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.
Greektown District Restaurants and Bars Poised to Reopen
Nineteen Greektown District restaurants and bars have opened or plan to reopen for business this week. Others are slated to reopen mid- to late-June.
The entertainment and cultural district has been impacted by the effects of COVID-19 and its businesses have made strides to address that impact by proactively planning for their future. Aided by their local community development organization, the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, businesses have adapted their operations to re-enforce a safe, clean, and healthy environment for patrons.
In addition, Greektown’s restaurants and bars have created safe workplace policies and practices for serving patrons. Personal protection equipment will be worn by staff, and patrons must likewise support public safety by wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“The Greektown district has been a vibrant area within Detroit for decades,” says Athina Papas, board president of Greektown Neighborhood Partnership whose family owns Pegasus Taverna and Atheneum Suite Hotel. “Although reopening has many challenges, Greektown’s spirit of hospitality and our patrons are at the forefront of everything we do. We look forward to welcoming guests back to our district in a safe manner.”
Greektown Neighborhood Partnership is installing public signage in the neighborhood to reinforce social distancing standards, wearing masks, and clean hygiene.
Businesses planning to open this week include:
- Astoria Pastry Shop
- Baltimore Bar and Grill
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- Cold Stone Creamery
- Delmar Kitchen and Bar
- Delmar Detroit Rooftop
- Delux Lounge
- Eat-n-Out Pizza and Gelato Exodos Lounge
- Fishbones Rhythm Kitchen Café Golden Fleece Restaurant
- The Greek
- Harbor House
- Level Two Rooftop and Bar
- The Old Shillelagh
- Pappy’s Sports Bar & Grill
- Red Smoke Barbeque
- The Well
Federal Government – HHS Provides Enhanced Provider Portal, Relief Fund Payments for Safety Net Hospitals, Medicaid and CHIP Providers
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, today announced approximately $15 billion in additional distributions from the Provider Relief Fund to eligible Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program providers that participate in state Medicaid and CHIP programs and $10 billion to safety net hospitals that serve our most vulnerable citizens.
“Health care providers who focus on treating the most vulnerable Americans, including low-income and minority patients, are absolutely essential to our fight against COVID-19,” says HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
HHS is providing support to health care providers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic through the bipartisan CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program, and Health Care Enhancement Act, which allocated $175 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other health care providers, including those disproportionately impacted by this pandemic.
HHS also is launching an enhanced Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal that will allow eligible Medicaid and CHIP providers to report their annual patient revenue, which will be used as a factor in determining their payment, which will be at least 2 percent of reported gross revenue from patient care. The final amount each provider receives will be determined after the data is submitted, including information about the number of Medicaid patients providers serve.
Federal Government – HUD Provides $45.2M for Michigan Homeless
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson Tuesday announced the allocation of $2.96 billion in COVID-19 Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) funding to support homeless Americans, $45.2 million of which is coming to Michigan.
This funding is in addition to $1 billion of ESG grants announced within a week of the signing of the CARES Act.
Metro Detroit communities that will receive funds include Dearborn ($505, 688), Detroit ($9.1 million), Macomb County ($801,422), Oakland County ($2 million), Washtenaw County ($1.7 million), and Wayne County (1.2 million).
“Homelessness was a major issue in some cities across our nation long before this pandemic occurred, and unfortunately the dire living conditions of our most vulnerable Americans left many without a home to isolate in or proper medical and healthcare resources to defend themselves against this invisible enemy,” says Carson. “As we continued to monitor the effects of COVID-19 in at risk communities, the department and our partners worked quickly to respond to outbreaks and minimize the spread from hotspots to other locations. This increased funding to help provide for our homeless will make a difference now as we combat the coronavirus and inform long-term, innovative solutions for addressing homelessness in the future.”
The funds allocated can be used to:
- Make more emergency shelters available for homeless individuals and families.
- Operate emergency shelters by providing food, rent, security, maintenance, repair, fuel, equipment, insurance, utilities, furnishings, and supplies necessary for their operation.
- Provide Hotel/Motel Vouchers for homeless families and individuals.
- Provide essential services to people experiencing homelessness including childcare, education services, employment assistance, outpatient health services, legal services, mental health services, substance abuse treatment services, and transportation.
- Prevent individuals from becoming homeless and rapidly rehouse homeless individuals.
State Government – Michigan Launches Online Map of Free Wi-Fi Hotspots
The state of Michigan, in partnership with the Connected Nation Michigan, has released a statewide Wi-Fi hotspot map to assist residents who currently lack internet access at home.
The COVID-19 pandemic and transition to remote and distance learning has increased the need for residents and students to have easy access to broadband services. The Wi-Fi mapping effort, spearheaded by the Michigan Public Service Commission and Connected Nation Michigan, along with the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget and the Michigan Department of Education, is an interim step amid the coronavirus pandemic to spotlight publicly available broadband hotspots for households without internet access.
