COVID-19 Update: Change of Leadership at CMS Energy, Workers Returning to Unemployment Should Reopen Previous Claim, and More

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.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Nov. 17

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.

Patti Poppe Steps Down as CEO of CMS Energy, Garrick Rochow Named President and CEO
CMS Energy in Jackson announced today that Patti Poppe is leaving the company, effective Dec. 1, to become CEO at PG&E Corp. in California. Garrick Rochow, current executive vice president of operations, will succeed Poppe as CMS Energy and Consumers Energy president and chief executive officer and on CMS Energy’s Board of Directors.

Poppe has served as president and CEO of CMS Energy and Consumers Energy since 2016.

“I’m pleased to announce Garrick Rochow as president and CEO of CMS Energy and Consumers Energy,” says John G. Russell, chairman of the CMS Energy Board of Directors. “Garrick’s leadership approach, vast industry, and company expertise will take CMS Energy and Consumers Energy to the next level. You can count on CMS Energy to have consistent and predictable performance because of our strong succession planning and the quality of our executive team. I wish Patti the best of luck.”

Poppe says, “Since 2011, I have considered CMS Energy as my home and my co-workers as my family and I will miss everyone immensely. Garrick is a world-class leader and will continue to deliver on the triple bottom line of people, planet, and prosperity as we have for many years now.”

Rochow, 46, has been with CMS Energy for 17 years, with more than 20 years of industry experience, and has been in his current position since July 2016. In this role, he is responsible for the company’s electric and natural gas distribution and transmission operations, generation, and compression operations. Previously, Rochow served in a variety of leadership positions across the business as Consumers Energy’s senior vice president of distribution and customer operations, vice president of customer experience, rates and regulation, and quality and chief customer officer after serving as vice president of energy delivery. He also works closely with the Michigan Public Service Commission, state and federal legislators, and is on the Board of Directors of the Right Place in Grand Rapids.

Rochow graduated from Michigan Technological University in Houghton with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. He also has attended an executive education program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead a company with amazing co-workers who make a difference every day for our customers, investors and the communities we serve,” says Rochow. “I look forward to continuing our strong operational and financial performance, while creating an environment that keeps our customers and co-workers safe, reflects our culture and is inclusive and respectful of everyone.”

Patti Poppe was featured in the 2018 Powered by Women feature in DBusiness magazine

Workers Returning to Unemployment Should Reopen Previous Claim
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has announced that workers who were on unemployment, went back to work, and are now temporarily unemployed again due to COVID-19 can reopen their claim online.

“The UIA has increased capacity, improved workflow, and other internal systems, and reduced red tape to meet the unprecedented level of claims that have been filed since the pandemic began,” says Liza Estlund Olson, acting director of UIA. “These efforts have positioned the agency to better deal with large fluctuations of demand if necessary.”

Olson says server capacity has been increased to ensure any demand spikes related to MiWAM account access can be accommodated. In addition, customer facing staff has more than tripled. Before the pandemic, the UIA had around 650 staff. Currently, more than 2,000 UIA employees are helping claimants – this includes answering phones through the call center, making proactive calls, answering questions online, solving technical issues, and adjudicating claims.

Tips to reopening an existing claim:

  • Do not create a new account. Use the same MiLogin and MiWAM username and password used previously.
  • Reopen a claim on the first day of unemployment or reduced work hours and wages.
  • Have the Employer Account Number or Federal Identification Number available. It may be provided by your employer or found on an employee’s W-2.
  • Payments will be made using the same payment method previously selected.
  • Claimants should read and respond to all requests for information to avoid payment delays.
  • When certifying for benefits, be sure to report your gross earnings (amount before taxes and other deductions) in the week in which they were earned, not when you were paid.
  • After you have completed your claim, a confirmation page will display the date of your next certification, please take note.

More information on filing or reopening an unemployment claim, including FAQs, tutorial videos and other resources are available here.

