COVID-19 Update: Michigan Gets $390M in Federal Education Funds, Pistons and Nets Owners Deliver PPE to Detroit, Amazon donates $100,000 to Forgotten Harvest, 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 April 30

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 – Education Funding
The U.S. Department of Education has approved Michigan for nearly $390 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.

The $13.2 billion ESSER fund provides emergency relief funds to address the impact that the COVID-19 public health crisis has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the United States. ESSER funding was included as part of the $2 trillion federal CARES Act.

“These are vitally important resources to help our schools reduce the strain caused by this global pandemic,” says Michael Rice, state superintendent. “Schools can use the funds to meet a variety of current education needs but must recognize that these funds are one-time revenues.”

The Michigan Department of Education will award 90 percent of the $389,796,984 in emergency relief funds to eligible local school districts based on the 2019-20 Title I, Part A funding formula, as required by the CARES Act.

ESSER funds are a one-time appropriation and will not be ongoing funding for school districts, Rice says, strongly recommending that districts reflect carefully about the best uses of these funds, particularly given their technological needs and efforts to preserve their staffing and services to children in a challenging financial environment.

To receive funds, districts will submit online applications that include brief narratives of their most important educational needs; information on how they will provide equitable access to students, teachers, parents, and families; and a budget that outlines their intended use of allocated funds. School districts are encouraged to begin planning to meet these application requirements. There will be additional reporting requirements associated with this grant program, many of which are yet to be defined by USED.

According to the guidance handed down from USED, local school districts may use ESSER funds for activities that align with the following:

  • Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of local school districts with state, local, tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
  • Providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.
  • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population.
  • Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of local school districts.
  • Training and professional development for staff of the local school district on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local school district, including buildings operated by such agency.
  • Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for online learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all federal, state, and local requirements.
  • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local school district that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.
  • Providing mental health services and supports.
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.

Federal Government – Detroit Recovery Project
Detroit Recovery Project Inc. announced it has been awarded $5.5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration through the expansion of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics emergency COVID-19 Funding, and the Recovery Community Support Program.

A two-year, $4 million CCBHC emergency COVID-19 Funding Grant will enable Detroit Recovery Project to increase access to and improve the quality of community mental and substance use disorder treatment services.

“Expanding community-based hubs for behavioral health care could not be more crucial for the United States,” says Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, assistant secretary of SAMHSA. “CCBHCs already perform a vital role of addressing, in one location, the complex needs of people with mental and substance use disorders. The coronavirus pandemic substantially increases the need for these comprehensive services.”

Another five-year, $1.5 million RCSP Grant provides peer recovery support services for individuals with substance use disorders, co-occurring substance use and mental disorders, and those in recovery from these disorders.

Detroit Recovery Project is one of six recovery agencies to be awarded the RSCP grant, and the only Michigan agency. These services, in conjunction with clinical treatment services, are an integral component of the recovery process.

“The RCSP Grant allows us to assist with housing and job placement services for the recovery community during these critical times,” says Andre Johnson, president and CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project.

Johnson says, “Detroit Recovery Project is now positioned to empower and provide services for those who suffer from mental, substance, and physical abuse,” and that he is grateful that they are able to keep their doors open and to continue to serve the community.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating to the Detroit Recovery Project family, according to Johnson, having lost 30 members of its recovery community, and three of its employees. They plan to overcome this loss, however, and leverage the funding received to close the behavioral health services gap that has been realized in the recovery community.

Johnson plans to hire 15-20 new employees, and to expand and enhance their continuum of care to increase their service capacity to provide integrated health services to all individuals within the recovery community.

State Government – Automated Online Assistant
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has launched Robin, a new automated online assistant that can help Michiganders easily access the latest and most trusted information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly, and there’s a great deal of misinformation online,” says Robert Gordon, director of MDHHS. “Robin, our new chatbot, is an easy, interactive way for Michiganders to get their question answered without frustrating wait times. Every moment counts in our fight to increase awareness and education and slow the spread of the virus.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal operations for many Michigan resources. Robin will provide a centralized, first line of response to common inquiries. This will help reduce confusion and frustration, and make it easier to find answers.

The online assistant also will help to reduce calls to the COVID-19 hotline, which means decreased wait times for those who have more complicated questions and need to speak to a staff person, say state officials. Since March 14, the COVID-19 hotline team said it has answered more than 26,000 calls.

