COVID-19 Update: Details of CARES Bill Emerge, Ford Delivers First Medical Facemasks, State Ramps Up IT Capabilities, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
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map by Bridge of Michigan COVID-19 cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of March 26

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

COVID-19 Stimulus Package Details
The CARES bill approved last night by the U.S. Senate, which is expected to be approved today by the House of Representatives, and signed quickly into law by the president, creates a new Emergency Small Business Loan program for nonprofits or for-profit entities that were in existence since March 1 or earlier and have 500 or fewer employees. Under this new program, loans are forgivable if the nonprofit or for-profit keeps staff on the payroll between March 1 and June 30. This, in essence, turns the loan into a general operating support grant. Forgivable loans of this type can be taken out for as much as $10 million and can be used to meet payroll and associated costs (including health insurance premiums), facilities costs, and debt service.

The stimulus bill also calls for the creation of a loan and loan guarantee program via a new Industry Stabilization Fund specifically targeting mid-size organizations, defined as having between 500 and 10,000 employees.

This provision, unlike the emergency SBA loan program, does not provide loan forgiveness, but does mandate an interest rate of no higher than 2 percent and would not accrue interest or require repayments for the first six months. Nonprofits accepting the mid-size business loans must retain or rehire at least 90 percent of their staff at full compensation.

The existing Economic Injury Disaster Loans program provides loans of up to $2 million at an interest rate of 2.75 percent for nonprofits. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.

The relief bill would change the EIDL to eliminate creditworthiness requirements and eligible nonprofits with 500 employees or fewer are supposed to be able to get checks for $10,000 within three days.

The stimulus bill also contains a one-time, above-the-line deduction for cash contributions of up to $300 made to certain qualifying charities. All taxpayers would be eligible to take the deduction, even people who use the standard deduction. The incentive applies to contributions made in 2020 and would be claimed on tax forms next year. The new deduction would not apply to non-cash gifts or to gifts contributed to donor advised funds.

For the 8 percent of individual taxpayers who itemize their deductions, the bill would suspend for 2020 the normal limit on deductions for contributions, ordinarily 50 percent of adjusted gross income or 60 percent for cash. For corporations, the limit on deductions for contributions, ordinarily 10 percent of AGI, is elevated to 25 percent for 2020. Food donations from corporations would be available to 25 percent, up from the current 15 percent cap.

Hospitals
As of 4 p.m., March 26, Beaumont Health hospitals cared for 650 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 200 patients with pending tests. The health system already has been transferring some COVID-19 patients between its sites as part of the system’s overall on-going disaster plan.

“The number of patients coming to our emergency rooms continues to grow rapidly,” says John Fox, CEO of Belmont Health. “We have decided to create dedicated surge capacity to care for more COVID-19 patients at locations such as Beaumont Hospital, Wayne. Also, on a limited basis, we are partnering with other Michigan health systems with capacity for COVID-19 to move patients outside Beaumont for care.”

To allow more COVID-19 patients to be cared for, the emergency center at Beaumont Wayne and obstetrical services will be temporarily closed as soon as possible. Patients who need emergency care, even for COVID-19, should seek medical attention at the nearby Beaumont Canton Emergency Center or another hospital. Curbside screening for COVID-19 at Beaumont, Wayne also will close.

Obstetrical services will be coordinated carefully to ensure patients receive the care they need at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn. Patients and physicians affected by this change in obstetrical care will be contacted individually regarding next steps.

Utilities
Due to COVID-19, Major utilities including the state’s two largest, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, have enacted moratoriums on service disconnections, and are extending flexible payment plans, for low-income customers, seniors and those impacted by illness or job losses related to the pandemic.

Utilities, including those regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission as well as municipal and cooperative owned utilities, have instituted policies to help protect vulnerable customers during this crisis, ranging from suspended disconnections and assistance to reconnect service to payment assistance.

Funds also are available through partnering organizations to help eligible customers who are behind on their utility bills. In an effort to serve Michigan families struggling with energy costs related to COVID-19 as effectively as possible, the Department of Health and Human Services will take a number of actions to streamline the application process for its primary energy assistance program, State Emergency Relief.

Home energy assistance

  • Be Proactive – Contact your utility company as soon as you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time.
  • Call 2-1-1 or click on www.mi211.org to learn about agencies in your county that may assist with your energy bill.
  • State Emergency Relief (SER) may help low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills, assist in keeping utilities in service, or have service restored. The program is available year-round. Call your local Department of Health and Human Services office for information or apply on MI Bridges. Households must apply for SER assistance prior to receiving any Michigan Energy Assistance Program services.
  • The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) works with households to provide supplemental bill payment assistance and self-sufficiency services to low-income residents statewide. At the time of SER application, applicants will be able to choose a MEAP provider to work with. A list of organizations that deliver MEAP services can be found on the MPSC’s website. MEAP grantees are all community partners with MDHHS and can help applicants to navigate the MDHHS application process.
  • Connect with an MDHHS community partner to help work through the process of applying for assistance.
  • Home Heating Credit qualified persons may receive a credit to help pay winter heating bills. Apply for a Home Heating Credit if you are low-income or receive public assistance or unemployment compensation. Eligible customers must meet guidelines based on household income, exemptions and heating costs. You must apply by Sept. 30 each year. The application form (MI-1040CR-7) can be requested from the Michigan Department of Treasury at 517-636-4486, or visit website at www.michigan.gov/treasury.

