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.
Financial Institutions Support Small Businesses
More than 120 of Michigan’s state-chartered banks and credit unions have stepped up to provide Paycheck Protection Program loans to support small businesses facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.
Ninety percent of Michigan’s 68 state-chartered banks and nearly half of Michigan’s 137 state-chartered credit unions have participated in the PPP to support Michigan small businesses.
The PPP, established by the CARES Act, provides forgivable loans to small businesses so they can maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead. The U.S. Small Business Administration will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for in accordance with the program requirements payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.
To date, more than $16 billion in forgivable loans were provided to more than 110,000 of Michigan’s small businesses, with an average loan amount of $146,999, according to SBA data. Nationally, Round One of funding of the PPP provided nearly $350 billion in loans, and Round Two was allocated an additional $310 billion.
Michigan small businesses experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19 are encouraged to reach out directly to their financial institution to learn more about the PPP and other relief options that may be available.
New $1.5M Small Business Fund
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has partnered with Michigan Women Forward to create the $1.5 million Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund to help entrepreneurs and small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 recover from the outbreak, as well as assist them in meeting increased demands in support of COVID-19 response efforts.
“As Michigan begins to focus on economic recovery efforts across the state, it is critical that we make sure support and relief are accessible for all entrepreneurs and small businesses in need,” says LeTasha Peebles, grant manager for the MEDC. “We’re grateful for the partnership of Michigan Women Forward in supporting this fund, which will play a key role in ensuring every member of our state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has the tools and support they need to recover from this crisis.”
The Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund will provide recovery grants of $1,000 to $5,000 and microloans of $5,000 to $10,000 to small businesses who are in need and have been adversely affected by COVID-19 closures, with at least 150 businesses statewide expected to benefit. Small businesses interested in applying for support through the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund can do so now by visiting here.
“This fund will be vital in helping small businesses throughout Michigan keep their doors open and their workers paid, while offering much-needed economic support during this unprecedented outbreak,” says Maggie McCammon, portfolio manager for the MEDC. “Michigan Women Forward has a demonstrated track record of successfully providing holistic support for small businesses across the state and MEDC looks forward to working together with them and the other supporting partners as our state moves toward recovery.”
Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of MWF, says, “At Michigan Woman Forward, we are dedicating ourselves to doing everything we possibly can to help Michigan’s small businesses re-open and recover from this crisis. Funding is just the beginning. We will also pair our entrepreneurs with experts to help answer questions and guide their decision making at this critical time.”
Funds awarded through the program can be used to support small businesses in managing expenses through the recovery phase, including rent, payroll, and inventory, due to the significant economic impacts of COVID-19. The fund can also advance business growth by providing working capital to assist with increased product or service demand in response to COVID-19, to allow a company to revamp their business virtually through a strengthened online presence, or to start up a company to meet a new demand as a result of COVID-19.
The $1.5 million fund includes support of $500,000 from MEDC and $500,000 from Michigan Women Forward’s SBA microlending funds, along with partners including Consumers Energy Foundation, the New Economy Initiative, General Motors Co., Fifth Third Bank, and Comerica Bank. Michigan Women Forward also is working with other potential funding partners to provide additional opportunities for grants and loans through the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund.
Applicants will be evaluated on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted. Eligible candidates will be prioritized based on demonstrated need, including, but not limited to being located in a disadvantaged area within a U.S. Small Business Administration designated HubZone or Opportunity Zone, and demonstrating status as a low- to moderate-income borrower.
Qualifying as a diverse business that can demonstrate ownership by underrepresented groups including, but not limited to, veterans, minorities, and low-income men and women.
Other resources for businesses across Michigan to assist them in recovering from economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus can be found here.
Restart Resources for Michigan Businesses
The Detroit Regional Chamber has introduced new Restart Michigan resources to its members and other businesses across the state, to help them prepare for a new era of operation amid the COVID-19 crisis.
As Stay Home, Stay Safe restrictions are eased, the chamber has entered the second phase of its three-phase approach – respond, restart, recover – to serving businesses amid COVID-19.
“Since the start of this crisis, the chamber responded to help businesses navigate the ongoing challenges of the constantly changing COVID-19 environment,” says Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “As businesses begin to ease into restart the Chamber is now connecting them with trusted advisors from many global consulting firms.”
The Restart Michigan initiative offers businesses across the state access to critical information and counsel to enter the restart and recover phases of the crisis. This will include resources, such as webinars and online how-to guides and at no extra charge, as well as member access to the Chamber’s government affairs team, to ensure business maintains its collective voice during the process.