Developed by IBM, the chatbot interprets user questions and directs the flow of the conversation by providing the most likely and informed response. Robin searches for the information it needs to respond to questions based on the database it is built upon. It also can help identify gaps in service and information to more efficiently address needed resources.

For any questions that cannot be answered, Robin will direct users to email or call the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136, which is available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Public health and other experts answer health-related questions about COVID-19 and can also direct residents, providers, and others to resources in their local communities.

Medical Equipment
Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and the Pistons organization has teamed with Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai to deliver 350,000 KN95 masks and 100,000 medical goggles to the city of Detroit to help with the ongoing fight against COVID-19.  The masks and goggles, donated by the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, will be distributed to COVID-19 testing centers and homeless shelters, and to frontline workers in the city’s transportation and police departments.

Both owners have been very active in supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, procuring PPE and other critical supplies. The Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation has made donations of PPE and ventilators to hospitals in New York, New Jersey, and California. Gores recently purchased and delivered 100,000 surgical-grade masks for the city of Detroit to support first responders and city workers, among several other initiatives.

“We are grateful for Joe and Clara’s commitment to Detroit and proud to be their partner in bringing additional medical supplies to our community,” says Gores. “The NBA family continues stepping up in the fight against COVID-19.”

The Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation sourced and imported the PPE supplies from China and worked with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to allocate the supplies, with the Pistons organization arranging logistics and support to ensure delivery.

“The city is making progress in the fight against COVID-19, but there is still a long way to go, and the long-term needs in the community will be substantial,” Gores says. “It’s inspiring to see people coming together right now, and I’m confident we will sustain that spirit in the weeks and months ahead.”

In Related News: High school FIRST Robotics teams across Michigan have been challenged with creating PPE to donate to hospitals and others on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. Armed with 3-D printers and sewing machines, Michigan teams have donated more than 77,599 pieces of PPE including 32,246 face shields, 42,618 face masks and accessories, and 2,735 pairs of safety glasses. The next most-productive state is New Hampshire with 4,680 pieces of PPE delivered. Many Michigan teams are using their CAD skills to take an open-source design file and modify it to make it more efficient, or capable of stacking.

To track the students’ progress, click here.

American Heart Association
With its Michigan operations in Southfield, the American Heart Association is assisting people in adjusting to their new environment in light of COVID-19 with resources for working from home, promoting physical activity, and securing funding for research and community programs. The AHA stresses that people still must go to the emergency room when experiencing warning signs of a heart attack or stroke. In other news, the AHA reports it is:

  • Investing $2.5 million in fast-tracked research grants to provide results within 9-12 months to better understand the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and clinical management of COVID-19 as it relates to heart and brain health.
  • Helping to accelerate antiviral drugs to combat the coronavirus.
  • Awarding $14 million in research grants focused on healthy technology solutions and special projects related to COVID-19 — $2.5 million is being awarded to the University of Michigan.
  • Through AHA’s Get With The Guidelines program, AHA has created a nation-wide patient data registry to help manage patients while collecting data and outcomes for future research to understand potential COVID-19 treatments.
  • Launching free job aids for oxygenation and ventilation of the COVID-19 (available worldwide).
  • Developed new and ground-breaking CPR guidelines to help treat victims of cardiac arrest with potential cases of COVID-19
  • Supporting individuals in need through our Social Impact Fund in Flint.
  • Working with parents and teachers to help keep kids healthy and active while away from school, through the Kick Cabin Fever to the Curb 10-Day Challenge

Food Support
Amazon has donated $100,000 to Forgotten Harvest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to relieving hunger and preventing food waste. This donation will support Forgotten Harvest in providing more than 400,000 healthy meals to those in need – specifically those struggling the most as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This donation is reflective of Amazon’s commitment to supporting the communities in which it operates and partnering with nonprofit organizations that are actively making a difference. In addition to its donation to Forgotten Harvest, Amazon is making donations to food banks and depositories in several other states including Illinois and Ohio.

“We are so thankful to have companies like Amazon step up and support our community,” says Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest. “Amazon’s generous donation will directly impact our ability to continue to meet the unprecedented need for food that we’ve seen in Detroit these last few weeks.”

Earlier this month, Forgotten Harvest reported seeing a more than 50 percent uptick in need for food as a result of COVID-19 leaving many without jobs or a stable income.

To learn more about how Forgotten Harvest is responding to the pandemic, click here. For more on Amazon’s COVID-19 response, click here.