Michigan employers are encouraged to file an Employer Filed Claims online on behalf of their full-time workers who are temporarily or permanently laid off. This fast, secure way of transferring claims information allows employers to better manage the accuracy of the information provided to the UIA. An EFC replaces the need for an individual worker to reopen their claim. For more information on EFC, visit here.

Employers looking to avoid layoffs or bring employees back from unemployment are encouraged to use the state’s Work Share program. The federally funded program has provided $475 million in benefits and helped nearly 2,700 Michigan employers since March 15. The flexible program allows job providers to retain their skilled workforce and avoid layoffs by reducing employee hours while employees collect partial unemployment benefits to make up for the lost wages.

With almost 97,000 employees participating at the peak of enrollment, Michigan’s program has led the nation and far outpaced even the combined totals of larger states like NY, OH and TX. For more information, visit here.

Since March 15, more than 2.3 million certifying, potentially eligible claimants have applied for state and federal benefits, with more than $26 billion in benefits paid to over 2.2 million workers, or roughly 96 percent of potentially eligible, certifying claimants. There currently are around 71,000 claimants needing ID verification and around 9,000 in the adjudication process, which requires a one-on-one review of their claim.

Initiative Launches to Provide Free Financial Resources for Nonprofit Leaders of Color
IFF has expanded its Stronger Nonprofits Initiative — a free program providing nonprofit leaders of color with greater access to financial management tools and real estate planning resources.

Ten Detroit-based nonprofits will comprise the next cohort, which will participate in a 14-month curriculum presented by IFF and Fiscal Management Associates. The program is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase.

“The goal of SNI is to diminish structural barriers leaders of colors face in accessing financial management and real estate resources so they can fulfill their missions for years to come,” says managing director of lending at SNI. “Now more than ever, it is important for nonprofits led by people of color to remain resilient. Our program allows leaders to address the changing needs of their organizations, adopt new best practices and ensure they continue to have a strong foothold in their communities as they continue to navigate daily demands and unforeseen crises.”

The 10 organizations, including Connect Detroit, COTS, EcoWorks, HELP, HeritageWorks, InsideOut Literary, Jefferson East Inc., Plowshares Theatre, Southwest Detroit Business Association and Urban Neighborhoods Initiative, will participate in a comprehensive curriculum including: virtual training sessions focused on team-based financial management, one-on-one financial coaching, customized real estate consulting, expert panel discussions, special networking opportunities, and other events.

“Collaboration among nonprofits, community partners, and business is critical to breaking down barriers of economic mobility and advancing inclusive economic growth,” says Jason Tinsley, Michigan market manager at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “Building the capacity of our nonprofit partners is key to this effort, and through the work of SNI Detroit, we are investing in the talent of nonprofit leaders of color and helping drive an economy that creates and sustains opportunity for all people.”

For more information, visit here.

Water Authority Approves Changes to Affordability, Conservation, COVID-19
The Great Lakes Water Authority Board of Directors has approved an exception to its Water Residential Assistance Program that will assist participants financially impacted by COVID-19.

The exception allows those enrolled in WRAP who are unable to make monthly payments on time due to issues related to COVID-19 to remain in the program and maintain eligibility to continue receiving monthly bill credits and arrearage payments through Dec. 31.

The board also approved changing the eligibility for households from 150 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and increased conservation and plumbing repair spending per eligible household from $1,000 to an average of $1,500 (with a cap of $2,000) per customer. In addition, for the first time since the program’s inception, eligible rental households now are able to take advantage of conservation and plumbing repairs offered through WRAP to help reduce their water consumption, if the landlord agrees not to increase rent for 12 months. These program changes became effective in GLWA’s Fiscal Year 2021, which began July 1.

“This expansion of WRAP will help us reach many more households in Detroit and the participating member communities who may be struggling to pay their water bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond,” says Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and a GLWA board member appointed by the city of Detroit. “For example, now that households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible, a family of four with up to $52,400 in combined income qualifies to participate. Prior to expansion, the maximum household income for a family of four was $36,450. This vote also expands what I believe is the most significant WRAP benefit — more dollars for minor home plumbing repairs to help homeowners, and now renters, get to an average monthly bill.”

