COVID-19 Update: Insurance, Medical Supplies, Unemployment, Meal Delivery for Senior Citizens, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and 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 April 7

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Insurance
Michigan residents who lose a job and therefore health care coverage or experience a change in income may have low or no-cost health care options available through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Consumers in these situations are not required to wait for the yearly open enrollment period.

Consumers have 60 days after losing essential health coverage to take advantage of a special enrollment period. Consumers can determine eligibility here. Depending on income and their situations, consumers may qualify for cost sharing reductions, premium tax credits, coverage for their children, or Medicaid.

Consumers new to healthcare.gov can create an account. Those who already have one can log in to start or update applications.

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services can help and can be reached at (877) 999-6442 or by emailing DIFS-HICAP@michigan.gov. The Michigan Health Insurance Consumer Assistance Program can provide shopping tips and help answer questions. Information on understanding your health coverage is available here, and information on the special enrollment period is available here.

Unemployment
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is adding staff and hours to serve an unprecedented increase in customers filing unemployment claims. It has extended its call center hours by an hour each day from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. It remains open from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday. Customers in the call center and online chat queues before closing time with have their calls or chats resolved that day.

The UIA has nearly quadrupled staffing levels over the last several weeks and will have an estimated 500 employees in the call center by the end of the week. Hundreds of additional staff will be added to the call center in the coming weeks.

The best way to file a claim is online at Michigan.gov/UIA, where the process takes an average of 20-25 minutes.

The UIA assures every eligible worker in Michigan who applies for unemployment benefits will receive them. Workers have 28 days from their last day of work to apply for benefits. Claims will be back dated to reflect the date on which the claimant was laid off.

Since March 15, there has been a more than 4,000 percent increase in initial unemployment claims in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The numbers are unprecedented.

Online Filing Schedule at Michigan.gov/UIA: Customers are encouraged to use off-peak times from 8 p.m.-8 a.m.

  • Last names beginning with A-L: file claims on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.
  • Last names beginning with M-Z: file claims on Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday.
  • Saturdays will be available to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

Call Center Filing Schedule for (866) 500-0017:

  • Last names beginning with A-L: call on Monday and Wednesday.
  • Last names beginning with letters M-Z: call on Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Fridays and Saturdays are open for anyone who could not file during their allotted days.

Medical Supplies
National Filters Inc. is retooling and purchasing new machinery at its headquarters and facility in Harbor Beach (east of Bad Axe) to produce surgical masks and N95 respirators. The company will also rehire 16 employees who had been laid off.

The company will go from making 250 masks per day to 7,200 masks per hour and begin producing 2,000 N95 respirators per hour. It received support from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Strategic Fund.

National Filters usually makes hydraulic filter cartridges, compressor oil and air filters, fuel filters, dust collection filters, and more. It completed a 20,000-square-foot expansion at its facility earlier this year and usually employs 36 people.

The Michigan Strategic Fund is providing nearly $200,000 in collateral support that will serve to secure the company’s bank loan.

In related news, Blake’s Hard Cider in Armada is supplying hand sanitizer. The distillery is manufacturing and distributing gallon-size hand sanitizers for hospitals and large businesses and 8-ounce spray bottles for purchase for the public and free for first responders with proper identification.

Sales will begin today at Blake’s at 17985 Armada Center Road. The hand sanitizer meets World Health Organization standards. While prices may change based on cost of materials, the small bottles are currently $6.99 each, limit two per vehicle, and $30 for the gallon size for health care facilities and businesses.

The gallon of hand sanitizer can be shipped throughout the state. For information and questions, email hcorders@blakefarms.com.

Blake’s is also offering free lunches of hot dogs, chips, and drinks to children ages 18 and under from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Blake’s carry out and drive through service is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Food Delivery for Senior Citizens
The Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have partnered to deliver food boxes to older Michigan residents starting with 10,000 boxes in April. The food supplies provide 10 days, or 22 meals of balanced, protein-rich, shelf-stable quarantine food boxes.

