COVID-19 Update: Comcast Expands Efforts to Bridge Digital Divide in State, Michigan Works! Southeast Receives $3M+ to Help Area Businesses, 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.
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chart of daily Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge

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.

Comcast Expands Efforts to Bridge Digital Divide in Michigan
After completing the launch of its first 20 WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” in Detroit in early January, Comcast says it will expand its program to help bridge the digital divide by establishing more locations across Michigan before the end of this year.

The COVID-19 crisis has put many low-income students at risk of being left behind and has accelerated the need for digital equity and internet adoption programs to support them. Lift Zones are designed to help those students who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to connect to distance learning at home.

Comcast provides WiFi hotspots in community safe spaces designed to help students get online, participate in distance learning and do their homework. Many of these sites also serve adults and can connect them to online adult education, job searches, health care information, and public assistance.

Any nonprofit organization, government agency, public housing, or other establishment that is interested in becoming a Comcast Lift Zone and is located within the company’s Michigan serviceable area can send an email to CENHRT_LiftZones@comcast.com for more information.

Criteria for becoming a Lift Zone include:

  • On-site adult supervision to monitor activity during all hours of operation.
  • Enforcement of COVID-safety protocols.
  • Allocation of adequate space with chairs and computers conducive for learning.
  • IT support.

“While the digital divide has been an ongoing challenge long before the outbreak of COVID-19, the past 10 months have brought this critical issue to the forefront for everyone,” says Tim Collins, senior vice president of Comcast in Michigan. “We have been dedicated to creating digital equity for nearly 10 years through our Internet Essentials program. Bringing more Lift Zones to Michigan neighborhoods where they’re needed most is an extension of our commitment.”

In the past 10 years, Internet Essentials has connected millions of people to the internet at home. It offers households low-cost, internet service for $9.95/month (plus additional taxes and fees), the option to purchase a heavily subsidized computer and multiple options for free digital literacy training. Comcast also is providing 60 days of free Internet Essentials service for qualifying low-income families that sign up before June 30, 2021. Additionally, the company increased speeds for all new and existing Internet Essentials customers at no additional cost.

For more information, visit here.

Michigan Works! Southeast Receives $3M+ to Help Area Businesses
Michigan Works! Southeast will receive more than $3 million from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to train workers at 91 companies in the five-county region.

Collectively, the 91 companies will train 1,337 employees, which includes 763 new hires and 299 U.S. Department of Labor registered apprenticeships.

The grant awards are part of the state’s Going PRO Talent Fund, which provides competitive awards for training that enhances talent, productivity, and employee retention while increasing the quality and competitiveness of Michigan’s businesses. It is designed to ensure that employers have the talent they need to compete and grow nationally and globally, and that people have the in-demand skills they need for good jobs.

“I want to thank all of our local businesses for trusting our Business Services Team with assisting them through the GPTF application process,” says Shamar Herron, director of Michigan Works! Southeast. “COVID has disrupted how we work, and these trainings will help workers and their companies across our five-county region to thrive in today’s economy.”

Tom Robinson, business services manager for Michigan Works! Southeast, says the MWSE Business Service team will be working closely with these companies during the next few months to ensure they achieve their training goals.

“Going Pro Talent Fund” grant dollars help new and existing employees gain the skills they need to be perform their jobs safely and effectively,” says Robinson. “We are excited about the number of registered apprenticeships in our region benefiting from this grant.”

This collaboration was made possible through a partnership with Ann Arbor SPARK.

Detroit’s Research America Acquires Segmedica in New York
Research America Inc., with its primary offices located in Detroit, Cincinnati, and the Philadelphia area, has acquired Segmedica, a market research and consulting firm located in Buffalo, N.Y.

This expansion brings Research America’s number of acquisitions during the past six years to 16. Each of these acquisitions has created new capabilities for Research America, providing clients with all-inclusive services completed by one united team.

Segmedica works in the field of applying the behavioral sciences to health care and wellness consulting, market research, and market segmentation.

“We are excited to welcome Peter and Donna Simpson of Segmedica to our family of leading market research companies,” says Amy Benner, vice president of Research America. “Their collaborative culture and entrepreneurial spirit are a perfect match with Research America’s, and their expertise in healthcare and wellness market research will synergize well with our existing research capabilities in those areas.”

Peter Simpson, principal at Segmedica, says, “Merging with Research America will absolutely extend and strengthen our areas of expertise.”

