COVID-19 Update: State Connects Employers with PPE Suppliers, Detroit Receives $1M to Improve Public Spaces, Resources for Detroit Entrepreneurs, 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 27

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.

State Government – Connecting Employers with PPE Suppliers
The Pure Michigan Business Connect program through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has developed a portal designed to support the personal protective equipment needs of Michigan businesses as they start the process of re-opening.

Through the free PMBC COVID-19 Procurement Platform, the PMBC team will work to connect those businesses in need of access to PPE – including face masks, face shields, gloves, goggles, and other materials as necessary to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers – with Michigan businesses that have supplier capacity to meet that demand.

The online portal can be accessed here and is open to companies of all sizes and industries and is available for all scales of PPE demand.

“This platform is serving as a critical tool in supporting economic recovery efforts across the state,” says Mark A. Burton, CEO of the MEDC. “This next phase builds on successful efforts through PMBC to support the production of more than 5.5 million individual PPE supplies in Michigan as well as connect health and human service needs in the fight against COVID-19 with Michigan businesses providing critical supplies.”

Both Michigan businesses in need of PPE, as well as business with goods and services that might be able to support organizations in safeguarding their employees and customers as they transition to in-person operations, are encouraged to submit information on the portal. Those businesses with supplier capabilities may be added to a supplier database that will then be made available to businesses with PPE procurement needs. While PMBC will curate an initial list of suppliers, the businesses themselves will be responsible for reaching out to suppliers directly to inquire about procurement needs.

Upon receiving supplier submissions through the platform, the PMBC team is checking to determine whether these entities have reputable websites, email contacts, and products that would support the demand for various forms of PPE throughout the state. Businesses using this list of suppliers are encouraged to conduct their own due diligence as well, as the PMBC team and MEDC do not make any representations about the quality of the goods or services provided by each entity nor guarantee they will have immediate supply stock or service availability.

City of Detroit Receives $1M to Improve Public Spaces
The city of Detroit has received $1.02 million in new investment and an additional three-year commitment through Reimagining the Civic Commons to transform public spaces in ways that advance engagement, equity, environmental sustainability, and economic development.

This national initiative is a collaborative effort of national foundations — including The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and the William Penn Foundation — and local partners working In Detroit.

So far, the initiative it has helped support the reinvestment in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, including the construction of Ella Fitzgerald Park, community programming and events, and the rehabilitation of a number of new community storefronts along West McNichols Road.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, parks, greenways, and open spaces have provided a critical outlet for residents looking to get outside and maintain their physical and mental health. Parks, trails, and all of civic assets are critical infrastructure for an equitable recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.

“The current crisis has shown how critical public spaces are to the health and well-being of the community,” says Arthur Jemison, the city’s group executive for planning, housing, and development. “Through this initiative, Detroit has invested in equitable neighborhood revitalization by enhancing our parks, streets, commercial corridors, and residential communities around a vision driven by the community and in partnership with its leaders and institutions.”

With the additional funding, the team will be able to continue this work, including the activation and development of public spaces, further investment into workforce development opportunities, and support for resident-driven stewardship and programming.

Resources for Detroit Entrepreneurs
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan and Detroit small business incubator Ponyride are joining forces to offer approximately 20,000 square feet of co-working and manufacturing space across three locations in Detroit and Highland Park.

The Ponyride program — under management of BGCSM, will continue to focus on breaking the poverty cycle for youth by creating economic mobility opportunities for the whole family. More than 50 percent of youth and their families are struggling to meet basic needs according to United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s ALICE report.

“Collaborating with Ponyride allows us to create a multigenerational pathway to economic mobility through neighborhood entrepreneurship,” says Shawn H. Wilson president and CEO of BGCS. “Funding is only going to become more challenging for social impact organization and together Ponyride and BGCSM can decrease expenses while increasing impact for the communities we serve.”

The new partnership will provide space and resources for businesses that are in the health and beauty, culinary, technology, and professional service industries. Programs will focus on women and entrepreneurs of color.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Ponyride to work deeper in Detroit neighborhoods by partnering with an organization that has been so much for so many,” says Phil Cooley, co-founder of Ponyride.

New Ponyride locations will be based inside three BGCSM Clubs — Dick and Sandy Dauch Club (Ponyride West), Fauver-Martin Club (Ponyride East), and Diehl Club (Ponyride South).

For more information, visit here.

