Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, below is a roundup of the latest announcements from our region, state, federal government, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message here.
The White House reported today President Trump is signing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The legislation provides economic assistance to American businesses, workers, and families, alleviating financial burdens experienced by those affected by the virus. The act provides free coronavirus diagnostic testing for Americans regardless of their economic circumstances or health coverage.
The act establishes tax credits to provide paid sick and family leave for coronavirus-related employment interruptions. Eligible workers who are sick with the virus, quarantined, taking care of someone affected, or caring for a child whose school has closed, will continue to be paid.
Employees will receive pay directly from their employers, rather than from a less-efficient government-run program. Though every dollar of required paid leave will be offset by tax credits for eligible employers, the act protects small businesses by offering an exemption in the rare event that paid leave requirements would jeopardize their business.
The legislation also incentivizes states to ease access to unemployment benefits, assisting Americans who may be unemployed due to the impact of the virus.
To support families and the most vulnerable, the bill also provides funding and flexibility for emergency nutritional aid for senior citizens, women, children, and low-income families.
To that end, this legislation offers free coronavirus testing – including free testing through commercial insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Indian Health Service, and TRI-CARE. As a result, testing is now available in all 50 states and we are testing faster than ever.
The state is extending the deadline for Michigan residents to pay back taxes and avoid foreclosure on their property during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Executive Order 2020-14, which takes effect immediately, will move the tax foreclosure deadline from March 31, 2020, to May 29, 2020, or 30 days after the state of emergency declared in Executive Order 2020-4 is terminated, whichever comes first. For more information, click here.
The state also will expand the capacity for child care services for health care workers, first responders, and other members of the essential workforce providing critical infrastructure to Michiganders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The order provides temporary and limited relief from certain regulatory restrictions regarding child care services and facilitates the use of certain property for child care services.
Executive Order 2020-16, effective immediately, authorizes the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to issue expedited provisional licenses to expand capacity for child care services. It also allows employers, like hospitals, to operate a disaster relief child care center for their employees. Finally, it allows both public and nonpublic school facilities to be utilized for the purposes of maintaining a disaster relief child care center focused on providing services for members of the essential workforce. For more information, click here.
In addition, the state on Wednesday issued a call up of the Michigan Army National Guard to assist the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with assembling and loading critical personal protective gear, such as gloves, gowns, and face shields. Once packaged, MDHHS will deliver the supplies to various local public health departments.
Detroit Regional Chamber
The Detroit Regional Chamber is launching a COVID-19 Tele-Town Hall Series to address concerns and disruptions caused by the coronavirus. The regular Tele-Town Halls will feature state federal leaders at the front lines of policy change as well as subject matter experts who can help regional business navigate the risks. Following each presentation, there will be a question and answer session with the guest speaker.
Confirmed speakers include Jeff Donofrio from the State of Michigan, Brian Calley, from the Small Business Association of Michigan, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, and U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens. Chamber leaders will moderate each session.
Friday, March 20 | 11:30 a.m.: Jeff Donofrio, the director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity will discuss the expansion of unemployment benefits and strategies for businesses to support employees.
Monday, March 23 | 11:30 a.m.: Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, will focus on the local and federal support available to small businesses, specifically the U.S. Small Business Association Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), and additional support to tap into.
All Tele-Town Halls and information on them can be accessed here.
The Chamber’s COVID-19 Business Resource Center can be found here.
With Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler announcing the suspension of North American operations through March 30, Butzel Long, a law firm in Detroit, is hosting a free webinar on Friday, May 20, from 9-10 a.m. To register, click here.
The webinar will focus on the legal rights and obligations of suppliers up and down the supply chain while providing guidance to protecting company interests. The ramifications to the supplier base loom large. Impacted suppliers should act now and assess their contractual rights, obligations, and potential liability, up and down the supply chain.
SCORE Detroit is sharing tips to help entrepreneurs capitalize on every deduction that is available during the crisis.
