COVID-19 Update: HUD Allocates $41.8M to Michigan, SBAM Offers Back-to-work Resources, Detroit Startup Offers Employment Matchmaking, 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.
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map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of May 11

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.

Federal Government – HUD Allocates $41.8M to Michigan
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced the allocation of a third wave in CARES Act coronavirus relief funding including $41.8 million to Michigan. The finding was part of a national total of $1 billion through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. To date, HUD has provided more than $3 billion in CDBG funding nationwide to help communities acutely combat coronavirus and alleviate economic hardship.

“Coronavirus has impacted our communities and populations in unprecedented ways, and while some begin to see a decline in reported cases, others continue to fight this invisible enemy aggressively,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “This funding will afford states the ability to respond to the unique circumstances they are facing – from reducing risk of transmission to regaining the sound footing of their economy. This is the third wave of funding the Department has provided to States and insular areas, and we will continue to execute a detailed and swift response until the days of COVID-19 are behind us.”

The allocation formula uses variables focusing on public health needs, risk of transmission of coronavirus, rate of coronavirus cases, and economic disruption. The formula uses data on low-income elderly and poor children to target to places with higher public health risk while also using recent unemployment insurance claims data to provide for states hardest hit, at the time of the allocation, by unemployment.  All of the factors are adjusted so that places with higher than the national average in COVID-19 cases receive a slightly higher share of funding.

For a full list of state allocations, visit here.

Federal Government – Unemployment Insurance Guidance for States
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued targeted guidance and reminders that provide states with details regarding required integrity functions for their regular unemployment compensation programs, as well as those authorized by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation of the CARES Act. The guidance aims to help states guard against fraud and abuse of their unemployment insurance systems.

“As states implement the various provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to provide benefits to eligible applicants, they must exercise due diligence at all times in the administration of their programs to protect the integrity of the unemployment insurance system,” says John P. Pallasch, assistant secretary for employment and training. “As the stewards of taxpayer dollars, states and localities have an obligation to spot and detect waste and fraud in the unemployment insurance system and report it to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and other appropriate channels.”

To protect the program integrity of the regular unemployment compensation program, states must maintain weekly certification processes to verify the continuing eligibility of the program’s claimants and must complete required checks for interstate wages. The department also requires that states maintain these key eligibility determination processes for regular unemployment compensation claims to conform and substantially comply with federal unemployment compensation laws.

States are also required to implement the same program integrity activities used for the regular unemployment compensation program for the CARES Act programs, such as verifying identity and cross matching with certain databases designed to prevent and detect improper payments and fraud.

To ensure program integrity, the CARES Act includes an appropriation of $26 million to the department’s Office of Inspector General to carry out audits, investigations, and other oversight activities related to states’ adherence to existing unemployment insurance laws and policies, as well as the provisions of the CARES Act.

This funding represents a nearly 30 percent increase in appropriations for the OIG, whose FY 2020 budget appropriation was just over $90 million. States should expect significant oversight, review and scrutiny of their unemployment compensation programs’ integrity.

Back-to-work Resources for Small Businesses
The Small Business Association of Michigan has developed a roadmap and resources to assist small businesses as they prepare to resume operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Getting back to work will require changes for small businesses that could be overwhelming,” says Brian Calley, president of the SBAM. “We want to make this transition as simple as possible and that’s why we created a guide to getting back to work safely and resources to source personal protection equipment that will be needed. We hope these resources are helpful to small businesses during this difficult time.”

The “Get Back to Work Safely Guide” includes tips and resources for issues that small businesses may face including revising employee policies and employee handbooks, as well as talking with employees about new expectations. The guide also provides checklists on cleaning and health screenings as well as other considerations small businesses may need to take on in their facilities.

The need for personal protection equipment in the workplace will be critical for a safe work environment for the foreseeable future. To ease the ability to obtain PPE, SBAM has compiled a list of sources where members can secure hand sanitizer, masks, barriers, gloves, face shields, gowns and shoe coverings, and workplace safety posters.

A recent survey of SBAM members revealed that 14 percent of Michigan small businesses are not confident they will survive the COVID-19 pandemic, and 60 percent of those surveyed have had to lay off at least one employee.

For more information, visit here.

In Related News: Ferndale software company Fuse Technology Group has developed a new electronic COVID-19 Employee Screening check-in system that can be used across all sectors and can be modified to meet all local and state back-to-work requirements.

The system works two ways: 1) Self-service mode using computers, tablets, or smart phones, or 2) checkpoint (kiosk) mode, for use before employees or guests are even allowed to enter a building. After logging in, employees or guests simply follow the interactive prompts to complete the quick screening.

