COVID-19 Update: DEGC Distributes $7.25M in Federal COVID-19 Aid, Ann Arbor Biotech Firm Partners to Commercialize COVID-19 Test, 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
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Sept. 29

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.

Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Distributes $7.25M in Federal COVID-19 Aid to Small Businesses
The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. is distributing $7.25 million in aid to more than 900 Detroit small businesses as part of the Michigan Small Business Restart Program.

Grants of up to $20,000 are being awarded to businesses that have faced significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 virus. More than 70 percent of the total funds will be awarded to Black-, women- and veteran-owned businesses in Detroit.

“Protecting Detroit’s small businesses that have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 crisis is a key priority for the city,” says Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of DEGC. “Assistance from the Restart Program will help businesses suffering from lost revenue. Our entire community is coming together with resources to help our small businesses survive this crisis so we can protect jobs, economic growth and the neighborhood vibrancy that comes from the small business community.”

Approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund on July 7, the Michigan Small Business Restart Program allocates $100 million of federal CARES Act funding to provide support to Michigan’s small businesses and nonprofits that are reopening and have experienced a loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The funding was distributed by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. across 15 local or nonprofit economic development organizations covering all 83 counties in the state.

To be eligible for the grant program, businesses must employ fewer than 50 workers, demonstrate a net loss as a result of COVID-19 as well as a need for working capital.

Swift Biosciences Partners to Commercialize COVID-19 Test
Ann Arbor-based biotech firm Swift Biosciences is partnering with BillionToOne, a California diagnostics company, to manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 test kit.

Swift Bioscience will be the exclusive distributor of BillionToOne’s RNA extraction-free, Emergency Use Authorization COVID-19 test kit for high-capacity testing of up to a million tests per day. The test is designed to detect the virus that causes COVID-19 in respiratory specimens obtained from nasal swabs, nasopharyngeal swabs, or oropharyngeal swabs.

The BillionToOne COVID-19 test uses different sets of instruments and chemicals from existing COVID-19 tests, enabling labs to unlock a new set of unused capacity. The BillionToOne test sequences the virus’ genome – making the test sensitive, specific, and accurate compared to other COVID-19 tests on the market.

Most notable, according to the companies, this test does not require RNA extraction which is costly, time-consuming, and critical supply chain demands due to flu season will not negatively affect this workflow. Additionally, the test is easily adaptable for any clinical labs with Sanger Sequencers and requires minimal training.

“Early in the pandemic, Swift was quick to pivot and offer products for sequencing the SARS-CoV-2 genome and associated receptors like ACE2,” says Nathan Wood, CEO of Swift Biosciences. “By including the BillionToOne’s COVID Diagnostic Test Kit into Swift’s product portfolio, it allows us the opportunity to provide the full complement of tools to assist in the fight against COVID-19 in ways that were not possible before. Clinical laboratories can use their excess Sanger instruments to full capacity to do over 3,000 test per day per instrument.”

DMC Backs Out of Agreement to Develop Sports Medicine Institute
The Detroit Medical Center has decided not to pursue plans to lease space developed by Olympia Development for a sports medicine institute along Woodward Avenue north of Little Caesars Arena.

“After careful consideration, we have made the decision to focus on our core mission and the DMC will not move forward with plans to lease space for a sports medicine institute,” said the DMC in a statement. “Our decision allows us to reallocate resources appropriately in this changing environment.”

The DMC and Olympia Development of Michigan in 2018 announced a long-term agreement to build a state-of-the-art facility in The District Detroit.

Under the deal, the DMC was to lease a portion of the building to operate a sports medicine facility.

The five-story, 127,000-square-foot building at Woodward Avenue and Sproat Street is one of six projects that are part of Phase 2 of development in The District Detroit.

“The last several months have brought about unprecedented change for the health care industry,” said the DMC statement. “Stay-at-home orders and restrictions prohibiting elective procedures caused hospitals everywhere to reevaluate their core services.

“We appreciate the efforts of Olympia Development of Michigan and value our relationship with the organization. We have come to this decision in cooperation with them and we appreciate their support for the DMC’s core mission.”

Comcast Survey: Small- and Medium-business Owners Feel Prepared for a Second Wave of COVID-19
The majority (78 percent) of small- and medium-sized business owners say they are prepared for another COVID-19 spike, despite 86 percent experiencing a decline in revenue, according to the results of a survey released by Comcast Business.

Of those business owners who say they are ready for another pandemic spike, 46 percent said they are prepared after rethinking how they do business, serve customers (50 percent) and collaborate and communicate (45 percent).

Sixty-five percent of SMB-owners identified themselves as stressed due to the impact of COVID-19 on their business with 68 percent admitting to losing at least one hour of sleep per night. In addition to these personal stressors affecting SMB owners, the survey also revealed that small and mid-size businesses are:

  • Fast-tracking new technologies.
  • Teaching themselves how to adapt.
  • Feeling prepared for the future.

“Over the past six months, small- and mid-size businesses have shown tremendous resolve and agility,” says Eileen Diskin, chief marketing officer at Comcast Business. “This survey offers encouraging insights into the current mindset of SMB owners as they adapt their businesses for the future and prepare for the potential of a second spike in COVID-19 activity. The resiliency of SMB owners cannot be overstated.”

