COVID-19 Update: HUD Awards State $45.2M in CARES Act Funds, Comerica Contributes $150K to Invest Detroit, 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
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Sept. 12

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.

HUD Awards $45.2M in CARES Act Funds to Prevent Michigan Homelessness
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated nearly $2 billion in CARES Act funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, including $45.2 million to Michigan. The funds assist households facing higher risk of eviction.

“We’ve taken several actions since the beginning of this pandemic to keep Americans in their homes,” says Ben Carson, secretary of HUD. “These funds can help households struggling to meet their rental or mortgage obligations to stay afloat as our nation continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Joseph P. Galvan, Midwest regional administrator of HUD, says, “This additional funding will provide vital resources to communities that need it most across Michigan. It will also prevent homelessness as we work collaboratively to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These funds can be used to provide temporary financial assistance to meet rental obligations for up to six months. The funds are focused toward places with households facing higher risk of eviction. Specifically:

  • Communities with high rates of individuals in industries with high job loss in states with high unemployment.
  • Communities with high rates of businesses in industries with high job loss in states with high unemployment.
  • Concentrations of those most at risk for transmission and risk of eviction, with higher amounts for states with high rates of coronavirus.

The allocation follows President Donald Trump’s Aug. 8 Executive Order “Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners,” which directs HUD to identify “any and all available federal funds to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners who, as a result of the financial hardships caused by COVID-19, are struggling to meet their monthly rental or mortgage obligations.”

Comerica Bank Contributes $150,000 to Invest Detroit’s Loan Relief Fund
Comerica Bank has committed $150,000 to support Invest Detroit, a nonprofit lender and investor that assists business and real estate projects in Detroit and the surrounding region, furthering the bank’s ongoing support for small business recovery from COVID-19.

This program, which targets small businesses with less than 75 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue, provides loan forgiveness to eligible clients in Invest Detroit’s small business portfolio.

“Small businesses have served as a cornerstone to Detroit’s resurgence, and we’re committed to supporting them throughout the pandemic,” says Mike Ritchie, Michigan market president for Comerica Bank. “By working together with Invest Detroit we can continue assisting our vulnerable small businesses by providing much needed relief that will help keep their doors open.”

Invest Detroit’s Loan Relief Fund program lowers eligible businesses’ monthly expenses, improves cash flow and/or offsets revenue losses. This expands each business’s ability to persevere long term, allowing them to re-focus this revenue/capital on re-opening, staying open and pivoting strategy if necessary. Approximately 79 percent of Invest Detroit’s eligible small business partners are sponsored by minority and/or female owners, and 88 percent are located in low- or moderate-income communities.

“We are grateful for Comerica Bank’s support so we can continue to serve businesses in downtown Detroit and surrounding neighborhoods,” says Tosha Tabron, senior vice president of lending for Invest Detroit. “Detroit’s neighborhood small businesses have been particularly impacted by COVID-19 and with these funds we’ll be able to provide more technical support and assistance to their operations. We’ve been providing this support for 25 years, to date we’ve helped over 400 small businesses, and we’re committed to continuing to aid small businesses so they can thrive in our city.”

Invest Detroit’s mission is to support real estate and business projects that struggle to find traditional financing. The nonprofit’s small business program is a catalyst for both new and existing locally owned businesses with loans that support operational and property needs. The organization’s small business team is deeply embedded in Detroit’s small business ecosystem and provides ongoing technical assistance to help small business owners refine plans and achieve business goals.

Comerica Bank and Invest Detroit are a part of the Detroit Means Business initiative consisting of a coalition of nearly 35 businesses and organizations working together to aid small businesses in reopening, providing financial support and more.

Chief Financial Credit Union Opens Branch in Downtown Birmingham
Chief Financial Credit Union recently opened the doors to its newest branch just across from Shain Park in Birmingham.

“Originally, our Birmingham location was set to open just weeks before Michigan faced its global health crisis which meant that we opened and closed our doors almost simultaneously,” says Tom Dluzen, president of Chief Financial Credit Union. “We quickly moved all of our services and resources online keeping many of our team members employed and remaining easily reachable to our members through our remote channels.”

In recent months, Chief has been able to assist local businesses and nonprofits throughout Oakland and Macomb Counties navigate Personal Payroll Protection Loans. Chief Financial assisted more than 50 businesses and nonprofit organizations to maintain staff and survive the economic downtown faced due to closure and the inability to fundraise.

Chief’s Birmingham branch practices safety and sanitation protocols in line with COVID-19 mandates. Chief Financial plans to host an official Ribbon Cutting event in the coming months once social gatherings can be safely coordinated in Michigan.