The basic business deductions the IRS offers are:
- Startup costs
- Business insurance
- Business vehicles
- Healthcare tax credits
- Interest paid on loans
- Business gifts
- Business travel
- Charitable contributions
- The cost of last year’s tax preparation
A comprehensive list of tax credits available to small businesses is posted at irs.gov. SCORE Detroit suggests entrepreneurs consider the following for additional tax relief:
- Disabled Access – for businesses that incur expenses related to hiring individuals with disabilities.
- Empowerment Zone Employment – for businesses that hire and retain employees who live within a federally designated empowerment zone.
- Work Opportunity – for those that hire individuals from certain targeted groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.
- Investment Credit – for expenses related to rehabilitation, energy, and reforestation investment.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced more than $118 million in grants to support local homeless assistance programs across the country. This round of HUD’s Continuum of Care grants will provide critically needed support to approximately 630 local programs on the front lines, serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
Of this round of national funding, Michigan was awarded more than $4.3 million to support 35 projects. The state was awarded more than $73 million for 274 projects in the first round of funding, bringing its total Continuum of Care award total for fiscal year 2019 to $77.7 million.
Michigan organizations receiving aid include:
|EightCAP, Inc. / Isabella PSH Dedicated+ FY19||Orleans||$98,412|
|Human Development Commission / Homeless Re-Housing Program Consolidated FY2019||Caro||$259,563|
|Staircase Youth Services. Inc. / Rapid Rehousing for Youth||Ludington||$181,788|
|Community Social Services of Wayne County / Teen Infant Parenting Services Program||Detroit||$362,392|
|Freedom House Detroit / New Beginnings||Detroit||$390,841|
|Neighborhood Service Organization / RRH FY19||Detroit||$309,058|
|Southwest Counseling Solutions, Inc. / CAM Rapid Rehousing Project 2019||Detroit||$79,957|
|First Step: Western Wayne County Project on Domestic Assault / First Step Aftercare/Transportation Renewal FY2019||Plymouth||$77,763|
|Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency / Renewal of WHNP1 FY 2019 NOFA||Wyandotte||$152,137|
|Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency / RRH Families Expansion FY2019||Wyandotte||$394,447|
|Community Housing Network, Inc. / Leasing Assistance Program 2 Renewal||Troy||$19,855|
|Comprehensive Youth Services / FYI RRH||Mount Clemens||$152,000|
|Comprehensive Youth Services / FYI TLP||Mount Clemens||$27,212|
|Perfecting Community Development Corporation / RRH 5||Sterling Heights||$26,204|
|Community Housing Network, Inc. / Rapid Re-Housing Program 2 Consolidation Renewal||Troy||$137,199|
|Lighthouse of Oakland County, Inc. / 2020-2021 LH RRH||Pontiac||$143,661|
|Metro Community Development, Inc. / CHI Renewal 2019||Flint||$64,914|
|Metro Community Development, Inc. / Coordinated Entry DV 2019||Flint||$50,000|
|Metro Community Development, Inc. / GCYC Youth Transitional Housing 2019||Flint||$188,537|
|Community Rebuilders / LOFT 2||Grand Rapids||$249,369|
|YWCA West Central Michigan / Project HEAL 2019||Grand Rapids||$132,188|
|City of Lansing / Transitions + RRH||Lansing||$141,387|
|SOS Community Services / SOS RRH for Families 2019||Ypsilanti||$374,078|
|Restoration Community Outreach / Safe Haven||Saginaw||$65,448|
|Lenawee Emergency and Affordable Housing Corporation / 2019 – Legacy Housing||Adrian||$6,185|
|Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan, Inc. / Supplemental Assistance for Facilities to Assist the Homeless||Traverse City||$688|
|Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, In / Welcome Home||West Allis||$3,102|
|Summit Pointe / HHAP FY 2019 Renewal Project||Battle Creek||$13,413|
|Monroe County Opportunity Program / MI-515 CoC Planning FY19||Monroe||$11,000|
|Women Empowering Women, Inc. / Paula’s House FY19||Monroe||$7,541|
|Every Woman’s Place, Inc. / PSH reallocated||Muskegon||$33,118|
|Community Action Agency / Mechanic Partnership Park Permanent Housing||Jackson||$58,862|