Offerings available consist of a variety of webinars designed specifically for business size, industry, decision-making role within the organization or state of distress. The webinars are planned and hosted with leading consulting firms including Accenture, Deloitte, Ernst and Young LLP, KPMG LLP, PwC, and UHY LLP.
Topics range from Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, to workforce strategies post-COVID-19 recovery, as well as a full series specifically designed for automotive reopen best practices. Participants gain access to restart and recovery materials and have the opportunity to ask questions during the sessions. Restart Michigan information can be found here.
The Chamber has also converted its website to a COVID-19 Business Restart center to support members as Michigan begins to reopen the economy. It allows visitors to access restart resources, continued Tele-Town Hall programming, data dashboards and surveys, the latest COVID-19 news, and updates on chamber activities to help restart the economy.
Over-the-counter Nasal Antiseptic
In addition to common protective measures, including hand-washing, social distancing, and not touching one’s face, BlueWillow Biologics, a biotech company in Ann Arbor, recently announced its over-the-counter nasal antiseptic, NanoBio Protect, can be used as an additional protective measure after it killed COVID-19 in laboratory tests conducted by Public Health England in April. The data shows more than 4-log killing of the virus (99.99 percent). NanoBio Protect has not yet been tested in humans and is not a treatment. It is an alcohol-free, nasal antiseptic solution used to help reduce germs on skin in and around the nose that cause infections, similar to how hand sanitizers are used for the hands. It’s moisturizing, long-lasting, fragrance-free, and is easy to apply with a standard cotton swab.
Grand Rapids-based Priority Health said it plans to offer premium credits and waive cost sharing for its populations most heavily impacted by COVID-19.
The effort comes due to lowered utilization of health services, as well as efforts to keep administrative costs low. Priority Health plans to return any revenue above the company’s 10 percent administrative rate back to employers and members.
“Our team is focused on people, not profits, and the welfare of our members is always our top priority,” says Joan Budden, president and CEO of Priority Health. “Priority Health is constantly looking for ways to make health care more affordable, and thanks to our dedication to running an efficient operation, we are pleased to be able to make this commitment today to offer financial relief to our members.”
With many health procedures either being delayed or canceled, and consumers overall accessing less health care services, the company’s expected costs have been reduced. Based on these new projections, Priority Health made the decision to return these excess funds to members and employers in the following ways:
- Waive cost sharing for all Medicare Advantage members for in-person and telehealth primary care services May 1 through Dec. 31.
- A 15 percent premium credit for June and July 2020 for MyPriority Individual plan members.
- A 15 percent premium credit issued in June and July 2020 for small group employers (2-50 employees).
- Large, fully funded employers will also have an opportunity for premium credits in the fourth quarter, when the total amount of excess revenue available can be determined.
“Small businesses and individual consumers have been particularly hard hit during this outbreak, we hope this relief will make it easier for them to stay covered,” said Budden. “We also recognize that the lives and health care routine of our senior members has been significantly impacted. We want to make sure these members are able to reengage with the health care system without having to worry about the cost of a copay to see their doctor.”
Aspen Surgical Products Inc. in Caledonia (southeast of Grand Rapids) says it has further increased production capacity for the Precept brand of personal protective equipment to help support COVID-19 relief efforts throughout North America.
More than 100 new employees have been hired at the company’s Aqua Prieta, Mexico, facility earlier in the year, which increased the output for the face mask line by 50 percent. With plans to install additional manufacturing equipment in the coming weeks, capacity for this category will be increased by another 25 percent.
In addition, Aspen now is planning to hire more than 100 new employees and is acquiring new machinery in Agua Prieta to support a 35-40 percent increase in isolation gown production.
Aspen is continuing to take orders for, produce, and distribute PPE products as well as other critical medical and surgical disposables during this time.
Oakland County Bond Sale
On May 12, Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner announced the successful sale of county bonds to fund essential IT projects and refund prior debt. Meisner is the county’s debt manager and vice chair of the Oakland County Building Authority and therefore plays a role in leveraging the county’s AAA bond rating.
“Even in difficult times like a global and regional pandemic, the power of Oakland County’s AAA bond rating prevails by allowing important county projects to be funded,” says Meisner. “I will do everything to keep the balanced budget and the AAA bond rating, while meeting taxpayers with empathy, compassion, and flexibility during this tough time.”