Michigan Uses Federal Funds to Launch Program Giving Frontline Workers Tuition-free Path to Community College
Inspired by the GI Bill, which provided college tuition to those serving their country in WWII, the state of Michigan is tapping federal funds to offer adults who provided essential services during the pandemic a tuition-free pathway to gaining the skills needed to obtain high-demand, high-wage careers.

The funding, which is part of the CARES Act, is available to those in the medical field as well as an estimated 625,000 essential workers in manufacturing, nursing homes, grocery stores, sanitation, delivery, retail, and more.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must:

  • Be a Michigan resident.
  • Have worked in an essential industry at least part-time for 11 of the 13 weeks between April 1 and June 30.
  • Have been required by their job to work outside the home at least some of the time between April 1 and June 30.
  • Not have previously earned an associate or bachelor’s degree.
  • Not be in default on a federal student loan.
  • Complete a Futures for Frontliners scholarship application by 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31.

The program is a $24 million investment funded by Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund, made possible by the federal CARES Act.

Frontline workers are encouraged to visit here to explore career opportunities, a list of local community colleges and get started on their application – even if they don’t already have a high school diploma.

Pewabic Pottery Utilizes Solar Energy to Increase Sustainability
Pewabic Pottery has added 74 solar panels atop its education and tile studios, located behind the iconic its Tudor-style building, that will offset 16 percent of Pewabic’s average electricity bill and will provide power for lighting, HVAC units, and electric kilns.

The panels were installed by PowerHome Solar, a metro Detroit energy-efficiency company specializing in solar energy.

Funding for the solar project was provided in part by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, along with gifts from more than 100 individual donors.

“Marrying a century-old structure with modern-day technology is an art form,” says Steve McBride, executive director of Pewabic. “As a historic landmark, we want to honor the integrity of the original Pewabic buildings while reducing our carbon footprint and becoming more sustainable to ensure we are still here in another 100 years.”

Jayson Waller, CEO of PowerHome Solar, says, “This is the first National Historic Landmark project for PowerHome Solar and our first installation to help support an exemplary Detroit arts and culture institution. Our work will help Pewabic achieve its sustainability goals and hopefully encourage patrons to consider solar, too.”

Detroit Window Design Classic Highlights Retail Window Displays
Detroit’s Northwest Gallery of Art has launched a new creative competition for artists and designers titled Detroit Window Design Classic to showcase the art of window displays and put a spotlight on the walkable businesses and retail shops within Detroit City Council District 1 Business Community.

“Detroit Window Design Classic is a brainchild I’ve been thinking about for some time,” says Asia Hamilton, owner of Norwest Gallery of Art. “It’s a design competition that pairs designers and artists with small business owners in the District 1 Business Community, to create elaborate and customer-grabbing window displays to promote their products and services.”

Artists and designers are paired with participating businesses in the District 1 Business Community, and every window display can be judged by the public as the best for its creativity, originality, and ability to attract new customers to the business. The public can vote on the window displays until Sept. 30. The winning artist or designer having the most votes for best window display will receive a $500 prize.

For more information, visit here.

Westborn Market Honors Team Members in Week-long Celebration
In recognition of the efforts of its team during the coronavirus pandemic, Westborn Market is hosting an appreciation week to celebrate and thank its entire staff. During the pandemic, Westborn rewarded team members with hero pay and other bonuses totaling approximately $350,000 across its four southeast Michigan markets.

“We’re humbled by the truly Herculean efforts of our team who put their own concerns aside to help Westborn continue to serve its’ customers with a clean, safe environment providing fresh, quality goods to customers throughout the past six months,” says Bryan Bandyk, CEO of  Westborn. “We want them to know that we notice and we care.”

As a kick-off to the weeklong celebration, each team member will be greeted with a personalized yard sign “Thank You” message. They will then receive a goodie bag with gifts, including a variety of snacks and drinks, plus tickets for meals from food trucks that will be on-site at Westborn locations throughout the week. Additionally, Westborn has partnered with Guernsey Dairy to offer complimentary ice cream socials. Special raffle prize drawings will be held three times a day throughout the week and a Sack of Thanks, a package of free groceries and other items, will conclude the celebration.

“We understand and sympathize with the enormous hardships that COVID-19 brought to our staff, our customers and communities,” Bandyk says. “As a family-owned market, Westborn adopted renewed dedication to providing fresh, tasty products in a safe, welcoming atmosphere, so our customers could be healthy and nourished while also enjoying their shopping experience. Fulfillment of that mission fell into the capable hands of our team members who rose to the challenge with compassion and grace backed by hard work.”