Assistance for Families
​Team Joseph​, a nonprofit based in Commerce Township that funds research and provides financial assistance for children diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is helping to ease the additional burden Duchenne families face during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Team Joseph has launched a Coronavirus Relief Fund as part of their ​Duchenne Family Assistance Program​, an effort run in partnership with the ​Little Hercules Foundation​.

About 12,000 people in the U.S. are living with Duchenne, a progressive form of muscular dystrophy. There already have been more than 250 requests for support from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, including families in Michigan and across the country.

“While every family is disrupted by this pandemic, those caring for a child with Duchenne have extra challenges when it comes to keeping their family safe and affording basic needs such as food and shelter,” says Marissa Penrod, founder and CEO of Team Joseph.

“Duchenne families are already challenged with caring for a child who is battling a rare disease,” she continues. “Often, this means their child is confined to a wheelchair and may already suffer from breathing issues and cardiac problems. Our stark reality is that every Duchenne child has underlying conditions. Staying home and staying healthy has never been more important for the families we serve. In addition, there is an urgent need to help those who have suffered layoffs or job loss during the pandemic.”

In addition to emergency funding, families also can apply for a mini-grant for each child in their household to go toward educational materials, entertainment, a new hobby, or outdoor fun while social distancing is in place.

Donations to support the Coronavirus Relief Fund are accepted here.

Michigan Wine
The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA) and Michigan Wine Collaborative today announced the launch of #MichiganWineMonthChallenge. Throughout May, which is Michigan Wine Month, the challenge will offer opportunities for individuals to bid on exclusive experiences at select Michigan wineries.

All proceeds from the #MichiganWineMonthChallenge will go to The Michigan Hospitality Employee Relief Fund. The relief fund was created by the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association to provide grants to the state’s hospitality industry employees who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our goal with the Wine Month Challenge is to raise awareness for the wine industry in our state that has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic while also doing some good by raising money to support the hospitality industry’s hardworking employees,” says Brian Lillie, director of hospitality and distribution at Chateau Chantal and Michigan Wine Collaborative board member. “This partnership with the MRLA made perfect sense, and we are looking forward to the good that this challenge can bring to our industry.”

Michigan wineries offering packages for the #WineMonthChallenge include 2 Lads Winery, Amoritas Vineyards, Bonobo Winery, Chateau Chantal Winery, Fenn Valley Vineyards, Hawthorne Vineyards, Left Foot Charley, Love Wines Winery of Ludington, Modals Wines, MAWBY Sparkling Wines, Shady Lane Cellars, St. Julian Winery and Distillery, and Winery at Black Star Farms.

Participants can purchase virtual tickets online here and view the packages here.

Virtual tickets are available for purchase May 1-31. Participants then submit the virtual ticket to the prize package they select online. Each $10 virtual ticket purchased is equivalent to one entry. The more virtual tickets that participants submit for a package, the better the odds for winning the drawing. The drawing will take place on the MRLA Facebook page live at 10:00 am on Wednesday, June 3 here.

Virtual USPBL Opening Day
The Utica-based United Shore Professional Baseball League and Jimmy John’s Field will conduct a virtual 2020 season opening day on Friday, May 8 presented by OUR Credit Union. The day will begin online at noon and run through the day on the USPBL’s social media channels. Activities will include:

  • Exclusive season and player previews led by league owner Andy Appleby.
  • The opportunity for fans to order a hot dog meal, a limited virtual opening day

T-shirt, or a virtual opening day team fan pack, all of which can be picked up May 8 on a drive-through basis from 4-6 p.m. at Jimmy John’s Field (7171 Auburn Rd. in Utica).

  • Online interactivity where fans can submit tailgate at home photos and videos and play trivia and other games for prizes.
  • A new league retrospective video with highlights from past seasons.
  • A live performance by J.J. The Field General.

For fans craving a real, full-game experience, the day will culminate with a video re-broadcast of the league’s inaugural season no-hitter, by one-time USPBL pitcher Donnie Murray, at 7:30 p.m.

Orders currently are being taken for food and fan packs here.

The USPBL baseball season, which originally was scheduled to begin at Jimmy John’s Field on May 8, has been postponed due to COVID-19.  The new target start date is Friday, May 29, as the league continues to monitor developments and guidelines set forth by the state and federal government. This year will be the fifth season of USPBL baseball at Jimmy John’s Field.