|Livingston County Community Mental Health Authority / 2019 Permanent Supportive Housing Scattered Site #3||Howell||$18,081|
|County of Ottawa / Permanent Housing Assistance for Homeless Persons with Disabilities||Holland||$94,613|
|Peckham, Inc. / I-EARN (Immediate Employment Assistance Resource Network)||Lansing||$39,744|
|Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority / Gateway House II SPC Phase II||Youngstown||$180,914|
|MICHIGAN TOTAL||$ 4,364,757|
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $3 million for high-performance computing, modeling, and simulation projects to improve manufacturing processes, including vital medical drugs and equipment. DOE will fund projects that aim to achieve national energy savings and improve or reduce the lifecycle energy consumption of the critical materials supply chain. Applicants are encouraged to partner with universities and non-profit organizations located within federally designated Opportunity Zones and/or Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Selected projects will be awarded up to $300,000 to support computer cycles and work performed by National Laboratories with university and non-profit partners. Industry partners must provide at least 20% of the funding for new projects. For follow-on projects, which are previously awarded successful demonstration projects in these areas, industry partners must provide at least 33.3% of the project funding.
Concept papers are due on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Learn more about this funding opportunity.
ASE, Michigan’s largest employer association, released a survey Wednesday that tracked employer’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, launched on March 13, provides a comprehensive look at efforts and measures employers have taken or are considering in response to both human resource and business continuity concerns.
The survey showed the dramatic cessation of business travel/mobility and the shift to remote work. Actions implemented in this area include the following:
- Suspending international business travel (88.0%)
- Canceling in-person internal events, trade shows, training, etc. (88.0%)
- Canceling in-person external events, trade shows, training, etc. (87.4%)
- Shifting to virtual meetings and virtual training sessions (85%)
- Suspending domestic travel (69.5%)
- Encouraging remote work where possible (62.9%)
The data suggests that some organizations may not have been equipped for remote work. Nearly 80% of companies worked to address technology needs to allow for remote work and nearly 90% (86.8%) reviewed their remote work policies to accommodate the changing business landscape. Additionally, while just slightly more than 60% have encouraged remote work, another 27.5% were considering it at the time of the survey.
Other Survey Highlights:
- Nearly a quarter (24.6%) have considered a work stoppage or shutdown. Just slightly more than four percent (4.2%) have implemented one. Those that have implemented a shutdown are primarily in the manufacturing and educational industry.
- Human resource departments have taken a close look at their policies in light of this crisis. Notably, remote work (86.8%), attendance (74.3%), business travel suspensions and restrictions (73.1%), paid time off or paid leave benefits (69.5%), and FMLA/Medical Leave policies (64.7%) have been evaluated in preparation or response to the pandemic.
- Just 20% of respondents currently maintain a formal Pandemic Policy. 80% maintain a formal emergency plan and nearly 60% (58.6%) have a business continuity plan.
- Slightly more than 70% of organizations have restricted access to their facility and more than a third (35.3%) are using a COVID-19 pre-screening questionnaire for visitors.
While it may be too early to know the full economic impact of this crisis, our data suggests that the unfolding crisis is impacting the business outlook for many employers. More than a third of respondents (34.2%) report that their hiring projections have been moderately to significantly impacted by the pandemic.
Overall, 167 companies in Michigan responded to the survey. The majority (84%) of the respondents have 500 or fewer employees.
For employer resources on handling the COVID-19 pandemic and for daily updates, please click here.
