COVID-19 Update: Governor Signs $106M Bipartisan Relief Bill, Michigan Regional Unemployment Rates Edge Down in November, 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 by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Dec. 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.

Governor Signs $106M Bipartisan Relief Bill, Extends Unemployment to 26 Weeks
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bipartisan relief bill Tuesday that provides support for Michigan families, frontline workers, and small businesses.

The bill includes $55 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Grants of up to $20,000 will be made available to small businesses across the state that need support this winter. The bill also includes $3.5 million for grants of up to $40,000 each for live music and entertainment venues, and includes $45 million in direct payments to workers who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the virus.

The governor also signed bipartisan Senate Bill 604 extending unemployment benefits for Michiganders who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from 20 to 26 weeks until the end of March 2021.

Michigan Regional Unemployment Rates Edge Down in November
Not seasonally adjusted jobless rates decreased in 14 of Michigan’s 17 major labor market areas between October and November, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget.

“The regional unemployment rate reductions in November were often due to fewer persons active in the labor market,” says Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “Payroll jobs generally rose in November in retail trade and declined in leisure and hospitality across Michigan metro areas.”

Michigan’s regional jobless rates ranged from 3.4 to 8.9 percent during November. Rate declines were from 0.1 to 1.1 percentage points with a median decrease of 0.6 percentage points. The most pronounced jobless rate cut occurred in the Monroe metropolitan statistical area. The Detroit MSA and the Northeast Lower Michigan region exhibited rate increases over the month. The Upper Peninsula jobless rate remained unchanged in November.

Jobless rates rose over the year in all 17 Michigan labor market regions with a median rate increase of 1.4 percentage points. The Detroit metro region exhibited the largest over-the-year rate gain of 5.4 percentage points since November 2019.

Total employment fell in 12 Michigan regions over the month. Many employment declines were modest with a median decrease of 0.6 percent. The largest over-the-month employment cut was seasonal and occurred in the Northeast Lower Michigan region. Four regions exhibited employment increases over the month, led by the Battle Creek MSA (0.9 percent).

Fifteen labor market regions had employment reductions over the year. The largest over-the-year decline occurred in the Monroe MSA (6.9 percent).

Fourteen Michigan labor market areas displayed workforce reductions during November. Labor force declines ranged from 0.3 to 1.5 percent with a median decrease of 1.0 percent. The most pronounced monthly percent workforce decline occurred in the Monroe and Northwest Michigan regions. The Battle Creek and Detroit metro areas exhibited workforce increases over the month.

Labor force levels also receded in 14 Michigan regions over the year. The Monroe metro area recorded the largest workforce reduction since November 2019 (-5.7 percent). The Northwest Lower Michigan, Upper Peninsula, and Detroit regions all registered labor force gains over this period.

The monthly survey of employers showed that not seasonally adjusted Michigan payroll jobs inched down over the month by 10,000, or 0.3 percent, to 4,063,000. The state’s leisure and hospitality industry displayed the largest job cut, down by 17,000 in November.

Payroll jobs moved down in seven Michigan metro areas during November. Over-the-month job reductions ranged from 0.2 to 1.7 percent with the largest percentage drop in the Monroe MSA. Six regions added industry jobs over the month, led by the Battle Creek MSA (+1.3 percent). The Lansing metro region employment total was little changed in November.

Michigan nonfarm jobs dropped by 418,000, or 9.3 percent, over the year, due to the impact of the pandemic. All 14 metro regions exhibited payroll job reductions over the year, led by the Monroe metro area (15.5 percent).

Fifty-seven Michigan counties exhibited jobless rate reductions in November, led by Monroe County (-1.1 percentage points). Twenty-one areas had increased rates, and five regions exhibited no rate change since October. Over the year, 70 Michigan counties recorded higher jobless rates.

Alta Equipment Group Closes Offering of Series A Preferred Stock
Livonia-based Alta Equipment Group Inc. announced the closing of its previously announced underwritten registered public stock offering.