Lack of broadband internet access and affordability are issues in Michigan and across the country, particularly for people living in rural areas and for communities where there is persistent poverty.
Michigan providers recently were awarded $22.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Broadband ReConnect Program aimed at expanding broadband access to unserved rural areas. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, awarded more than $1.8 million from the COVID-19 Telehealth Program to help health care providers offer connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations.
There are several active programs and grants centered on increasing investment in and access to broadband in Michigan. DTMB now is administrating the Connecting Michigan Communities Grant Program, which will award $18 million in grants for projects that extend broadband service into unserved areas in Michigan.
In addition, under the federal CARES Act, Michigan received nearly $390 million under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to support local school districts to help with the impact COVID-19 has had on the elementary and secondary schools. These funds can be used for allowable activities to assist in continuing to provide education services, including supporting remote learning by helping to reduce the digital divide. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) also is applying for additional competitive federal funding to help reduce the number of students who lack access to broadband internet.
To find a hotspot site near you, visit here.
Birmingham Boxing Gym Heads Outdoors to Stay Afloat
Jabs Gym in Birmingham has built equipment and designed an outside boxing class that accommodates 10 people or fewer while adhering to the six feet social distancing rule in order to remain operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owner and Detroit native Willie Fortune, a professional boxer whose ring name is Fortune 500 with 10 knockouts, and his uncle, a boxing trainer and handyman, built wooden stands for heavy bags outside of Jabs Gym, which like other gyms and fitness facilities have been closed since March.
“I started the distance boxing because, as a concerned business owner, who’s responsible for everyone’s safety from my staff to clients, I felt the safest route is outdoors and controlled, so using our awesome mayor’s advice on social distancing and the rules on it,” says Fortune. “This seemed to be the best way to keep everyone safe. While making sure we all could utilize the wonder stress relief of boxing and fitness workouts.
“As a local Detroit business owner and a boxing fitness expert, this makes me happy to be able to be creative to help others, as well as to see my business push through this. This is by far the toughest fight I’ve ever been in, but it’s not just my fight, it’s ours.”
Businesses Need Summer Internships for Students with Learning Disabilities
JVS Human Services, a human service agency in Southfield that runs a summer internship program for high school students with learning disabilities, autism, or who are struggling with depression or anxiety, is in need of businesses to participate in its program.
In previous years there has been an excess of employers willing to participate in the program, which runs from early July to August. This year is more challenging as some businesses still remain closed due to the pandemic or are in the process of re-opening.
“The experience is invaluable – students get to interact with co-workers, learn new skills, and gain insight into working life and what they might like to do after school,” says James Willis, vice president of workforce development and rehabilitation at JVS. “After participating in the program, JVS provides feedback to each student’s school which can help address any challenges or further enhance employable skills.”
Businesses who might be able to offer internships are asked to contact Todd McMillan, JVS’ high school transition specialist at 248-854-6733 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will provide their members no-cost treatment for COVID-19 disease through Dec. 31. Members have not had to pay cost sharing for treatment – in the form of copays, deductibles, and coinsurance – since March and now will have the security of no-cost treatment through the end of the year.
“Thanks to the valiant efforts of our front-line health workers, our health systems, and our governmental leaders, Michigan has flattened the coronavirus curve,” says Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of BCSBSM. “Still, the virus remains in our communities and many people continue to suffer. Blue Cross wants our members in Michigan and across the nation to rest assured that, should they contract the COVID-19 disease, they won’t have to worry about the financial cost of fighting it.”
The cost share waivers apply to members in fully insured commercial PPO and HMO plans, as well as individuals in fully insured Medicare Advantage plans. BCBSM will work with employer group customers that are self-insured to make decisions regarding their own benefits. BCBSM estimates that it will spend between $23 million to $43 million in providing these additional benefits – bringing the company’s total investment in additional benefits for members to nearly $150 million during the pandemic.
COVID-19 Maker Challenge
Challenge America and the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem have launched their second in a series of five COVID-19 Maker Challenges, focused on finding solutions for potential COVID-related challenges for environmental management services. The goal of the challenge is to enlist the talents of engineers, designers, and other professionals to create solutions to the challenges confronting essential workers in their efforts to fight COVID-19.
For more information, visit here.
Venture for America Detroit Offering Talent for Start-Ups
Venture for America – a fellowship program for recent college graduates interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, and community impact – is looking for company partners who may want to bring on a new team member this fall to help their company grow.
For more information, contact VFA Detroit Director Sarah Craft at email@example.com.
Pax Momentum Looks to Accelerate U.S. Startups Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
By Jacob Walerius
In the midst of a global pandemic that has put countless small businesses and startups on hold or out of commission altogether, Maryland-based Pax Momentum is hoping to revive hope for those following their entrepreneurial ambition.