Grant to Expand Financial Counseling
GreenPath Financial Wellness, a Farmington Hills-based nonprofit that provides financial counseling and debt management services, was awarded a $750,000 grant from Wells Fargo Foundation to deliver counseling to meet the needs of renters and homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds expand availability of counseling that addresses a household’s entire financial situation, including the importance of paying for essentials, understanding debt repayment options, and balancing housing costs with credit card debt, student loans, and unanticipated hardships stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since mid-March, there has been a 50-percent increase in calls to Greenpath’s 888-995-HOPE hotline from homeowners and renters faced with sudden job loss, reduced income, and other financial challenges. Funds from Wells Fargo will be put to immediate use serving those seeking assistance.

“During this unprecedented time, too many people are struggling financially and facing housing instability,” says Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy with the Wells Fargo Foundation. “Wells Fargo has a deep commitment to advance housing affordability solutions. We are proud to support the work of GreenPath Financial Wellness as they serve a vital role in helping renters and homeowners facing financial difficulties.”

The Wells Fargo Foundation grant for GreenPath Financial Wellness is part of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s $175 million commitment to assist people and communities in response to COVID-19. More than 300 grants have already been made since March to help nonprofits provide urgent housing services for vulnerable populations.

“Millions of people are facing financial concerns due to COVID-19,” says Kristen Holt, president and CEO of GreenPath. “We’re here to guide them and help them understand their options. The Wells Fargo grant strengthens our ability to meet increased demand when these services are needed the most.”

Health Care Systems
McLaren Health Care in Grand Blanc has been awarded $626,328 in funding for expanded telehealth services from the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. McLaren is one of 30 health care providers nationwide to be approved for this special allocation at this time.

This FCC program provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the pandemic by fully funding their telehealth platform services and equipment necessary to provide critical connected care services. The funding allows for 12 of McLaren’s hospitals across Michigan to enhance telehealth connectivity between providers and patients statewide.

McLaren first launched its consumer-based telehealth service, McLarenNow, in March of 2019. Through McLarenNow, Michigan residents can virtually connect with a board-certified physician, 24/7, through their computer or smart phone. The service has expanded to include a clinic-to-clinic platform, facilitating virtual visits between McLaren patients and their own specialty and primary care providers.

Since mid-March, when COVID-19 cases in Michigan began to multiply, McLaren’s telehealth platform has grown exponentially. To meet a growing need, McLarenNow began providing COVID-19 screenings in addition to virtual visits for urgent care needs.

“We went from seeing eight to 10 patients a day on our McLarenNow platform to seeing as many as 50 patients per day in April,” says Cheryl Ellegood, vice president of service lines at McLaren. “Our clinic-to-clinic telehealth consults went from 300 in March to 14,000 in April.”

This growth also was influenced by the CMS expansion of telehealth benefits, allowing physicians to provide virtual visits to their patients in their homes. CMS also removed the restriction of only paying for patient visits in designated rural locations. Once these measures were put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, there was a huge demand for telehealth access from physicians on McLaren’s medical staffs. As a result, McLaren’s telehealth program onboarded 545 employed physicians and an additional 55 members of its ACO in April, with more slated in May.

“The accelerated growth we have seen in our telehealth program from March 5 to May 1 is equivalent to the growth we were forecasting over a two-to-three year period of time,” Ellegood says. “We are very appreciative of receiving this FCC allocation, as it allows us to continue our telehealth outreach. This is a trend that will continue to gain traction. Physicians and patients have truly bought into telehealth as a means of accessing care.”

Testing
CVS Health will open 16 new COVID-19 self-swab test sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations across Michigan on Friday, May 29.

“CVS Health has been at the forefront of helping our nation scale-up COVID-19 testing capabilities, and we’re proud to meet our goal of establishing 1,000 testing sites in communities across the country,” says Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health. “Opening access to testing in more locations using our drive-thru window represents an important milestone in our response to the pandemic. We remain grateful for the daily efforts and sacrifices of our front-line colleagues who make the continued expansion of our testing possible.”

Self-swab tests will be available to individuals meeting CDC criteria, in addition to state and age guidelines. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com beginning Friday, May 29 to schedule an appointment. Patients will be required to stay in their cars and will be directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window, where they will be provided with a test kit and given instructions, and a CVS Pharmacy team member will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly. Tests will be sent to an independent, third-party lab for processing and the results will be available in approximately three days.

The new testing sites in Michigan include CVS Pharmacy locations at:

  • 2100 West Stadium in Ann Arbor.
  • 1700 South Industrial Highway in Ann Arbor.
  • 5757 Whitmore Lake Rd. in Brighton.
  • 1402 W. 14 Mile Rd. in Clawson.
  • 39350 Nine Mile Rd. in Farmington Hills.
  • 33021 Garfield Rd. in Fraser.
  • 1550 Lake Drive Southeast in Grand Rapids.
  • 17120 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe.
  • 240 M.A.C. in East Lansing.
  • 21777 21 Mile Rd. in Macomb Township.
  • 720 General Motors Rd. in Milford.
  • 44300 Five Mile Rd. in Northville.
  • 46960 Van Dyke Ave. in Shelby Township.
  • 2115 25 Mile Rd. in Shelby Township.
  • 30920 Southfield Rd. in Southfield.
  • 100 West Maple Rd. in Walled Lake.