“Thus far, older adults represent almost 40 percent of the over 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan,” says Dawn Opel, director of research and strategy initiatives for the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “It is critical that we minimize exposure of the virus to older adults and stabilize those who are sick or returning from the hospital. Without access to healthy food, seniors in quarantine may suffer not only from hunger but heightened risk of prolonged, more severe illness.”

An intake form is available here for seniors who need meal deliveries or daily check-in calls. The Food Bank Council of Michigan, in cooperation with Gleaners Community Food Bank, are packing the initial 10,000 boxes with assistance from the Michigan National Guard. To donate to the program or support other COVID-19 efforts by Michigan’s seven food banks, click here.

Economy
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce Tuesday commended the Michigan Legislature for extending the emergency stay home, stay safe order for 28 days. On March 20, the chamber had sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urging against a shelter in place order. Whitmore issued the order on March 23, and it took effect March 24.

“Michigan Chamber applauds the Senate and the House for taking prudent action on a shorter and responsible extension of the emergency order. The 70-day extension proposed by the governor was premature and far too long,” says Rich Studley, president and CEO of the chamber. “Expansion or long-term extension of the current stay-at-home order would have a severe impact on many job providers.”

Steve Mitchell, chair of the board of directors of the chamber, says that while the state looks to a return to normalcy, social distancing and wearing masks and gloves is necessary while the pandemic continues.

The chamber represents about 5,000 employers, local chambers of commerce, and trade associations from every Michigan county.

In related news, the barter system is resurging among small businesses. Many exchanges are reporting double-digit increases in membership, according to the International Reciprocal Trade Association. Barter exchanges total between $12 billion and $14 billion dollars per year.

Members of Oak Park-based TradeFirst are using the system to stock up on needed supplies, take care of maintenance and cleaning, and preserve cash to help employees.

TradeFirst is a business to business trade exchange with more than 5,000 member companies and 15,000 cardholders.

Entertainment and Events
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has announced that all of its events through June 21 have been cancelled or rescheduled. The date has been pushed from May 10. Cancellations include the remaining concerts in the 2019-2020 Classical and PNC Pops series, as well as the annual Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert on June 20. The DSO is assessing the possibility of offering summer programming including performances at Greenfield Village and the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House.

In the meantime, the orchestra is offering virtual experiences:

  • Past DSO concerts are being streamed on Facebook live during Weekly Watch Parties. Three parties are scheduled for each week – two Classical Series performances and one Educational Concert Series performance. DSO musicians act as hosts.
  • DSO Replay, the on-demand video archive of past Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts is now free. Viewers can access video of more than 200 works going back to the 2016-2017 season here.
  • At 6 p.m. each day, the DSO invites musicians everywhere to #playonyourporch or other places in their homes and tag @detroitsymphony on Instagram. The orchestra shares the videos on its Instagram Story, along with clips of DSO members playing.
  • Other initiatives include the cello section’s recording of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 one musician at a time, a web-based version of the Om @ The Max yoga series dubbed Om @ Home, and video lessons from Civic Youth Ensembles instructors to help music students keep practicing.

In related news, The Garden Party, an event featuring food, wine, cars, and live entertainment that raises money for professional trade scholarships for disadvantaged young adults attending Oakland Community College, has been cancelled. It was scheduled for June 14 and would have taken place on the grounds of Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills. 2021’s event has been scheduled for June 13.

MISS DIG 811
MISS DIG 811 is encouraging Michigan residents to postpone all digging until after the stay home executive order is lifted to limit field personnel exposure to COVID-19. If a resident still chooses to dig, they are required under Public Act 174 to contact MISS DIG 811 by calling 811 or placing a web request at missdig811.org. After placing the request, residents must check for a positive response at status.missdig811.org before digging.

Residents can also request underground utility information at a single address for planning purposes through MISS DIG 811’s e-plan at newtin.missdig.org/e-suite. The tool is for planning purposes only and cannot be used for digging.

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