Research America has served multiple health and wellness clients including UC Health, Ethicon, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Ohio Health, Abbott Nutrition, and Roche Diagnostics.

Segmedica’s areas of expertise include:

  • Disease areas such as auto-immune, dermatology, pain management, oncology, cardiology, sexual dysfunction, gastroenterology, and ophthalmology.
  • Medical device areas such as cardiac, anesthesiology, diabetes, pulmonary, and surgical devices.
  • Consumer nutrition and nutraceuticals such as supplements, nutritional drinks, and more.
  • Consumer experience in areas such as disease management, general health and wellness, and retail food and beverage areas as they relate to health and wellness.
  • Health services such as integrated delivery systems, health insurance, ACOs, hospitals, physician practices, and medical distributors.

Five Organizations Get $275K from COVID-19 Arts Assistance Fund
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and CultureSource have announced that five organizations will receive $55,000 each for projects through the COVID-19 Arts and Creative Community Assistance Fund to creatively connect with their audiences while adhering to social distancing regulations.

The five organizations and projects that recently received funding include:

Michigan Opera Theatre: To produce boundary-pushing outdoor theatre experiences that deliver live performance opportunities by the Michigan Opera Theatre and other partner organizations for a COVID- compliant summer season.

Detroit Historical Society: To develop, in collaboration with Design Core Detroit, a replicable and scalable model that blends community engagement, technology, and design to create revolutionary ways to experience Detroit’s history in public spaces.

Accent Pontiac: To implement the Porch Lessons program, an outdoor, socially distant music lesson initiative at students’ homes, along with offering wraparound support to Pontiac students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Heritage Works: To create new sites of community connection, wisdom, and regeneration by combining the innovations of digital and web-based community building and creative placemaking with West African culture traditions and arts.

Young Nation: To construct a casita in southwest Detroit that facilitates arts-based popular education sessions to build neighbor relationships and create art that activates conversation and collective responses to community needs and challenges.

“These arts projects represent creativity and ingenuity in serving communities,” says Omari Rush, executive director of CultureSource. “We can all be proud that organizations like these awardees exist throughout southeast Michigan and are undeterred in helping keep our region vibrant and prosperous.”

The COVID-19 Arts and Creative Community Assistance Fund was launched in 2020 to help nonprofit arts and culture organizations relieve financial pressures generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for and pivot to new mission-related opportunities.

The fund is supported by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, DeRoy Testamentary Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Leinweber Foundation, Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Peck Foundation, and William Davidson Foundation.

Michigan Good Food Fund Invests $17M in Five Years
Ann Arbor-based Michigan Good Food Fund has invested $17 million in Michigan-based food businesses in its first five years, according to its recently released five-year evaluation report.

The first initiative of its kind in Michigan, supports businesses from farm to fork working to increase healthy food access and create economic opportunities in communities that need it most.

To date, it has supported more than 300 Michigan businesses with financing or business assistance, which in turn have created or retained more than 1,000 jobs in the state. Of those supported, 53 percent have been owned by people of color and 52 percent led by women. In addition, almost 80 percent support local sourcing, and 85 percent implemented at least one environmentally sustainable practice.

“Capital Impact Partners helped launch Michigan Good Food Fund as its inaugural administrative manager, leveraging our experience designing statewide healthy food financing initiatives,” says Olivia Rebanal, director of inclusive food systems at Capital Impact Partners. “We’ve been honored to lead the work to deliver deep impact to food enterprises statewide, and we remain committed to continuing to work to build more inclusive food systems in Michigan and in other areas of the United States.”

Michigan Good Food Fund was developed by four founding partners: Capital Impact Partners, Fair Food Network, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Initial funders, including The Kresge Foundation, Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, and Northern Trust Corporation also supported this innovative effort alongside federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative funding.

As the initiative grew, a network of lenders came together to support financing at different sizes while ensuring statewide coverage. Lending partners include Detroit Development Fund, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Lake Trust Credit Union, Michigan Women Forward, and Northern Initiatives. This collaboration of lenders can provide financing to good food enterprises ranging from $2,500 to $6 million. This year, Fair Food Fund, Fair Food Network’s impact investing arm, will become a lending partner bringing equity and near-equity capital products.

“Michigan Good Food Fund is a powerful mechanism to advance health equity for communities across the state,” says Mark Watson, managing director of the Fair Food Fund at Fair Food Network. “Leading this next chapter, we will make strategic investments in communities that build employment, health, and racial equity — whether it’s growing more equitable access to food, jobs, ownership, or flexible investment capital.”