Automaker Response
Karmanos Cancer Institute, Henry Ford Health Systems, St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital, and the VA Medical Center Ann Arbor today will receive the first shipments of FDA-approved face shields produced by Dearborn’s Ford Motor Co.

Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3-D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.

In addition, last week, Ford said it was joining forces with firms including 3M and GE Healthcare to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders, and patients fighting COVID-19.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world,” says Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford. “It is a time for action and cooperation. By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis. At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

Auburn Hills’ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today announced that it is in the process of converting its first plant to produce face masks for donation to first responders and health care workers. The first machinery has been delivered and installed with supply and donation coming on stream in the coming weeks.

Following the first actions taken to start face mask production, the company now is investing technical, logistical, and manufacturing resources in medical equipment and personal protective equipment. With the donation of face masks produced by the company starting in the coming weeks, the company will invest to extend that production capacity to other plants and ultimately donate masks to first responders and health care workers across the world. Drawing on experience from the company’s engineering and logistics team in Italy who are assisting a local ventilator manufacturer, FCA is engaged with other companies producing ventilators and other much needed medical equipment and PPE.

FCA also is expanding its program of measures to support COVID-19 relief efforts, focused on two principal areas: charities providing food services to children and support for a range of technical, logistical, and manufacturing programs, such as face mask production.

“There has never been a more important moment to help children and their families with vital needs in our communities than during this time of great uncertainty,” says Mike Manley, CEO of FCA.

Other Industries Mobilize
Chaco, the Rockford-based outdoor lifestyle footwear brand, announced today that it has shifted the focus of its ReChaco factory and mobile factory bus from sandal repairs and product customization to the production of face masks and other critical protective equipment needed by healthcare and other first responders working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Michigan issued a statewide stay at home order on March 23, Chaco moved quickly to retrofit its factory to produce face masks, and also is exploring specs for the production of gowns and aprons. By sourcing patterns from local healthcare systems and collecting raw materials from parent company Wolverine Worldwide, Chaco was able to put the plan in motion in a matter of days.

The ReChaco factory is equipped with industrial sewing machines, ample backstock of materials, and is staffed by a production team with decades of professional sewing expertise.

In addition to the ReChaco factory, Chaco will deploy its ReChaco Mobile Repair Factory bus, currently in Portland, Ore. to make supplies. The bus was developed to customize and repair Chaco sandals during the brand’s 2020 Roving Repairs Summer Tour. Outfitted with sewing machines, hot knives, and other equipment for making and mending sandals, the Chaco-trained staff will shift their focus to prototyping and producing protective equipment in the Pacific Northwest. Chaco is partnering with agency partner Field Scout and sister brand Merrell to source vetted fabric and materials for the initiative.

Small Business Assistance
The state today announced Michigan’s small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 virus can now apply for grants and loans through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The program went live today and will provide up to $20 million in grants and loans to provide economic assistance to Michigan’s small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and in turn help support workers and their families facing economic uncertainty during the outbreak. Information on how to apply, as well as eligibility criteria, is available at www.michiganbusiness.org/covid19.

State Government
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget says it is continuing to make improvements to the MILogin secure login application that provides access to many state online services to adjust for the rapid increase in demand for online services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adding capacity to the system, managing the number of concurrent sessions, and continuous improvements to the infrastructure will improve the ability for residents to complete transactions during this time of unprecedented need.

“The state has never experienced an emergency of this magnitude that simultaneously increases the need for services while lessening the ability for personal connections,” says Brom Stibitz, state chief information officer and acting DTMB director. “We are asking for patience in the face of this unprecedented crisis while we are working around the clock to make it easier to complete online transactions.”

Since Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order went into effect, residents have turned to online options to renew driver’s licenses, apply for unemployment benefits, receive food assistance, and much more at a higher volume than ever before.

Before March, the average number of hourly transactions hovered around 5,000. Yesterday, March 26, MILogin processed approximately 25,000 transactions per hour, but still more capacity is needed to meet the current demand.

For more COVID-19 information, visit here.

Michigan Employment
Michigan officials released February employment data on Thursday, which does not reflect the recent economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The data shows seasonally adjusted jobless rate receded by two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.6 percent in February, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. The state’s employment level advanced by 10,000, while the number of unemployed fell by 7,000, resulting in a monthly workforce addition of 3,000.