GLWA’s budgeted WRAP funding for FY 2021 is $6.1 million. From March 2016 to June 30, $16.9 million in total GLWA funding has been committed to enrolled communities throughout southeast Michigan through WRAP.

“GLWA remains committed to WRAP, especially with the increased financial burdens from the economic impact of the global pandemic, and to ensuring that it is structured in a way that best assists our member communities and those they serve,” says Beverly Walker-Griffea, board chair and the representative appointed by the state of Michigan. “We are proud to offer our member partner communities this program, as it not only provides financial support, but it also puts enrolled households on a path toward self-sufficiency through the conservation education and assistance provided.”

WRAP, which is administered by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, provides qualifying customers with help in paying current and past-due water bills. Eligible customers receive a $25 monthly credit toward current water bills with any arrears suspended for 12-24 months. Participants are also eligible to receive a bill credit of up to $700 toward any arrearages. In 2018, the GLWA board updated WRAP to assist income-qualifying households with lead removal. The program now includes the replacement of kitchen and bathroom faucets predating the 1986 lead-free plumbing code change.

GLWA also announce that the Lake Orion now is enrolled as a WRAP participant community, and three additional communities have opted into the program and are actively negotiating a Memorandum of Agreement. WRAP has the potential to serve more than 100 communities within the GLWA service area, but to assist qualified households, each community must opt-in to the program and sign an MOA with Wayne Metro.

Eligible residents may apply for WRAP by calling 313-386-9727 or learn more here.

State Aims to Attract Talent Back to Michigan
Back to Michigan, a series of virtual job fairs for people interested in relocating back to Michigan, are being hosted throughout the state through Nov. 24.

During each of the virtual events – which are free to attend – job seekers can talk one-on-one with recruiters from organizations with immediate talent needs, and community ambassadors will be on hand to answer questions for those who may be considering a move back to Michigan.

The Back to Michigan event series is the COVID-friendly virtual version of events that typically happen on Thanksgiving weekend throughout Michigan.

“With COVID-related relocations on the rise, we knew we needed to give job seekers the chance to explore what a move to Michigan could look like for them,” says Rachel Gray, executive director of Hello West Michigan. “Even if someone wants to keep their current job and work remotely from Michigan, our community ambassadors will be answering questions about what it’s really like to live here.”

The events are targeted to people living outside of Michigan, people who recently relocated, or those who are local and seeking employment. Companies are hiring in many fields, including IT, engineering, finance, advanced manufacturing, health care, art and design, professional services, government, hospitality, and more.

“The unique challenges presented by COVID-19 required us to re-imagine how to best deliver the services and resources needed by our state’s workers and businesses,” says Stephanie Beckhorn, director of Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Employment & Training. “Providing this virtual job fair platform allows us to work with partner organizations – including the statewide Michigan Works! agencies and Back To Michigan – to support Michigan’s employers, career seekers and communities in a direct and meaningful way.”

The Back to Michigan virtual job fair events take place from 3-7 p.m., are free to attend, but advance registration is required. The events are scheduled include:

  • 18 – Northwest Lower Peninsula (Traverse City)
  • 19 – West Michigan (Grand Rapids)
  • 19 – Detroit/Flint
  • 23 – Lansing
  • 23 – Great Lakes Bay and Central Michigan
  • 24 – Northeast Lower Peninsula
  • 24 – Ann Arbor

State Sponsors a Workshop on Electric Vehicle Future in the UP
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is sponsoring the Michigan UP EV Readiness Workshop, a half-day virtual meeting designed to connect municipalities and business leaders in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to discuss what is needed to make Michigan EV infrastructure ready.

The meeting will take place on Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. To register, visit here.