In an effort to bring venture capital outside of Silicon Valley, Pax Momentum is looking to put together a cohort of companies to train, mentor, and invest in. Each cohort will consist of 10 startups, with at least three being ClimateTech companies, and each company will receive a $50,000 investment and admittance into the eight-week program, expected to start this fall. Startups across the country can apply.
The eight-week accelerator program will include training, mentorship, and skill development sessions from high-ranking executives and founders of major companies such as Crowdstrike, Urgently, and Senseware. The end of the program is highlighted by a demo-day in which participating companies will be introduced to more members of the investment community.
“We will make sure that our graduates leave feeling comfortable and confident in the fundamentals for digital marketing and sales and how to manage that process and do it themselves,” says Matthew Hanson, co-founder of Pax Momentum. “There are business fundamentals that they will get from our program that probably don’t sound too sexy, but I guarantee they are essential. It’s the medicine that doesn’t taste very good.”
The program puts an emphasis on ClimateTech companies and the expectancy that the industry is on the cusp of a boom. Hanson credits his son Jack for the push to support ClimateTech companies that the program now views as remarkably valuable to their mission.
“There definitely seems to be a resurgence in interest and investing in ClimateTech, and I think there’s a very good chance it’s going to be the hot sector in the next few years,” says Hanson. “I’m really looking forward to when we’re in the program and seeing the kind of cross-pollination of what ClimateTech companies can teach the whole cohort about implementing attitudes and policies around sustainability early on and how that will make them a better company and attract better talent.”
Hanson also expects that the economic downturn caused by the pandemic will leave the remaining companies in a favorable position once life adjusts back to normal.
“It’s going to feel a little bit like ‘Forrest Gump’ after the hurricane when he had the only boat left in the sea,” Hanson says. “The startups that make it through are going to be alone in a fat sea.”
The end goal of the program is to have the companies’ leaders come out feeling knowledgeable, confident, and validated. With a heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship and the work that goes into creating a successful business, the program hopes to build strong relationships and connections among like-minded entrepreneurs.
“We want this experience to be very focused on the entrepreneur, and we feel like the best way to do that is to surround them with others who have been in that situation starting with a blank sheet of paper and did the magic trick of turning it into something,” says Hanson. “There’s no replacement for those who have successfully navigated those waters and come out the other end with something valuable, successful, and noteworthy.”
Applicants are expected to be startups that have at least two full-time employees, less than $1 million in revenue, and have a complete or close to complete product. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entirety of the program is expected to take place online. Applications for the fall 2020 cohort are due June 15 and are available here.
Goldfish Swim School Rolls Out National Reopening Strategy
Goldfish Swim School, the Troy-based learn-to-swim franchise concept, says it is on a mission to safely reopen the doors of its 100-plus schools to provide children the lifesaving skill.
While the global pandemic has caused much of the country to shut down and families to stay home, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns of an increased threat in childhood drowning this summer. As many families rely more heavily on unsupervised lakes and beaches, and parents seek to utilize backyard pools while balancing at-home distractions, remote working situations and more, swim lessons and water safety becomes increasingly important, Goldfish officials say.
As Goldfish Swim School starts to welcome communities back to its schools, the safety and wellbeing of students, guests, and team members remains the top priority. Each individually owned and operated facility has been working closely with their local health authorities and in accordance with CDC guidelines on reopening plans to ensure the safest environment possible.
“The last few months have been a challenge, but together we stayed separate, we stayed strong, we stayed safe and now it’s time to reunite and dive back in,” says Chris McCuiston, co-founder and CEO of Goldfish Swim School. “Our teams are making sure our reopening plans are all-encompassing, so that we can continue to educate and teach water safety.
“This year has been incredibly challenging for families, businesses, and communities alike. And for a while, it seemed as though many aspects of life were on pause, but water safety is one thing that cannot wait – which is why we are grateful to have the opportunity to start safely reopening our schools.”
Protocol found in Goldfish Swim School’s “Safer. Stronger. Together.” initiative will help ensure safety-focused and thoughtful re-openings across the country, McCuiston says. While protocol varies school-to-school, notable adjustments have been made to class sizes, sanitization procedures, and school policies to ensure social distancing and to abide by local health department regulations.
For more information on Goldfish Swim School’s reopening policies and procedures, visit here.
Saturday’s American Heart Association’s Heart Walk Goes Virtual
The American Heart Association is moving its Metro Detroit Heart Walk online. Kicking off at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Participants are encouraged to register at www.miheartwalk.org and participate virtually on the organization’s Facebook page.
Participants are encouraged to post pictures and videos on social media using the hashtags #DetroitHeartWalk, #MIHeartWalk, and #WalkWhereYouAre. Ways to get involved from home include:
- Taking a walk outside (while following current social distancing guidelines).
- Getting the whole family involved and have an indoor dance party.
- Trying out a few strengthening exercises like push-ups, lunges, and squats
- Creating an at-home circuit workout.