TechTown is launching the Detroit Small Business Stabilization Fund to support the needs of small businesses impacted by COVID-19. In an effort to accelerate access to capital for Detroit’s most vulnerable businesses, TechTown — in partnership with the City of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. (DEGC), and Invest Detroit — will administer working capital grants in amounts of up to $5,000 to qualifying small businesses.
TechTown is raising $250,000 for the fund to ensure that eligible applicants are supported as they navigate challenging times. The fund is part of a layered strategy that includes a continuum of support for businesses. It is modeled after a similar initiative recently launched in Seattle.
In turn, Grand Circus, a learning institute in downtown Detroit, today announced that it has created a Community Relief scholarship for its coding bootcamp training programs to specifically help community members impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The scholarship is designed for anyone whose livelihood, job, or income is affected due to impacts of the pandemic, and covers half the cost of tuition of the April or July bootcamp sessions. Grand Circus has also reduced the bootcamp deposit to $200 from $800 to improve access to its career-changing bootcamps, with additional flexibility for those to whom that cost is still prohibitive.
To apply for the Grand Circus Community Relief Scholarship, and for more information on the program, click here.
On Wednesday, Ally Financial launched a comprehensive set of financial support initiatives to help the people and communities it serves to withstand the extraordinary pressures triggered by the COVID-19 health crisis and be better positioned to recover quickly from its effects.
Ally is taking the following steps to provide support to its customers, auto dealers, communities, and employees.
- Existing auto customers will be allowed to defer payment for up to 120 days. No late fees will be charged; finance charges will accrue.
- New auto customers will have the option to defer their first payment for 90 days.
Ally Home Loans
- Existing mortgage customers will be allowed to defer payment for up to 120 days. No late fees will be charged; interest will accrue.
- To aid customers in accessing their money as they need it, all fees related to expedited checks and debit cards, overdrafts, and excessive transactions on savings accounts will be waived for the next 120 days (as always, there are no monthly maintenance fees or balance minimums).
Ally is committed to supporting customers during this period of economic uncertainty and will work with customers individually to find solutions tailored to their specific needs. To activate these and other forms of relief, customers should contact the following:
- Ally Auto Customer Care at 1-888-925-2559
- Ally Home Loans Customer Care at 1-866-401-4742
- Ally Bank Customer Care at 1-877-247-2559
Support for Auto Dealers: In recognition that auto dealers are fundamental economic engines for their local economies, Ally is working closely with its network of approximately 18,000 dealers to navigate changing market dynamics, assess their specific needs and develop individualized solutions. This includes offering consumer incentives that help dealer customers, as well as specific solutions to help dealers with their loan funding needs. Ally also is making its dedicated credit and funding staff available to dealers as needed to provide fast and efficient funding options that help them maximize used and new vehicle sales.
Caring for our Communities: As an initial step, Ally will direct $3 million to help those impacted by COVID-19. The funds will respond to critical needs — including food/food distribution, health care, emergency housing and childcare — identified by our partners in the communities where our employees live and work, with special focus on Ally’s hometown locations of Detroit and Charlotte.
- $1 million to support relief efforts and organizations in Detroit
- $1 million to support relief efforts and organizations in Charlotte
- $900,000 directed to other key markets in which Ally operates
- $100,000 directed to Ally’s “Moguls in the Making” partner, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, to support students at HBCUs who have critical needs to enable the continuation of their education
Fast Company: With the U.S. lagging other countries in the distribution of coronavirus testing kits, health authorities have had to look to other means of detection, like the infrared ear thermometers used in some countries. And now one Austin-based company says its security cameras use thermal imaging and computer vision tech to detect people who have fever possibly related to the virus.
Unlike the thermometers, which work one person at a time and at close range, Athena Security‘s security camera detection system may be far better for scanning larger numbers of people in places like airports, grocery stores, hospitals, and voting locations.
The company’s thermal cameras are already in use at a coworking space in Austin, and will be deployed in some “large Fortune 500 companies” and some airports in the coming weeks, but Athena says it can’t divulge the names of those customers yet.