The workshop will address topics including:

  • EV charging technologies.
  • The State of Michigan EV Charging Study.
  • EV charging station deployments – “What to Know Before You Break Ground.”
  • How UP utilities are getting EV ready.
  • EGLE EV charging station incentives and how to apply.

Lucido and LaFontaine Families Partner to Give Away Jewelry and Cadillac
Lucido Fine Jewelry with locations in Birmingham, Rochester, and Sterling Heights, and La Fontaine Cadillac Buick GMC in Highland Township are partnering to give away $30,000 in designer jewelry and a new Cadillac.

The two family-owned companies plan to present their prize to one random winner who shares their gratitude here by Nov. 22.

People are allowed to enter via the Lucido Facebook page and the website.

Urban League of Detroit to Celebrate Local Youth at 55th Annual Gala
The Urban League of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan will conduct its 55th Annual Guild Gala Luncheon on Saturday, Dec. 5, recognizing individuals with community service awards and celebrating the accomplishments of more than 100 youth in the community with its “Do the Right Thing” recognition.

This year’s gala will take place virtually beginning at 12:30 p.m. Individuals or interested companies can visit here to purchase tickets and learn more about sponsorship opportunities.

The league will honor Anthony T. White, artistic director for the Detroit Youth Concert Choir and Performing Arts Co., with the Community Service Award.

Tickets to attend the gala start at $50 for adults and $25 for youth. Admission includes the Virtual Guild Gala Experience, a virtual gift bag, membership to the Urban League of Detroit, and registration to the College Club (for youth). Event sponsors can receive multiple registrations and branding recognition among other benefits.

Proceeds from the Guild Gala directly support the Urban League’s education and workplace development programs such as the College Club-Project Ready program, which increases educational opportunities for youth pursuing post- secondary degrees by providing scholarship information and support to more than 150 students each year, while also providing enrichment activities such as leadership development, life skills, and financial literacy training.

City of Detroit Presents Bid for a Federal Choice Neighborhood Grant for Corktown
The Detroit City Council has signed off on the Duggan administration’s plan to compete for a federal Choice Neighborhoods grant for Corktown.

The plan draws upon the Greater Corktown Framework, which was developed following an 18-month effort by the City Planning and Development Department. Through the work of the Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD), and if Detroit is selected, Corktown and North Corktown would see $190 million invested in a total of 800 new units of quality affordable housing completed in seven phases over seven years. A winning bid also would mean millions in infrastructure improvements and better public spaces, more amenities and a community hub with child education and health services.

Following Council’s approvals Tuesday, HRD now will submit a bid for a Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) award through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which awards up to $30 million to implement a comprehensive strategy to transform neighborhoods. Cities around the country apply. HUD is expected to make its decision on the Choice award in late spring.

The city’s housing plan for this area calls for 80 percent of the units to be income-restricted to ensure affordable housing. Twenty percent of the units will serve households making up to 50 percent of AMI; 40 percent to serve households between 50 and 80 percent of AMI; and 20 percent to serve households from 80 to 120 percent AMI. The remainder would be market rate.

“The revitalization under way in our city is incredible, but we need to ensure that Detroiters who have stayed aren’t squeezed out of their neighborhoods,” says Donald Rencher, director of the City’s Housing and Revitalization Department. “With all of the economic development happening in Corktown, it is critical that there is affordable housing developed alongside it. Given the tremendous investment and trends that we are seeing, we are at an important time to ensure Corktown remains a place where Detroiters of all walks of life are welcome.”

The Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework planning process comes as Ford Motor Co. is investing $740 million in its new Detroit campus on the western edge of the neighborhood, bringing 5,000 direct and indirect jobs, as well as 2,000 construction jobs. This influx of workforce, as well as the 1.2 million square feet of commercial, retail and office space, is certain to generate an increase in demand for housing, as well as rising rents, which have already seen a steady increase as Detroit’s comeback under Mayor Mike Duggan continues to gain momentum.

For more information on the Greater Corktown planning process and housing plan, visit here.