillow Real Estate Market Report.
Rent prices had been chugging along at a remarkably stable pace since 2018, with the growth rate rarely rising or falling much from one month to the next. That changed in April, the first reading since the coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S.
The typical rent in the U.S. is $1,594, up 2.9 percent from a year ago, which is the slowest pace of annual growth since December 2017. Rents were growing 3.4 percent year over year in March, and that half a percentage point slowdown is the most dramatic since at least 2014.
Typical rent in the Detroit market is $1,102, up 2.7 percent.
The rental market has been hit especially hard because those who are in jobs that faced the most layoffs and furloughs tend to be renters. They also tend to spend more of their monthly income on rent, which means they have less ability to save in case of emergencies.
Medical Researchers and Life Science Companies Launch Blood Plasma Donation Campaign
A coalition of world-leading medical and research institutions, blood centers, life science companies, technology companies, philanthropic organizations, and COVID-19 survivor groups has come together to support the rapid development of potential new therapies for patients with COVID-19.
Working together under the “The Fight Is In Us” campaign, the coalition is seeking to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the United States who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood plasma, which contains vital antibodies that have fought off the disease and could now help others do the same.
Michigan State University in East Lansing, by virtue of its involvement with the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program, along with the Mayo Clinic and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is participating in the effort.
The campaign is working against two urgent timelines: to recruit COVID-19 survivors within two months of their recovery to ensure that their blood plasma contains a robust enough concentration of antibodies to have a positive effect, and to address the substantial seasonal increase in COVID-19 cases anticipated this fall in the Northern Hemisphere by the CDC and other public health experts.
Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, or know someone who has, can visit here to understand if they may be eligible to donate and find a nearby blood or plasma donor center using a simple self-screening tool. Donating blood plasma is a generally safe and proven process. The coalition offers more than 1,500 locations at which COVID-19 survivors can choose to donate. Donations can be made at both blood and plasma donor centers.
The coalition partners are working on two distinct approaches for treating COVID-19 that both urgently require collection of convalescent plasma now. One approach is the direct transfusion of blood plasma though the Expanded Access Program for convalescent plasma, which is currently being administered with authorization from the Food & Drug Administration by Mayo Clinic. Its safety and efficacy are currently being evaluated through multiple clinical trials in different populations. Blood donor centers throughout the country are currently collecting convalescent plasma from COVID-19 survivors for this purpose.
The other approach is the development of a medicine known as a hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig), which is being manufactured now and will be studied in clinical trials this summer. Through the manufacturing process, the plasma is pooled, concentrated, and purified, resulting in a vial of medicine with consistent levels of antibodies that is easy to store, distribute, and administer to patients.
New Beth Griffith-Manley Single to Benefit Nonprofits
Dovingall Music, a Michigan music production company, says a portion of the proceeds from its upcoming single release launch featuring vocalist Beth Griffith-Manley titled, “You’ve Already Won” will benefit Feeding America and Detroit Rescue Mission.
A pre-release and watch party is scheduled for May 28 at 6:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. Viewers with have an opportunity to pre-order the song for $1.29. The project will launch officially and be available on all social media platforms worldwide on Friday, May 29.
Beth Griffith-Manley is the daughter of Johnny Griffith who was an original member of the Funk Brothers, Motown’s in-house studio band that created the famous Motown Sound. She has been part of the music industry her entire life. “You’ve Already Won” will be on Griffith-Manley’s second album planned to release this summer.
“It has been a pleasure working with Dovingall Music and I am honored to be able to share this song with the world,” Beth Griffith-Manley. “It is strong, powerful, and something everyone needs to hear to help empower them, especially during the times we currently experiencing.”
Lung Association Seeks Volunteers to Lead Local Efforts
The American Lung Association in Michigan today announced it is accepting nominations for their 2020 Lung Force Engagement Committee.
Committee members are volunteers who will help guide the promotion, community outreach, and engagement activities for the seventh annual Lung Force Walk, which takes place Oct. 4 at the Detroit Zoo. The Lung Force Walk is a fundraising event that brings people together to raise awareness and funds to fight lung cancer, lung disease, and COVID-19.