TechTown Coworking Classroom Addresses Childcare Concerns
TechTown Detroit has developed a pilot – the TechTown Coworking Classroom – designed to ease the uncertainty and stress of on-going childcare and educational needs while parents are working

According to TechTown, the coworking classroom is a safe learning alternative for children of members and tenants while parents work onsite at TechTown. The program includes educational services for remote learning in two, three-hour sessions each weekday. Sessions include multiple rooms of facilitated small group learning, where students will be assigned to age-appropriate groups. Each group will be supervised by two educational practitioners to support each child’s individual online learning experience. The program’s target launch date is Oct. 5.

TechTown’s educational practitioners include certified teachers, as well as practitioners with advanced degrees, able to support remote learning and tutoring requirements. In addition, they have selected The Lab Drawer — a STEAM education technology subscription service that pairs STEM and the Arts disciplines — as its extracurricular program partner to deliver an engaging cross-functional learning experience.

TechTown has developed strict guidelines for facilitators, parents, children, and staff based on its Safe Space Plan, as well as the CDC’s Guidelines for Schools. TechTown’s dedicated COVID-19 supervisors will provide specific training on safety policies and procedures for all participants.

Safety guidelines include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Temperature checks at building entry and reentry.
  • Required use of face masks while inside the building.
  • Sanitizing protocols and dedicated sanitizing staff.
  • Daily health screening requirements.

The cost is $100 per child per week for one three-hour session Monday-Friday, or $175 per child per week for two sessions. For those interested in enrolling more than one student, TechTown offers a 25 percent multi-child discount. Households in need of financial assistance will receive discounted pricing on a sliding scale.

The program is open to TechTown members, tenants, and staff and requires parents to physically be located within the building while their children are on site. Anyone outside of the organization must sign a TechTown membership agreement prior to enrolling their children.To ensure the highest quality experience and ability to meet specific learning requirements, each child will need a laptop, headphones, and their required school curriculum to participate. TechTown will help provide equipment for students that cannot afford the expense.

StreetWise Partners Joins Forces with Henry Ford Health System to Empower Metro Detroiters
StreetWise Partners, a nonprofit that serves economically vulnerable adults, has partnered with Henry Ford Health System to recruit mentors for StreetWise’s 13-week program and volunteers for one-time events like speed networking and mock interview day.

At a time when the health care industry is booming and eagerly seeking talent, this partnership exposes job seekers to industry insights, while providing Henry Ford Health System with a pipeline of diverse talent.

“At StreetWise, we see our role as a bridge between the private sector and the community. We have a track record of utilizing our program model to reduce the opportunity divide and look forward to continuing to build partnerships with corporations and community leaders to support a more inclusive Detroit,” says Shari Krull, executive director of StreetWise Partners.

With Henry Ford’s support, StreetWise Partners Detroit was able to graduate its second cohort of 30 mentees, who are already finding jobs, including at Henry Ford Health System.

According to StreetWise, on average, 85 percent of mentees graduate the program, 70 percent of graduates are employed within one year, with another 20 percent pursuing advanced training. Professional contacts increase from 0 to more than 100 in 13 weeks, and personal income grows from $10,000 to $37,000. Mentees from the program have landed jobs at companies such as Morgan Stanley, Viacom, and BNY Mellon, and more.

MDHHS joins CDC’S new suicide program, receives $4.35M to Address Suicide of Michigan Men
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has received $4.35 million in funding from the CDC to be used over the next five years to address suicide in adult men.

Suicide is a growing public health crisis that took more than 48,000 lives in the United States in 2018, according to the CDC. From 2014–2018, more than 6,700 Michiganders lost their lives to suicide.

Two-thirds of the suicide deaths in Michigan are adult men. Over the next five years, the newly funded MDHHS program Preventing Suicide in Michigan Men will work to reduce the number of deaths and attempts among men ages 25 and older by at least 10 percent. This will be accomplished through carefully planned, implemented, and evaluated prevention efforts within communities and health care, as well as upstream initiatives – before suicidal behavior even occurs.

“This year has been especially challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there are a number of stressors facing Michigan adults,” says Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer. “This grant will help us provide critical mental health supports to men and prevent suicide and the devastating impact suicide has on entire families and communities.”

The CDC’s new Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Program is the first to take a complete public health approach based on data and science to address the range of risk factors that contribute to suicide, particularly for vulnerable populations.

For more information, visit here.

Large Chicago Human Resource Company Expands to Michigan
Tandem HR, a large Midwest human resource outsourcing company headquartered in the Chicagoland area, recently opened an office at 211 N. First St. in Brighton.

Tandem HR partners with small-, mid-size, and enterprise businesses to provide HR solutions such as payroll processing, benefits administration, employment law compliance, risk management, and much more.

“Having spent the formative years of my life in Michigan, this expansion is a passion project, just as much as a business one for me,” says Salo Doko, president and COO of Tandem HR. “We’ve recently partnered with some amazing businesses in Michigan and a physical presence here will make it that much easier to deliver the high-touch and white-glove service our clients are accustomed to. I am extremely excited to bring our unique service model and offerings to Michigan to help businesses all over the state grow.”