Dickinson Wright Earns Top Marks in Human Rights Corporate Equality Index
The Troy-based Dickinson Wright law firm has received a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index, the nation’s leading benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality.

Dickinson Wright joins the ranks of 767 major U.S. businesses that also earned top marks this year.

“We were thrilled to participate in the 2021 Corporate Equality Index and honored to achieve a perfect 100 for the fourth year in a row,” says Michael Hammer, CEO of Dickinson Wright. “Our participation in the Corporate Equality Index reflects the firm’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace environment for all of our employees. At Dickinson Wright, we understand that hiring, training, integrating, and retaining a diverse workforce is at the core of our firm’s values and is instrumental to providing our clients with the best legal service.”

The results of the 2021 CEI showcase how 1,142 U.S.-based companies are not only promoting LGBTQ-friendly workplace policies in the U.S., but also for the 57 percent of CEI-rated companies with global operations who are helping advance the cause of LGBTQ inclusion in workplaces abroad. Dickinson Wright’s efforts in satisfying all of the CEI’s criteria earned a 100 percent ranking and the designation as one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.

The CEI rates employers providing these crucial protections to more than 18 million U.S. workers and an additional 17 million abroad. Companies rated in the CEI include Fortune magazine’s 500 largest publicly traded businesses, American Lawyer magazine’s top 200 revenue-grossing law firms, and hundreds of publicly and privately held mid- to large-sized businesses.

“From the previously unimaginable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, to a long overdue reckoning with racial injustice, 2020 was an unprecedented year,” says Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Yet, many businesses across the nation stepped up and continued to prioritize and champion LGBTQ equality. This year has shown us that tools like the CEI are crucial in the work to increase equity and inclusion in the workplace, but also that companies must breathe life into these policies and practices in real and tangible ways.”

The CEI rates companies on detailed criteria falling under four central pillars:

  • Non-discrimination policies across business entities.
  • Equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families.
  • Supporting an inclusive culture.
  • Corporate social responsibility.

The full report is available here.

Avoid Being Scammed While Waiting to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccination
As demand for COVID-19 vaccine continues to outpace the supply, scammers are preying on unsuspecting people who are eager to receive protection against COVID-19.

Top federal agencies including the FBI, FDA, and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings to consumers to be on the lookout for COVID-19 vaccine scams aimed at stealing personal and financial information.

“People should be extremely vigilant and wary of vaccination offers that don’t come from trusted sources like their doctor, healthcare provider, or local health department,” says Bob Riney, president of health care operations and COO of Henry Ford Health System. “The plain fact is that there is no charge to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is being paid for by the federal government. You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine, or to get early access, and you don’t need to provide sensitive personal information over the phone. Anyone promising that is trying to steal your personal or financial information, and very likely, your money.”

Riney says people should be especially wary of any of these warning signs that an offer for a COVID-19 vaccine is a hoax:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Requests asking you to pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.
  • Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine.
  • Offers to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or texts from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company, or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal, financial and/or medical information to determine your eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.
  • Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified.
  • Ads for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources.
  • A phone call or email telling you the government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Riney goes on to say that COVID-19 vaccination scams can also come in the form of someone pretending to be a health care worker. “Our team members would never call to ask for your sensitive personal and financial information. Anyone who receives a call like this from someone who identifies themselves as being from Henry Ford should just hang up.”

March 14 Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade is Canceled
The United Irish Societies announced today that the 63rd annual Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade scheduled for March 14 has been canceled, along with the related Corktown Races.

The parade typically attracts 80,000-100,000 people, making it one of the largest St. Patrick’s parades in the country featuring floats, marching bands, color guard units, and more.

With the coronavirus pandemic still prevalent across the U.S. and metro Detroit, however, parade leaders agreed cancellation was the best course of action to keep the community safe. Focus now is on the 2022 parade, which organizers expect to return “bigger and better than ever.”

“As we continue to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols, it became very clear that it would be difficult to promote and host the 2021 Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade in a way that maintained safety for our sponsors, members, participants, and viewers,” says Michael Kelly, president of UIS. “Therefore, with heartfelt disappointment, the UIS and Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade Committee have decided to cancel the 2021 Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade this year.

“We’re looking forward to the biggest and most successful Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade in our history on Sunday, March 13, 2022. We’ll transform Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, and Michigan Avenue, home to industry, dreamers, entrepreneurs, and more, into a celebration of Irish history, culture and opportunity.”

For more information, visit here.

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