COVID-19 Update: FCA Hires 4,100 Detroiters, City Council Approves Amazon Development, Rugiero Promise Foundation Auction Benefits U-M Medicine Center for Diabetes, 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.
graph of number of coronavirus cases in Michigan
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.

FCA Hires 4,100 Detroiters, City Council Approves Amazon Development at Fairgrounds
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has hired 4,100 Detroit residents for production jobs at its new Mack Assembly plant and expansion of the nearby Jefferson North plant, according to Mayor Mike Duggan and FCA officials.

Of the new Detroit hires, 3,400 already are working at other area FCA plants in Warren, Sterling Heights, and Jefferson North. The jobs start at $17 per hour and include benefits.

The focus on hiring Detroit residents comes from a deal struck between the city and the automaker when the latter decided to invest $2.5 billion in the city.

“The contract provides that whenever FCA is hiring, a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, they have to interview from the Detroit list first and then they can move on, and we are going to be committed to making sure there is always a supply of Detroiters first,” says Duggan.

Ron Stallworth, external affairs lead at FCA, says, “We know this workforce, we had confidence in this workforce, and we knew that Detroiters were ready to work, eager to work, had the passion to work, and that was very exciting and very comforting as we undertook this endeavor.”

In other Detroit employment news, Duggan announced that Detroit City Council approved the $400-million Amazon distribution center at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, which is expected to create 1,200 jobs in the city.

“Had we not landed this, those 1,200 jobs would have ended up in Rochester Hills instead of in Detroit,” Duggan says, adding that discussions are taking place to forge a hire-Detroiters deal with Amazon similar to the one with FCA.

Rugiero Promise Foundation Auction Benefits U-M Medicine Center for Diabetes
The Rugiero Promise Foundation in Canton Township is hosting a virtual auction to benefit the University of Michigan Medicine Center for Diabetes in Ann Arbor.

The Casino Royale Virtual Silent Auction takes place from noon on Oct. 22 through Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. It also offers opportunity drawings and other ways to donate.

Several families and organizations have pledged matching funds, including Jack and Annette Aronson ($10,000), Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation ($5,000), Ferrentino Foundation ($5,000), Celani Family Vineyards ($5,000), Signal Restoration ($5,000), Varsity Lincoln ($3,500), Syd Ross ($3,000), and Soave Enterprises ($3,000).

Other supporters include IACL Charitable Foundation, GHC Machinery, Italian Collision, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Roselli’s Whole Sale Foods, Joe Muer Seafood, Antonio’s Cucina Italiana, Roman Village, and Mamma Mucci.

The CDC has determined people with diabetes (one in 10 Americans) are at a higher risk for COVID-19 complications making the 2020 Virtual Casino Royale event more vital, according to the foundation, a 501 (c) 3 organization founded in 2011.

For more information and to participate in the auction, visit here.

City of Detroit Seeks Public Input for Transportation Plan
The city of Detroit is seeking input from city residents in developing a transportation plan it’s calling, Streets for People.

The plan has a singular focus – make it easier and safer for all Detroiters to move around city streets, whether walking, biking, driving, or via transit. It aims to knit together diverse neighborhoods, prioritize safety of the most vulnerable road users, and identify clear implementation and design strategies for roadway improvement. Most important, according to the city, it will be rooted in an inclusive planning process that gives a voice to the city’s residents who are most implicated by the transportation system.

Over the next several months, the city will host a series of virtual community engagement meetings, a text campaign, surveys, and website updates providing a platform for residents to share their thoughts and ideas on how to make city streets safer and easier to navigate, no matter the mode of transportation being used. Dates for these meetings will be available in the coming weeks. The transportation plan is set to be completed over the next 12 months by the Department of Public Works in partnership with MDOT, SEMCOG, city departments, and partner agencies.

Residents interested in providing input can visit here or text Streets for People to 313-509-1559. A video about the campaign can be seen here.

HUD Awards Nearly $867K in Housing Counseling Grants Across Michigan
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded more than $12.5 million in supplemental housing counseling grants, including nearly $867,000 throughout Michigan.

The grants will support quality housing counseling services, including the foreclosure avoidance and rental counseling services used by many families as they work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants awarded will directly support the housing counseling services provided by HUD-approved local housing counseling agencies, national and regional organizations, and state housing finance agencies who competed under HUD’s FY 2020 Supplemental Comprehensive Housing Counseling Grant Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) or HUD’s FY 2019/2020 Comprehensive Housing Counseling NOFA.