For a complete list of CVS Pharmacy drive-thru test sites, visit here.

Medical Equipment and Supplies
Ann Arbor’s TSRL Inc. will receive approximately $3 million over three years from a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to drive development its transdermal delivery system of zanamivir (Relenza) toward clinical evaluation. Zanamivir is licensed as an inhalation drug for the treatment and prevention of influenza A and B.

A transdermal delivery system offers a number of improvements over the inhalation product. Microneedle patches allow for painless administration and can deliver zanamivir over multiple days with a single administration. Furthermore, the application allows large numbers of patients to be reached through simplified dosing, and by providing those with respiratory impairments a novel treatment option.

“The potential for this microneedle delivery technology to expand the use of zanamivir and provide a novel treatment option for the high-risk flu patient population is critical,” says Elke Lipka, CEO of TSRL. “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there may be a surge in the number of people in need of protection against additional respiratory infections.”

In Related News: Gentherm, a developer of thermal management technologies based in Northville, today announced that the FDA has granted emergency use authorization for the company’s Hemotherm Model 400CE dual-reservoir cooler-heater to be used to treat patients with COVID-19.

The Hemotherm Model 400CE delivers blood temperature management control during cardiopulmonary by-pass and other related cardiovascular procedures. In treating COVID-19 patients, the system controls the temperature of the water flowing through a blood oxygenator/heat exchanger that is used to cool or warm blood during long-term respiratory/cardiopulmonary support in an extracorporeal membrane oxygenator circuit.

“The use of the Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA opens the way for Gentherm to provide support to health care professionals in treating patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19,” says Phil Eyler, president and CEO of Gentherm. “Thanks to the enormous effort of our team we are able to meet the needs of patients, their families, and health care workers with a greater sense of urgency and responsibility during this pandemic.”

In Related News: Simplix, a new stool sample collection container from Gaudlitz Plastic Technologies in Canton Township, reduces the number of testing steps required from six to two and provides an improved alternative to traditional stool collection devices, according to the company.

The Simplix design offers a customizable precision extraction stick, dual bayonet patented closure system, integrated dosing adapter, and optional pre-filled buffer.

“Usually you have a six-step process in fecal testing, but Simplix eliminates four of those steps,” says Adam Heinz, director of business development for Gaudlitz. “Because you have precision dosing, it saves lab technicians a lot of time. And the reduction in processing steps saves the customer both time and money.”

Simplix is typically used for stool tests in the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, food allergies, and intestinal parasites. The device also is commonly used to measure fecal calprotectin, fecal lactoferrin, and fecal occult blood to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.

Madison Heights Announces Cost-saving Measures
Anticipating massive budget shortfalls in the next two fiscal years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Madison Heights have begun a series of cost-saving measures including 62 layoffs and furloughs that will continue through September.

“The decisions we’ve had to make as a city are painful, but necessary, in this unprecedented time, as we await the full picture of how severe the pandemic’s impact will be on city funding,” says Mayor Brian Hartwell. “With no guarantee of federal financial support coming to America’s cities, we are taking a fiscally responsible, proactive approach to lessen the severity of future impacts.”

Impacted employees will retain their health insurance and other benefits, and will be automatically enrolled in the unemployment process. All non-essential projects and expenditures also have been frozen.

Webinar
The Butzel Long law firm in Detroit is presenting a PPP audit and forgiveness webinar titled “Preparing for a Potential SBA Audit and Determining Maximum Loan Forgiveness” on Monday, June 1 from 9-10 a.m.

During the program, Butzel Long President Justin G. Klimko, Vice President Bernard J. Fuhs, and Brett J. Miller, chair of the firm’s employment practices liability insurance sub-practice, will cover:

  • An overview of the latest SBA rules and guidance.
  • The certification safe harbor for loans under $2 million.
  • How to prepare for a potential SBA audit.
  • How to get ready to apply for forgiveness.
  • Types of expenses eligible to include in loan forgiveness and the period for measuring them, including “hazard” pay.
  • What the 75 percent rule means, and how to apply it.
  • How workforce reductions and pay reductions in the calculation period may reduce the amount forgiven.
  • What happens to any portion of the loan that is not forgiven.
  • How loan forgiveness affects payroll tax deferral.
  • Rumblings in Congress to change some of these rules and limitations.