Fuse says its interactive, cloud-based technology makes it easier for any business to stay compliant with quickly changing regulations, monitor the safety/wellness of employees, go paperless to stay green, and ensure staff compliance. All data is stored in a safe and secure, central location that management/HR can access and report on, in the event that data is required at some point in the future.

“As operations across the state and country begin to slowly re-open, every industry from manufacturing to healthcare to foodservice, etc. are now being required to comply with many new processes and procedures for both the protection of their staff and business,” says Kevin Gravier, head of software development for Fuse.

For more information, visit here.

MGM Resorts Releases Safety Plan for Re-opening
MGM Resorts International today released a report outlining the comprehensive health and safety protocols the company is implementing prior to re-opening its domestic properties and resorts that were temporarily closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report details MGM Resorts’ “Seven-Point Safety Plan” – a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to deter the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees, and rapidly respond to potential new cases.

Visit here to review the full plan.

Detroit Startup Offers Employment Matchmaking
Detroit startup purpose.jobs has launched free services to help employers and job seekers during the record unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Access to these free tools and services will help employers stay connected with potential candidates and help job seekers find open positions.

New employers who sign up with purpose.jobs will have free access to sourcing tools and free job postings. They also will have the ability to directly email and talk with candidates.

Job seekers who sign up on the talent platform have access to the job board, which was launched in March. Some companies still are hiring and nearly 100 open jobs are posted.

“These are really challenging times for people, especially small business owners and startup founders,” says Ryan Landau, founder of purpose.jobs, which was originally named re:purpose.  “We want to help in any way that we can. As more people get laid off, our talent community keeps growing. Even if employers aren’t hiring, we want to give them visibility to these high-quality candidates. It’s a great time to be proactive in building a talent pipeline so that when the faucet turns back on, they’re ready to go with the hiring process.”

For more details, please visit here.

Small Business Recovery in Royal Oak
The Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority has started to accept applications for its Rebound Royal Oak Small Business Recovery program for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will assist small businesses who have no more than 50 employees and are located within the Royal Oak Downtown Development District. Eligible businesses include restaurants, retailers, cafes, salons, and entertainment venues. The deadline to submit an application is Monday, May 18.

The program is intended to assist small consumer businesses whose ability to fully operate has been impeded by statewide stay-home orders. Businesses will be required to use the grants for business-related expenses, such as rent or payroll, or other business-relevant expenses.

For more information and to apply, please visit here.

Health Insurance
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are launching new telehealth programs with behavioral health providers, so members who are interested in participating in group sessions to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health can share their experiences with others under the guidance of a trained therapist.

The programs are available free to members with Blue Cross and Blue Care Network behavioral health coverage through June 30.

“The pandemic has disrupted lives and caused stress – both from a medical and financial perspective – for our members in Michigan,” says Dr. William Beecroft, medical director for Behavioral Health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “People are experiencing loneliness, isolation, financial burden, family stress, grief, and fear due to the pandemic. Group therapy can be a very beneficial form of treatment.”

In collaboration with providers, Blue Cross is using evidence-based research to offer existing services in a virtual format to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for those members interested in group therapy. These patients would traditionally participate in programs that require regular office visits.

Group therapy for mental health issues related to COVID-19 varies by provider but could include treatment which serves the need for individuals to identify with each other and process experiences, enabling them to continue their respective lifestyles with hope and reduced stress. Groups may use a blend of psychoeducation, cognitive therapy, and CBT-based meditation to achieve these outcomes.

Blue Cross and Blue Care Network members seeking mental health support related to the pandemic can find providers participating in telehealth programs by calling the Blue Cross or Blue Care Network Behavioral Health Services phone number on the back of their member I.D. card. The call center clinical team will direct members with information and referrals.

Testing
The Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center in Southwest Detroit now is offering drive-thru testing by appointment to individuals exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms residing in the 48209, 48210, and 48216 zip codes.

Individuals experiencing symptoms must call 313-849-3920 to schedule their appointment time and receive testing instructions. Drive-thru testing appointments are available Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Drive-thru and onsite appointments must be made in advance, no walk-in or drive-up service is available.

The center also is in need of 1,000 disposable gowns as inventory becomes critically low.  Donations can be made by contacting Dr. Felix M. Valbuena Jr. at 313-849-3920 ext. 5016 or via email at fvalbuena@chasscenter.org.