The Michigan agencies receiving funds include:

  • Greenpath Inc., Farmington Hills ($601,026).
  • Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Lansing ($211,291).
  • Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency Inc., Traverse City ($9,642).
  • Housing Services Mid Michigan, Charlotte ($8,607).
  • Grand Rapids Urban League, Grand Rapids ($8,083).
  • Community Action Agency, Jackson ($7,571).
  • Bay Area Housing Inc., Bay City ($7,441).
  • Oakland County, Pontiac ($7,203).
  • Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency, Pontiac ($6,016).

“This funding comes at exactly the right time to support the nation’s homeowners and renters who are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and who can benefit from the assistance of a housing counselor to remain in their homes,” says Ben Carson, secretary of HUD.

Priority Health Launches Virtual-first Coverage Option

Grand Rapids-based Priority Health has unveiled its new MyPriority Telehealth PCP plans that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

The new plans are designed for consumers who are seeking health coverage that is virtual-first and are comfortable with online interactions with providers. Priority Health is the first insurer in Michigan to offer this type of virtual-first product.

“There is no doubt that telehealth is here to stay,” says Carrie Kincaid, vice president of individual markets at Priority Health. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a massive and sudden shift in the way health care is typically delivered, and many consumers used virtual care for the first time.

“With more and more people realizing that telehealth can be a safe and convenient option for certain types of care, we knew that now was the right time to launch this innovative plan option.”

Members who choose one of the MyPriority Telehealth PCP plans will have a doctor assigned as their primary care physician through Doctor on Demand and all visits will take place virtually. The member will need a referral from their doctor to seek care in a traditional office setting with a specialist, as needed. Emergency care does not have this same restriction.

The new Telehealth PCP plan options, while virtual-first, still provide members with the same level of comprehensive coverage as a traditional plan. Members who choose a Telehealth PCP plan will have full coverage for preventive care and also will have access to added benefits like reduced copays on prescription drugs, diabetes, and chronic condition management, global emergency assistance through Assist America, and discounted prices for gym memberships.

Cleary University Launches Search for New President
Cleary University in Howell, which has an education center in Detroit, has launched a nationwide search for a new president to replace Jayson Boyers who resigned.

Cleary officials say they are looking for a leader that will expand enrollment and build brand awareness as a leader among both traditional and non-traditional students, undergraduate to graduate level education. Provost Emily Barnes is serving as interim president.

“We are confident in the value of a Cleary education and the possibilities that our unique Business Arts curriculum, The Cleary Mind, instills in our students at every level,” says Glynis McBain of the Cleary Board of Trustees. “We are committed to ensuring that the next Cleary president will continue our vision and mission into the future.”

Cleary is working with Academic Search, the first executive recruitment practice in the nation founded specifically to serve the hiring needs of colleges and universities, in the search process.

All inquiries related to the search should be forwarded to

MDHHS Provides COVID-19 Guidance for Holiday Travel and Gatherings
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has issued guidance on how to travel and gather safely during the holidays.

“Celebrating the holiday season with family and friends is one of our most cherished traditions,” says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive. “Even though the way we celebrate may have to be different, the guidance issued today shows there are still many ways to spend quality time with family and friends safely during this festive season.”

Traveling and in-person gatherings increase the chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you decide to travel for the holidays, however, follow these safety measures to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask and keep your nose and mouth covered when in public places.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not from your household.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

In addition to the MDHHS guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the following resources to help determine if you should travel during the holidays:

Individuals who should avoid attending or hosting in-person holiday celebrations with people who do not live in their household, include those who:

  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others.
  • Have symptoms of COVID-19 or are waiting for COVID-19 viral test results.
  • May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • Are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness.

The new guidance also urges Michiganders to consider hosting virtual festivities instead of in-person holiday gatherings if there is a risk of community spread based on the risk identified in the MI Safe Start map. If an in-person gathering is hosted, it should be held outdoors if possible. Indoor festivities should avoid crowded, poorly ventilated or fully enclosed indoor spaces, and should be limited to 10 people or less per MDHHS Oct. 9 Emergency Epidemic Order. In addition, attendees of indoor or outdoor festivities should:

  • Social distance.
  • Wear cloth masks.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep safe around food drinks, including following good hygiene and limiting the amount of people in areas where food is prepared.
  • Bring food and drinks for themselves and members of their household. Avoid potluck gatherings.
  • Have one person serve all shareable food and consider using single-use items for condiments, plates and utensils.