Included were 1,190,000 depository shares at an initial public offering price of $25 per share, raising gross proceeds of $30 million before deducting underwriting discounts, fees, and other estimated offering expenses. An additional 10,000 depository shares were issued and sold pursuant to the exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option.

Each depositary share represents a 1/1,000th fractional interest in a share of the company’s 10 percent Series A Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock. The company’s shares of Preferred Stock will trade under the symbol “ALTG PRA.”

Alta says it expects to use the net proceeds of this offering primarily to continue to fund its growth, including future acquisitions and investments, and for general corporate purposes.

MI COVID Alert Now Available in Spanish and Arabic
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget announced the launch of Spanish and Arabic language options for its anonymous exposure notification mobile app MI COVID Alert.

When just 15 percent of a population used an exposure notification app like MI COVID Alert, researchers from Oxford University found a potential to reduce infections and deaths.

Since the statewide launch of the English language version last month, MI COVID Alert has been downloaded 481,906 times. This represents nearly 10 percent of Michigan residents ages 18- to 64-years-old who are likely to have smartphones.

Spanish and Arabic options are available through both the Apple and Google app stores. Users also may select and change languages by going into Settings, selecting General, and clicking Language and Region in order to choose Spanish or Arabic on their iOS or Android smartphones.

Rather than using GPS, MI COVID Alert uses randomly generated phone codes and low-energy Bluetooth technology to detect distances between phones with the app. This technology protects the privacy of all users and prevents tracking someone’s exact location. No personally identifiable information is required or shared with other users and officials. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they are eligible to receive a randomly generated PIN. This PIN allows individuals to share a positive test result anonymously in MI COVID Alert.

After a positive test result is entered into the app, close contacts – anyone within six feet for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period – will receive an anonymous push notification letting them know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and the number of days since the possible exposure took place.

The exposure notification feature included in recent iOS and Android operating system updates only works with a companion app like MI COVID Alert, which is available for iOS and Android phones.

Detroit’s Capital Impact Partners Deploys Recovery Assistance in 2020
Capital Impact Partners, a mission-driven community development financial institution in Detroit, deployed funding and programs designed to assist recovery and relief efforts to help the community weather the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustices during 2020.

During the year, Capital Impact Partners provided more than $29.5 million in loans to projects advancing affordable housing, education, and small businesses such as 655 Willis, Murray Townhomes, Marygrove Early Learning Center, and Port Huron Country Style Marketplace. Several of these projects are led by real estate developers of color from Detroit.

It entered a multi-million-dollar partnership with CDC Small Business Finance, the nation’s leading mission-based small business lender. The new alliance is focused on developing and implementing high-touch, scalable solutions that support economic empowerment and equitable wealth creation. Detroit is serving as one of the three place-based pilot locations where cross-organizational teams will actively engage with community members to understand regional barriers to opportunity and work together to create tools, programs, and services that are strategically customized to address those high-priority issues.

The company started a $12.5 million Diversity in Development – Detroit Loan Fund to increase support for real estate developers of color leading multifamily and mixed-use projects throughout Detroit. Capital Impact currently is reviewing 35 applications and will announce the projects it will support early in 2021. This new program tool increases Capital Impact’s commitment to equitable development and inclusive growth in Detroit by deploying low-cost and flexible construction financing to developers of color who live in and around Detroit and are normally shut out of the mainstream lending process.

The third cohort of the Equitable Development Initiative, a program committed to ensuring real estate developers reflect the city’s diversity and minority real estate developers are able to participate in growth and revitalization efforts. The initiative has trained nearly 70 individuals to date, with a fourth cohort kicking off in January 2021. With Midtown Detroit Inc., Capital Impact helped make additional rental and relocation assistance available to renters through the Stay Midtown program.

In addition to the launch of the Equitable Development Initiative’s fourth cohort in 2021, Capital Impact will be closing several affordable housing developments early in the first quarter, finalizing the projects from the Diversity In Development – Detroit Loan Fund, and launching the pilot programs as part of the CDC Alliance.