At the same time, the national unemployment rate edged down by a tenth of a percentage point to 3.5 percent in February. Michigan’s rate was just 0.1 percentage points above the U.S. rate. Over the year, the national jobless rate moved down by 0.3 percentage points, while the statewide rate declined by 0.6 percentage points. Note: State employment estimates are produced on a monthly basis using employment information from the week of the 12th of each month. The current data covers labor market trends for the week of Feb. 9-15, 2020.

Meals for Detroit Children
Starting Monday, March 30, the city of Detroit is adding additional recreation centers to its curbside food distribution program, and increasing the number of meals it’s serving to ensure needs in the community are met during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since schools closed two weeks ago, the city and its Department of Recreation has provided nearly 30,000 meals to Detroit children. Many of Detroit’s children rely on their schools to provide daily meals.

Meal pick-up will be provided at the following city recreation centers (Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.):

  • Adams Butzel Recreation Center, 10500 Lyndon
  • Farwell Recreation Center, 2711 E. Outer Drive
  • Kemeny Recreation Center, 2260 S. Fort St.
  • Patton Recreation Center, 2301 Woodmere

Meal pick up will be provided at the following city recreation centers (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 8:30 a.m.-1:30 pm.):

  • Crowell Recreation Center, 16630 Lahser
  • Lasky Recreation Center, 13200 Fenelon

This move will allow Detroit to serve nearly 40,000 meals to its children every week. A complete list of places where Detroit children, families, and seniors can pick up meals and groceries can be found here.

Hotels
The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit hotel closed its doors at midnight Wednesday and could remain closed for weeks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to the shutdown of the NBA season, two Utah Jazz players, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive after staying at the upscale Washington Boulevard hotel for a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Hotel staff told the Detroit Free Press that the closure could last for as long as 90 days.

Although hotels are one of the essential businesses permitted to remain open in Michigan under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, hotels are struggling to fill rooms as the COVID-19 outbreak caused most travelers to cancel trips.

Rochester’s Royal Park Hotel also has closed because of the pandemic and isn’t expected to reopen before April 15.

Virtual Annual Meetings
In a new sign of the times that many companies will or have adopted, Kellogg Co. in Battle Creek today announced that, due to the public health impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, its 1 p.m. April 24 annual meeting of shareowners has been changed to a virtual meeting. Shareowners will not be able to attend the annual meeting in person this year.

Shareowners are entitled to participate in the Annual Meeting if they were a shareowner as of the close of business on Feb. 28, the record date, or hold a legal proxy for the meeting provided by the shareowner’s bank, broker, or nominee.

To take part in the Annual Meeting, shareowners can join the webcast here and must enter the control number found on the shareowner’s proxy card, voting instruction form, or notice previously received by shareowners. Those without a control number may attend as guests of the meeting, but will not have the option to vote shares or ask questions during the virtual event.

Mackinac Conference
The 2020 Mackinac Policy Conference, the 40th edition of the annual meeting of the minds, has been moved to August amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Detroit Regional Chamber announced.

Originally scheduled to take place May 26-29, the event will go on Aug. 10-13. For information on canceling or transferring registration, contact Marianne Bogard at mbogard@detroitchamber.com or 313-596-0479. The deadline to cancel is July 10. For information on how to change hotel reservation, email info@mackinacisland.org or call 800-454-5227.

Indy 500 Postponed
The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, now owned and operated by Bloomfield Hills businessman Roger Penske, has been postponed until Aug. 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The month of May at IMS is my favorite time of year and like our fans, I’m disappointed we’ve had to reschedule the Indy 500,” Penske said in a statement. “We’re going to double-down on the customer experience in the months ahead and I’m confident we’ll greet fans with a transformed facility and a world-class spectacle when we run the world’s greatest race later this year.”

Retail
Zeidman’s Jewelry and Loan in Southfield and Detroit has introduced a new loan program for families in need of immediate cash flow during the COVID-19 pandemic by using their jewelry as collateral to get a short-term loan.

Individuals who bring in jewelry, diamonds, gold, or high-end watches to Zeidman’s will have their items evaluated for loan value, based on the weight of the gold, the weight and quality of the diamond, and quality of the watches. They will then receive an immediate cash loan for the value of their jewelry to be held as collateral. Loans are issued for 90 days and are renewable.  Customers must pay the state allowed rate of 3 percent per month, plus a $3 storage fee. To further help customers, Zeidman’s is extending its regular 14-day grace period on loans to 30 days. If more time is needed, customers can pay interest and storage fee and renew the loan as many times as needed for as long as necessary.

School Support
The Amazon Future Engineer program is providing free access to sponsored computer science courses in the U.S., which is for independent learners in grades 6-12, and teachers who are remotely teaching this age group. Parents also can access this curriculum.

As of today, Amazon Future Engineer is offering a virtual robotics program through partners CoderZ. The fully sequenced course accommodates age levels from second grade with block-based coding to high school with text-based coding.

Amazon Future Engineer also is providing access to EarSketch, a free program that helps students learn to code through music. Grammy-award winning artists Ciara and Common both have provided studio-quality music STEMs that students can remix from home using code.

The Amazon Future Engineer program can be accessed here.

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