Read the full “Celebrating the Holidays During COVID-19” guidance for additional tips to consider before, during and after a gathering to stay safe this holiday season.

Marketing Professionals Team Up to Tackle Social Isolation Among Seniors
Veteran marketing professionals Tom and Susan Wilson and Nancy Wellinger have joined forces to found Notes to Brighten, a company – based in both Detroit and Minneapolis – focused on creating and mailing out personalized cards every week to brighten the spirits of isolated seniors.

Notes to Brighten is a monthly subscription service that sends out seasonally themed cards to any aging relative or friend, with a personal sign-off chosen by the sender. They feature photography and copy that offers a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The cost per card, including postage and handling, is less than $5.

“Aging seniors love getting snail mail – they look forward to getting our cards every week,” explains Susan Wilson. “They’re so much more than cards. They’re reminders that someone is thinking about them, that they’re loved. And that warm feeling washes over them every time they reread the card.”

For more information, visit here.

Butzel Long Receives Community Partner Award from United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan
Detroit law firm Butzel Long has received the Community Partner Award from Michigan United Cerebral Palsy during an Oct. 16 virtual presentation. The award recognizes a person or organization that has excelled in partnering with MI-UCP to advance its mission and serve the interests of people with disabilities.

Butzel Long has assisted the nonprofit organization over the years with pro bono work and has served as a sponsor for some of the events including a recent golf outing. Butzel Long shareholder Jennifer Dukarski was the keynote speaker at a 2018 MI-UCP event discussing the future of autonomous vehicles and the possibilities for people with disabilities.

“For years, I have served as a volunteer in various leadership roles at the local and national level with United Cerebral Palsy,” says Mark Lezotte, a Butzel Long shareholder and a 2019 recipient of the United Cerebral Palsy National Chair’s Award. “We are honored to receive this very special recognition and applaud UCP for all they do to protect the equal rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.”

Public Television Stations Partner with Michigan Educators to Build New Learning Service
Michigan’s public television stations, in partnership with leading educators and community leaders, have announced the creation of the Michigan Learning Channel.

Organized by Detroit Public TV, the network will deliver instructional content programming to students, parents, and teachers, using a wide variety of media platforms, including a system of dedicated broadcast channels.

The Michigan Learning Channel is scheduled to begin on Jan. 4, 2021, providing curriculum-aligned instructional resources for students and teachers, beginning with pre-K to 3rd grade content and expanding to include grades 4 to 12.

When fully developed, the MLC will include a statewide network of new broadcast channels, dedicated to bringing this content into homes throughout Michigan, overcoming limitations in online access for rural and urban areas alike.

In addition to Detroit Public TV, the network will include WKAR Public Media from Michigan State University, Delta College Public Media, WGVU Public Media from Grand Valley State University, WCMU Public Media from Central Michigan University, and WNMU-TV from Northern Michigan University.

Detroit Public TV will carry this programming over the air on a new Channel 56.5. But it will also be available as a livestream as well as posted for on-demand viewing on a variety of digital and social media platforms, ensuring accessibility to all students, educators and families in the state.

WOMC-FM Radiothon for Children’s Miracle Network to Air Nov. 19
WOMC 104.3 FM will host its third annual Radiothon to raise funds for children treated at Beaumont Children’s, a Children’s Miracle Network hospital, on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Anchoring the production will be WOMC personalities JoAnne Purtan, Jim Johnson, Beau Daniels, and Aricka McCauly.

Each year, the CMN Radiothon highlights the stories of local patients and families treated at Beaumont Children’s.

New to the radiothon will be the addition of The Red Tie Hour hosted by Annette and Jack Aronson. During the last hour of the event, proceeds will specifically fund the services of Beaumont’s Center for Exceptional Families (CEF) in Dearborn. CEF is supported by CMN donations. The hour will feature donors, matching gifts, and special guests. There also will be an online auction with unique items, virtual experiences, and holiday gift giving packages. The auction will open Nov. 6 here.