Helping Hand USA’s Programs Help 11M People in 2020
Southfield-based nonprofit Helping Hand for Relief and Development’s programs and projects assisted more than 11 million people around the globe this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed a threat to those living in poverty, refugee populations, and daily wage workers. Without the proper tools to maintain hygienic conditions and prevent the spread of the virus, communities were exposed to the worst possible outcome. Based on proper needs assessments, HHRD international teams distributed hygiene kits, food packages, and personal protection equipment for more than 1 million people worldwide.

A total of 231 companies matched 3,586 donations made to HHRD providing the opportunity for donors to double their impact. This support helped programs such as Orphans Support, Skills Development and Livelihood, In-Kind Gifts, Education Support, and Water for Life to assist another 8.1 million people.

Along with COVID-19, this year saw its share of natural disasters from monsoon rain flooding to cyclones and typhoons. HHRD’s Emergency Relief program helped provide immediate humanitarian relief to 251,894 people. Despite restriction on travel, commemorating religious holidays through HHRD’s Seasonal program allowed 1.3 million people to enjoy the holidays in the safety of their homes through food packages, gifts, and new clothing and toys.

In order to ensure that marginalized members of society were not neglected HHRD helped 166,446 people with proper medical assistance through its Healthcare and Nutrition, Comprehensive Physical Rehab, and Children with Disabilities programs.

To donate, visit here or call 1-888-808-4357 (HELP).

Michigan DNR Plans Late Antlerless Firearm Deer Hunt in January
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is conducting a late antlerless firearm deer hunt on private land in Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle counties Jan. 7-10 and Jan. 14-17.

“This season will provide an additional opportunity for deer management in the bovine tuberculosis (bTB) area,” says Emily Sewell, wildlife health specialist at the state DNR. “Increased antlerless harvest in these counties is important to reducing the number of deer interacting with farms and helps to limit the number of bTB-infected wildlife and cattle herds in the future.”

Hunters who do not own property in the area are still able to participate. The Hunting Access Program offers access to quality private land across the state to provide more hunting opportunities. Many locations are available in the five-county hunt area. Enrolled properties can be viewed here.

Hunters can take antlerless deer with an unused 2020 deer or deer combo license or a private-land antlerless license for Deer Management Unit 487. Additional tags can be purchased at any DNR license agent through Jan. 12. Disease control permits issued for 2021 also will be valid for use during this hunt.

Successful hunters can bring their deer to the Alpena, Atlanta, or Mio DNR deer check stations between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. any day of the hunt. For added convenience, several 24-hour self-service drop boxes are available throughout the region to submit deer heads for bTB testing. The use of a smartphone is required to use the drop boxes. Check station and drop box locations here.

The DNR strongly encourages anyone who is successful during this hunt to submit their deer head for testing. On average 40 percent of deer infected with bTB show symptoms such as nodules in the lungs and ribcage; 60 percent of infected deer show no signs of the disease. The only way to be sure the deer is not infected is to submit the head for testing at either a check station or a drop box location.

Cannabis Beverage Company Keef Brands Takes Equity Position in BevCanna
Keef Brands, the highest grossing cannabis beverage company in the U.S., has taken an equity position in BevCanna, which operates dispensaries in Michigan.

BevCanna will act as the exclusive licensee, manufacturing, and distribution partner for Keef Brands in Canada, and leverage the Keef U.S. manufacturing and distribution network to access the U.S. cannabis market. The partnership positions BevCanna for rapid growth within the U.S. market, in anticipation of positive federal regulatory reform with the U.S. federal cannabis legalization.

“We’re extremely pleased with the confidence that Keef has shown in both BevCanna’s future prospects and in our mutual relationship,” says John Campbell, chief strategy officer for BevCanna. “We see a great future for the two companies working together, with both companies benefiting from the other’s market expertise and distribution networks, and we’re happy that Keef sees the same potential.”