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.
Report: Michigan Families with Children Struggling During Pandemic
An average of 62 percent of Michigan households with children have lost employment income since March 13, according to “Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and a Roadmap for Recovery,” a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Maryland.
That percentage has declined in recent weeks, but is still hovering at 51 percent, according to the report that examined data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that demonstrate how families across the country are challenged to meet basic needs during this global public health crisis while managing school, work, and mental health.
“We have known since the coronavirus pandemic hit Michigan that it was going to hit families with children particularly hard, but this report gives us concrete data to show how parents are faring and where help is most needed,” says Kelsey Perdue, project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy Michigan for the Kids Count project. “We have an opportunity to do more at both the state and federal level to help parents get by during these difficult times, including being able to put enough food on their table, keep a roof over their heads and keep them physically and mentally well.”
The state’s unemployment issues for working families has in turn had a significant impact on the other needs of parents and their kids. Around 15 percent of Michigan households with kids have reported “sometimes or often” not having enough food to eat in the previous seven days. The same percentage of Michigan parents say they have slight or no confidence in paying their next rent or mortgage payment on time.
Mental health challenges like anxiety and depression are on the rise. As of Oct. 12, 34 percent of Michigan households with children have said they have felt nervous, anxious, or on edge for more than half of the days or nearly every day for the past seven days, and 22 percent said they felt down, depressed or hopeless for half or more of the previous week. These mental health concerns have been even higher for Black residents, who also have been at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 and experience other racialized outcomes.
In the annual state and national Kids Count Data Books, health care access has usually been a bright spot for Michigan kids and their families. But with many parents relying on employee-provided health care, health insurance access also has been strained by COVID-19. As of Oct. 12, 7 percent of Michiganders raising children surveyed reported being uninsured. Due to COVID-related insurance access, medical costs, and exposure concerns, nearly one-third of Michigan families reported delaying medical care. And a quarter of Michigan households raising kids said that they simply did not get needed medical care because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“If lawmakers have been waiting for a clear signal and opportunity to pass policy that helps vulnerable kids and families, this is it,” Perdue says. “Michigan kids and their parents urgently need help, and our leaders need to respond with that same sense of urgency. There are plenty of concrete pieces of legislation to address unemployment and other relief that are just waiting for a vote.”
To review all of the data from Michigan, visit here.
Great Lakes Business Network: Shop Local this Holiday Season
The Great Lakes Business Network in Lansing has released its 2020 holiday gift guide, featuring a collection of “Pure Michigan” experiences, restaurant gift cards, handcrafted jewelry, and more.
At a time when Michigan’s businesses need support more than ever, GLBN is encouraging all Michiganders to visit their local stores and shops this holiday season.
“Supporting our local economies and local small businesses has never been more important and that’s why we encourage Michiganders to shop local this season and support businesses committed to protecting our Great Lakes,” says Tom Werkman, owner of Werkman Outfitters and GLBN member. “Our gift guide provides a roadmap to supporting local businesses this holiday season, and we are proud to highlight the many incredible entrepreneurs and business owners who embody what ‘Pure Michigan’ is all about.”
AGS Receives Provisional Michigan iGaming Supplier License
AGS in Las Vegas today announced that it was awarded a provisional iGaming supplier license by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which will allow the company to provide its proprietary game content for the state’s licensed online casino operators when iGaming is approved to go live in late 2020 or early 2021.
Once the state’s online gaming program is live, AGS will offer its land-based game content to licensed online operators in the state through its Remote Gaming Server. Its library of games includes content such as Capital Gains, Fu Nan Fu Nu, Golden Wins, Jade Wins, Longhorn Jackpots, and Rakin’ Bacon!.
“We are excited about being awarded our provisional iGaming license in Michigan and look forward to helping the state launch its new iGaming program,” says Matt Reback, executive vice president of AGS. “We are confident that Michigan is going to be a strong market for us, with three commercial casinos that cater to a repeat player base, and player familiarity with AGS games due to the popularity and longevity of our land-based games in the Michigan market.”
Gage Cannabis Announces $20M Commitment from JW Asset Management
Detroit-based cannabis operator Gage Cannabis Co. today announced it has secured a minimum investment of $20 million from funds advised by JW Asset Management as part of the company’s Regulation A, Tier 2, equity financing.
The investment will provide Gage with resources to accelerate the expansion of its retail and cultivation footprint, pursue accretive acquisitions, and help position and solidify Gage as one of the leading cannabis operator in Michigan.
“JW Asset Management is widely recognized as one of the premier investors in the cannabis sector,” says Fabian Monaco, president of Gage. “Their participation provides Gage with a strong balance sheet that enables us to further establish our brand in one of the fastest-growing cannabis markets in the United States. We are confident in executing on our 2021 goals, driven by the growth of both the cultivation and dispensary arms of our business. We are fortunate to have developed a strong relationship with JWAM and are grateful for their support as we capitalize on the opportunities ahead in Michigan.”
Jason Wild, founder and president of JWAM, says, “Gage has rapidly established a strong footprint in Michigan, and I’m thrilled to participate in their growth. I’m confident that Gage’s experienced team will continue to execute on the opportunity ahead.”
Gage’s Michigan footprint has grown significantly since its first retail opening in the state in September 2019. Today, the company supports five provisioning centers, three cultivation facilities, and one processing facility in Michigan, with plans to double its retail footprint by the end of the first quarter of 2021. Earlier this month, Gage had its first harvest at its flagship Monitor Township cultivation facility near Bay City with a second harvest scheduled for this week.
Gage says it plans to become a public company early in 2021. For more information, visit here.