“We are looking for residents who wish to have a meaningful volunteer experience, while helping people in the community facing lung cancer and lung disease,” says Maureen Rovas, executive director for the association. “During this challenging time, it’s important for all those living with lung disease, including COVID-19 and lung cancer, to feel hope, optimism, and support.”
This year’s Lung Force Walk will raise awareness about lung disease, and fund education, advocacy, and research in its efforts to end lung cancer and lung disease. It also will support the Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative, a $25 million investment to address COVID-19 and protect against future respiratory virus pandemics. The initiative works with public and private entities to increase research collaboration and develop new vaccines, detection tests and treatment therapies.
Committee members will volunteer five to 10 hours per month and all meetings will be conducted virtually. Those interested in joining the committee or nominating a friend can email EventsMI@lung.org or call 248-784-2000. Visit here for more information.
Detroit Historical Museum Planning COVID-19 Memorial Garden
The Detroit Historical Society is dedicating the curved garden in front of the Detroit Historical Museum as a public memorial to life and loss in the time of the coronavirus.
Everyone in the community is invited to contribute to the new memorial by painting a rock or two and adding it to the growing pile of colorful stones commemorating lost loved ones or simply celebrating life. When the garden closes at the end of the summer, some of the stones will be added to the Detroit Historical Society’s permanent collection as artifacts from this time.
“We wanted to do something immediate and interactive as a public service to our community during this historic time,” says Elana Rugh, CEO of the Detroit Historical Society. “Detroit has lost so many loved ones while we have been sheltered in place, and one of the cruel realities of this time is that we not been able to properly celebrate those lives. This garden gives everyone a simple and beautiful way to participate in a real-time public commemoration.”
The Memorial Garden at the Detroit Historical Museum is located in front of the curved wall at the northwest corner of Woodward and Kirby. The garden is open now and will remain in place until Labor Day. Participate by adding decorated stones to the garden any time.
TCF Bank Commits $250,000 and Announces $10 Million Lending Program to Aid Midland Flood Victims
Detroit’s TCF Bank today announced donations totaling $250,000 in support of Great Lakes Bay Region community organizations, as well as a $10 million Hardship Lending Program to support residents and businesses impacted by recent dam failures and historic flooding in the region.
Organizations receiving financial support from TCF Bank include United Way of Midland County, the Midland Area Community Foundation, and the Gladwin County Community Foundation.
TCF designated $150,000 to the United Way of Midland County’s Rise Together Fund, which will make a critical difference on the area’s asset limited, income constrained, employed (ALICE) population. Those dollars will be matched by The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.
An additional $100,000 in relief donations will be made to funds at the Midland Area Community Foundation, with $50,000 toward a new TCF Employee Assistance Fund and $50,000 for the Gladwin County Relief Fund at the Gladwin County Community Foundation. These donations will provide flood relief throughout Gladwin and Midland counties and can be used for food, shelter, and other recovery and repair efforts.
“Our purpose is to strengthen individuals, businesses, and our community – not just in good times but in times of hardship,” says Gary Torgow, executive chairman of TCF Bank. “We have a long, proud history serving the Midland community, with over 600 team members in essential operations and banking centers. The unusual events of 2020 have created challenging economic crises for our customers and team members, and we want to do as much as we can to lessen their financial burdens and help them maintain hope.”
By establishing the $10 million TCF Hardship Loan Fund, qualifying residents impacted by flooding can get fast financial support to purchase vitally important supplies and labor as they recover and rebuild. These unsecured loans will be offered for up to $10,000 at 0 percent for 36 months with no fees and require auto pay from a customer’s Chemical Bank account. Details about this program and how to apply will be available on May 27 here.
In addition to its donations and new loan fund, TCF is offering consumer payment assistance, payment forbearance, and halting repossessions and foreclosures for consumers and businesses affected by the flooding.
Oakland University in Rochester Hills has announced plans for the university to freeze tuition costs for Fall 2020. At the same time, the university is implementing additional health and safety measures to re-open safely and welcome students back this fall to the third safest campus in the country.
“We know that every Michigan family has suffered economic hardship during the coronavirus crisis; and, we know that by freezing tuition, new and returning students and families can plan their budgets accordingly,” says Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, president of Oakland University. “In addition, we are actively working with students and their families to identify financial aid packages to ensure that an Oakland University education is affordable for every qualified student.”