In addition, the center, has increased telehealth visits to provide vital care to patients, especially those with mental health and domestic violence needs during the COVID-19 crisis. It also provides care kits to patients that include journals, adult coloring books and crayons, essential oils, and a stress ball to provide added support during this difficult time. The center also is offering bilingual consultations for the Spanish speaking population.

Higher Education
Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant has confirmed that plans to welcome students back to campus for the fall semester.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remains our top priority, and we will continue to closely follow guidance from local, state, and national health leaders as we move forward with plans to resume in-person instruction,” says Bob Davies, president of CMU, who adds that the university also will offer remote and online options for students and faculty who are unable to return to campus.

“COVID-19 has changed the way higher education will be delivered in the future and requires us to think creatively and innovatively about our operations at CMU,” says Davies. “The changes will impact everything from teaching and student support services to events.”

CMU’s emergency management group is developing plans to ensure social distancing in shared spaces, such as classrooms, offices, and event venues. The school also has established new protocols for cleaning and disinfecting these common and shared areas. CMU’s College of Medicine and local health officials are guiding the emergency management group’s decision-making process, according to Davies.

Last week, CMU notified students that the university will reduce the number of students living in each residential suite, and an on-campus isolation and quarantine space has been established in the event of new cases of COVID-19 in the community. Faculty and staff also received information about CMU’s strategic, phased return-to-campus plan, which takes effect later this month.

In Related News: Davenport University in Grand Rapids has created a scholarship to support individuals who are unemployed, laid-off, or furloughed because of COVID-19. Davenport’s new Launch Scholarship provides up to $8,000 per year for up to four years of education.

“These individuals are our friends and neighbors and we are in a position to be able to offer support and skills during this time of transition,” says Richard J. Pappas, president of Davenport University. “We stand ready to provide the degree programs, professional development, and career services to help them quickly take the next step in their education and career.”

The Launch Scholarship will support those unemployed, laid-off or furloughed on or after March 1 and want to earn a graduate degree, finish a bachelor’s degree, or take additional professional development programs to enhance their skills.

For more information, visit here.

Employee Benefits Webinar
Employee benefits attorney Liam K. Healy will be presenting a webinar on May 14 from noon to 1 p.m. titled “Employee Benefits Update: CARES Act and Other COVID-19 Legislation.”

Healy will discuss the current legal landscape covering employee benefits. He also will address the CARES Act and other legislation that affect paid leave, medical leave, unemployment, and other benefit areas.

To register for the webinar, visit here.

Meijer Donates 750,000 KN95 Face Masks
Grand Rapids-based Meijer has procured and already has begun distributing 750,000 KN95 face masks to help frontline workers and first responders throughout the Midwest. The retailer is working with COVID-19 emergency response teams and municipal health departments to manage the distribution to health care workers or first responders in those states to ensure those who need them most get them quicker.

The face masks will be provided to government agencies, hospital systems, law enforcement agencies, and other first responders in many of the communities Meijer serves, primarily in Michigan and Ohio. These include Macomb and Oakland counties and the city of Detroit, as well as the Michigan State Police. Those entities will then be able to distribute the masks as needed.

In addition to the face masks, the retailer also has procured and donated various personal protective equipment like face masks, gloves, and medication to various COVID-19 emergency response teams. For example, Meijer donated 2,000 vials of insulin and 2,000 vials of albuterol to the state of Michigan for distribution in southeast Michigan; 60,000 N95 face masks to the state of Michigan; 1.75 million pairs of powdered vinyl gloves to the city of Detroit; and 4,000 N95 face masks to the state of Kentucky.

“We are proud of our procurement team for helping us secure these much-needed masks and we continue to do our part in keeping our team members and the communities we serve safe during these challenging times,” says Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer. “We’re pleased to have this opportunity and continue to look for ways to help our team members, customers and communities navigate through this new normal.”

Nonprofit Hiring Home Health Aids
JARC, a Bloomfield Hills-based non-profit agency that serves people with developmental disabilities via group homes, independent living support, and in-home respite care, is hiring home health aids for all shifts.

These full-time roles pay between $10.75 to $12 per hour based upon previous caregiving experience. Additionally, JARC is offering a $1.60 per hour premium during the COVID-19 pandemic and a $300 bonus following the completion of all required trainings and 90 days of employment. All new hires receive full benefits and pay during the training period. A link to the job posting can be found here.

Home health aids are responsible for assisting persons served in all aspects of personal care, daily living, housekeeping tasks, and are required to have a high school diploma or GED and a Michigan driver’s license in order to take individuals on activities in the community. Previous experience with adults with developmental disabilities is preferred but not required.

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