Association Offers Free Heavy Construction Truck Driver Training
The Metro Detroit Trucking Association (MDTA) is offering no-cost heavy construction truck driver training to truck drivers who already have a commercial driver’s license.
Classes start Jan. 4, spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Road, building and bridge projects are booming in metro Detroit and qualified heavy truck drivers are in demand,” says Beverly Hannah, president of MDTA. “Our nonprofit seeks to expand this job market specifically to more black and brown people, and we have secured funding to offer training at no cost at this time.”
MDTA’s heavy construction trucking program, sponsored by Michigan Department of Transportation, offers on-site training in both classroom and truck yard settings. Students will attain proficiency in driving vehicles such as dump trucks, gravel trains, flatbeds, and lowboys.
Trucking laws and policies also are covered. Enhanced safety precautions during COVID-19 are in place to keep students and teachers safe.
To qualify, current drivers must possess a CDL Class A license, a clean driving record, and the ability to pass a drug test and background clearance. A T endorsement must be obtained prior to graduation.
Interested drivers, as well as companies in need of trained drivers ready to work or looking to have their own drivers trained, are encouraged to visit here or call 313-590-2123.
“By building a diverse foundation of talent and increasing the number of women, minorities, and disadvantaged business enterprises in trucking, we can positively impact the local economy and trucking community for years to come,” says Hannah.
Skymint Begins Recreational Cannabis Sales at Flint Store
Cannabis retailer Skymint has started the sale of recreational marijuana products at its store in Flint.
The Flint store, 4405 W. Pierson Road at, is of the company’s most spacious retail locations with a 1,515-square-foot sales floor stocked with an array of premium cannabis brands and products, including exclusive DNA Genetics strains.
According to Skymint, it is the only Michigan provisioner in the Flint area to offer Short’s gummies and pre-rolls, vapes, concentrates, and cannabis-themed accessories and gifts.
“Flint is very dear to my heart, because it’s where I grew up and was raised,” says Summer Ransom-Cleveland, president of retail for Skymint. “Opening our doors to Flint’s recreational consumer base kicks off a new economic era in Flint, allowing us to have an even greater impact on rebuilding Flint’s economy with millions of dollars in tax revenue flowing into the local and state governments over the coming years.”
Jeff Radway, CEO of Skymint, says, “Core to our ethos at Skymint is social justice, uplifting community, and ushering in a modern era of cannabis through an elevated retail shopping experience which encourages browsing, education, and discovery. All of these pillars are reflected in every aspect of our Skymint locations, including Flint, where we proudly offer the highest discount in the state of 25 percent to medical patients.”
In addition to the 25 percent discount medical cardholders can expect, Skymint Flint offers a 15 percent discount to veterans on all THC products.
Goldfish Swim School Expands in Texas
Troy-based Goldfish Swim School Franchising has signed a multi-unit franchise agreement in Texas that will bring two new schools to the greater Houston market.
These locations will add to Goldfish Swim School’s roster of four Texas schools operating in Carrollton, Katy, West Houston, and Sugarland. Houston natives Kevin Coffman and Ryan Moon are the new franchisees. They will debut their first school by late third quarter 2021.
Goldfish Swim School will close out 2020 with 19 signed agreements and 14 new school openings, with five more projected to open in the first quarter of 2021.
“Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, we’ve had an incredible year and I could not be more proud of our franchise network and the new owners we continue to welcome to the Goldfish family,” says Chris McCuiston, co-founder and CEO of Goldfish Swim School. “Texas is an ideal state for our continued expansion as we look to further develop in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and beyond. We’ve built an incredible culture and as we remain focused on the continued growth of this brand, we aim to expand our footprint with franchisees like Kevin and Ryan who believe in our mission and vision.”
For more information on Goldfish Swim School and its franchise opportunities, visit here.
MSU Studying Using Probiotics to Treat Bone Loss
Laura McCabe, a professor in the Department of Physiology at Michigan State University in East Lansing, is studying the effects of probiotics in patients with osteoporosis, or bone loss.
Recently, with the help of the MSU Innovation Center, Swedish health care company BioGaia, McCabe, and Robert Britton, former associate professor in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, patented the use of a probiotic as a preventative measure against the development of osteoporosis. BioGaia sells the probiotic as part of its lineup of dietary supplements worldwide.
“Our lab team has shown over and over again that probiotics benefit bone health and can prevent bone loss under a variety of conditions including menopause, Type 1 Diabetes, and following antibiotic treatment,” McCabe explains.
McCabe’s research focuses on how individual organs communicate their function and health to one another as well as their responses to these signals.
“Understanding who is talking to who and what the language is could be the key to identifying very novel, simple and effective ways to treat disease,” McCabe says.
In animal models, she identified microbiota, or microbes within the body, and communications between the gut and the bones that play an important role in the regulation of bone health. Recent studies have confirmed this effect in humans.
“Preventing bone loss is important because low bone density is a risk factor for bone breaks,” McCabe said. “Despite the many medications available, the number of patients with osteoporosis and its associated fractures is increasing. Our lab’s goal is to help the body build bone, prevent bone loss and decrease bone breaks in patients.”
Fifty-four million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. About one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. The disease causes an estimated two million broken bones every year.
This first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on bone health and osteoporosis illustrates the large burden that bone disease places on our nation.
“Osteoporosis, fractures and other chronic diseases no longer should be thought of as an inevitable part of growing old. By focusing on prevention and lifestyle changes, including physical activity and nutrition, as well as early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, Americans can avoid much of the damaging impact of bone disease and other chronic diseases,” the report states.
This is all still very relevant information and understanding the nutritional element of probiotics supporting healthy bones is key, McCabe adds.