Madison Heights Debuts Restaurant Week, Sept. 20-26
The city of Madison Heights is staging its inaugural Restaurant Week, Sept. 20-26, offering visitors to participating restaurants specials on both dine-in and carry-out dining options.

Throughout the week, patrons also can enter online contests, by posting their Madison Heights dining experiences on their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages using the hashtag #MHRW2020contest, for chances to win $50 dining gift certificates each day the week of the event.

Around 20 restaurants are expected to participate in Madison Heights Restaurant Week, ranging from Vietnamese to Japanese fusion to Lebanese shawarma to gastropub to classic American homestyle cooking. Participants already confirmed for Restaurant Week include Augie’s Bar and Grill, Boodles, Cadillac Straits Brewing Company, Fuji Buffet, Irish Tavern, Lao Pot, Salvatore Scallopini, Shawarma Castle, The Coach Sports Grille, The Masters Restaurant, and 168 Asian Mart.

“Every year, Restaurant Week will grow, and we chose to launch in 2020 as a way to let guests support local restaurants while in turn enjoying great dining discounts,” says Mayor Roslyn Grafstein. “Madison Heights Restaurant Week will shine a spotlight on the city for the dining town that we are. It’s the best kept secret of the area but we want to share the news of our global diversity for everyone to explore and indulge.”

U-M African American Music Conference Goes Virtual
Scholars, composers, and performers from across the U.S. will come together for a virtual event that will celebrate the upcoming 90th birthday of legendary bass singer, U-M alumnus and professor emeritus Willis Patterson.

The African American Music Conference, hosted by the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, will take place virtually Sept. 18-20. The event is free and open to the public.

Patterson, who will be in attendance, was the first African American faculty member to join SMTD, after two prior professorships at Southern University in Louisiana and Virginia State College. Hired in 1968, he taught in the department of voice for more than three decades, and also served as the associate dean for 20 of those years.

The conference will include a mixture of pre-recorded and live conversations featuring some of the most prominent African American composers and scholars in the U.S.— both younger and older — who will discuss Patterson’s pioneering work in the fields of jazz and African American concert repertoire.

During opening night, Sept. 18, the Bentley Historical Library will celebrate the arrival of the Willis Patterson papers as part of the university’s archive. Patterson will join Bentley Director Terrence McDonald, U-M President Mark Schlissel, U-M Vice Provost Robert Sellers and Toppin for a virtual conversation at 5:30 p.m.

Another element of the conference will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 19. A Facebook watch party of a recent public workshop reading that SMTD presented of “Bre’r Rabbit and the Tar Baby,” the first of three stories in Nkeiru Okoye and Carman Moore’s “Tales from the Briar Patch.” The workshop premiere was directed by Toppin in February 2020 and was read by a cast of five African American students.

Edcor Announces Expanded Partnership with Ashford University
Troy-based education benefits solution provider Edcor is expanding its partnership with Ashford University, an online college, to stretch the benefit dollars of Edcor customers while expanding learning options for their employees.

The new program Ashford University is offering is an Edcor-branded professional leadership upskilling program for Edcor clients with leadership training on two tracks: general professional leadership and health care leadership. The health care leadership cohort for undergraduate students is a three-course sequence: intro to health care; managing in health and human services; and health care ethics and medical law. For graduate students, the three-course sequence includes foundations in health informatics; health care program and project management; and management topics in information governance.

According to Edcor Vice President of Corporate Growth, Sara VanWagoner, the professional upskilling program meets the needs of today’s adult learners.

“The pandemic has put workers to the test, and many working adults and their employers recognize the need for just-in-time learning to help them handle a new level of work challenges that demand a solution-oriented approach,” says Sara VanWagoner, executive vice president of corporate growth at Edcor. “Edcor’s professional leadership upskilling programs help employers do more with less and avoid layoffs by aiming to rapidly develop or enhance the skills of their employees to match the needs for how we work now.”

For more information, visit here.

MakerOS Enables Effective Collaboration for Fabrication and 3-D Printing Businesses
MakerOS has released a new version of its collaboration software that includes updates to its automated quoting system, 3-D CAD file viewer, the client portal, and a new project board system.

Combined, these improvements better sync sales and engineering teams to streamline workflows and develop products faster, according to the company.

“The MakerOS platform is designed to be the ultimate business operating system for 3-D printing and fabrication teams,” says Mike Moceri, founder and CEO of MakerOS. “There’s no other platform that fundamentally takes engineering data and connects it with the sales process so that a 3D- printing or fabrication company is more likely to succeed.”

For more information, visit here.