The cameras can detect the heat of 12 different places on the body with an accuracy of within a ½ degree, says Lisa Falzone, CEO of Athena Security. The company’s software, which works with high-grade, off-the-shelf security cameras, uses an AI model to zoom in on a subject’s inner eye, which is most reflective of the body’s actual temperature, she said.
Also from Fast Company: A large part of COVID-19’s ability to spread — so rapidly, and so broadly—is thanks to how easily the virus travels through the air, ultimately landing on surfaces, which we then touch. Its origin story in a seafood market in Wuhan City, China, illustrates this: The virus was circulating in the densely populated area for so long (a few hours) that countless people transmitted it, without even realizing.
A researcher at Washington University in St. Louis’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts has developed a system for killing the virus before it has a chance to even land on surfaces. In essence, it’s a portable furnace that would be placed in hospitals and instantly kill the virus patients expel when they cough and sneeze.
Most treatment centers vent contaminated air outside, which expels it from the interior architecture but spreads the air outdoors. “Some very strong papers responding to the avian flu in 2015 showed chicken farms in Iowa and Nebraska (having it), and it was transmitted by air flow for 100 miles from one farm to another farm,” says Hongxi Yin, the InCEES associate professor in advanced building systems and architectural design at WashU.
Based on that paper, Yin developed a theory that when a large quantity of people are gathered in relatively tight quarters breathing the same air, the rate of infection increases. “Wuhan has more than 10 [million] to 12 million people, similar to New York and San Francisco, so we had a suspicion that a high-density urban environment would be the major way [this is passed],” he says.
Temporary quarantine hospitals that began popping up in Wuhan housed upward of 2,000 to 3,000 patients at a time, which likely compromised the buildings’ air. “The exhaust from the hospital, which has a virus that’s alive in the air, is spreading the virus through the HVAC air conditioning system,” Yin says. Though attachments like HEPA filters help purify the air, Yin and his research team believe their system can stop the virus in its tracks.
Yin and his team of researchers are designing a “high-temperature sterilization system” that works to kill the airborne virus — which manifests as an attack on human respiratory systems—before it has the chance to land on surfaces and infect people. “COVID-19 is different because it stays in the air for hours so the plume [of exhaust that hospitals release] is not helping to prevent spreading but helping to spread more quickly elsewhere,” Yin says. “The only way (to solve this) is to kill the germ before it gets outside.”
The system will essentially suck up contaminated building air; push it through a small, portable heat chamber (which will sterilize it at extremely high temperatures); and release it back into the atmosphere—purified and virus-free. The device is in early design stages; Yin and his team are currently working on a research proposal for it in collaboration with the National Security Administration. He and his team have also been in touch with manufacturers that are interested in working with them on assembling these devices.
Library Street Collective, a contemporary fine arts gallery in downtown Detroit, with the support of the restaurant Standby, will be providing free dinners for two weeks to Detroit Public Schools students in need beginning Monday, March 23rd. The team at Standby will prepare meals each weekday for students, with a new menu offered each day. Food will be prepared and distributed through the support of Detroit-based non-profits Forgotten Harvest and The Downtown Boxing Gym. Those interested in helping support or expand this initiative, can reach out at email@example.com.
In addition, Matrix Human Services on Friday, March 20, will offer a distribution of free food to families with children who are facing food scarcity or hunger. The distribution will be held from 2-5 p.m. at The Matrix Center, 13560 E. McNichols Dr., Detroit. A variety of food will be available to take home. For information call 313-962-5255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday, March 23, American Coney Island, located at 114 W Lafayette Blvd. in downtown Detroit, will hold a fundraiser for the Motor City Mitten Mission. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping the area’s homeless, needy, and the sick. From 11 to 1 p.m., for any menu item purchased during those two hours, 100 percent of those proceeds will go to the MCMM for food and other necessities. Carryout and curbside ONLY (Five-person maximum in the restaurant per State of Michigan orders).