To register for the webinar, visit here.

Ally Financial Contributes $1.8M COVID-19 Relief
Ally Financial in Detroit has awarded more than $1.8 million in its first round of grants to help nonprofits withstand the COVID-19 health crisis. Ally employees also are making donations matched by the company and volunteering virtually to assist nonprofits across the country.

“There has never been a more important time for Ally to demonstrate our commitment to ‘Do It Right’ for our communities and employees,” says Alison Summerville, business administration executive and head of corporate citizenship for Ally. “We spent a lot of time consulting with, and listening carefully to, the wisdom of the nonprofit community. Our initial wave of giving is focused on their greatest needs at this time – food, health care, housing, and other emergency requests.”

In Detroit, Ally has made 12 awards, including grants to:

  • Feed the Frontlines Detroit to feed first responders with meals from local restaurants.
  • Gleaners Community Food Bank and Forgotten Harvest to distribute food to those who need it most.
  • TechTown Detroit to support small businesses.

Volunteerism is a key component of Ally’s “Do It Right” culture and the company has identified the following virtual ways for employees to support organizations that need skills and expertise while social distancing:

  • Skills-based volunteering through Catchafire, which matches professionals who want to donate their time and talent with non-profits around the U.S. Employees search for a project based on causes, skills or length of time.
  • Opportunities with Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation in education and career services include virtual assistance with interview preparation, mock interviews, resume writing and virtual career panels.
  • City of Detroit’s COVID-19 Financial Relief Application Support for Small Business Owners, through which volunteers serve as advisors to assist Detroit small business owners with completing the application process for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and/or Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
  • Volunteer story readers through TutorMate are paired with a single at-risk student whose parent signs them up. Tutors record one personalized story from the TutorMate platform at leisure and parents then playback these stories with their child present.
  • Virtual volunteering at qualified nonprofits is eligible for a $25 donation per hour volunteered.

In addition, Ally has launched an employee relief fund. Employees who make $125,000 or less and are impacted by the COVID-19 situation are eligible to apply. If awarded, financial assistance, ranging from $500 to $1,500, is non-taxable and is paid directly to the employee to cover critical needs that are not provided or covered with any other Ally benefits including food, shelter, utilities, and childcare.

Catholic Foundation Responds to COVID-19
To respond to the emergency needs related to the effects of COVID-19, the Bloomfield Township-based Catholic Foundation of Michigan created the Catholic Faithful Response Fund in late March. In the next few days, the foundation expects to meet its goal of raising $100,000 to benefit nearly 40 organizations.

“Not all of us have been called to work that puts us on the front lines. But so many of us stuck at home want to help,” says Angela Moloney, president and CEO of Catholic Foundation of Michigan. “We wanted to bring generous people together with organizations who are actively helping.”

The response was created in an effort to provide one unified source for giving to meet the urgent needs of the most financially vulnerable ministries, schools, and churches. These organizations are providing food and supplies, health care, and spiritual resources to those in need.

“We wanted to make it easy for donors to have a one-stop-shop to donate to many causes they care about,” says Moloney. “It also helps donors discover new organizations that are doing incredible work right where they live.”

Through the foundation’s online portal, the community can learn about each organization’s emergency response efforts and the current need.

The Catholic Foundation is taking on all administrative work associated with the donation and granting process, allowing organizations to focus on their critical ministry. Front line organizations receive weekly direct deposits at a time when staffing resources are stretched, and so far, close to $90,000 has been granted. Last week, in a community-wide vote, more than 6,000 individuals gave input on which organizations should receive more than $10,000 of the undesignated gifts for COVID-19 relief efforts.

From now until June 1, community members can select specific ministries to support or give to the greatest need. The fund is a collaborative opportunity for all people to make an impact in the community, in line with faithful values.

To make a contribution, visit here.

New Forgotten Harvest Food Distribution Sites
Forgotten Harvest is adding six new food distribution sites, two start today and four will open on Friday, May 29.

Starting today the organization will be distributing food from 9 a.m. to noon every Thursday at Wayne County Community College (5901 Conner in Detroit).

It also distributed food this morning at Alternatives for Girls on W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

On Friday, May 29, Forgotten Harvest will be distributing food from 9 a.m. to noon at:

  • Woodside Bible Church (830 Auburn Ave. in Pontiac).
  • International Gospel Center (375 Salliotte Rd. in Ecorse).
  • Exodus Missionary (8173 Kenney in Detroit).
  • Triumph Church (2760 E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit).

Entertainment
COVID-19 halted tour plans for the alternative rap duo Twiztid’s tour of the U.S. and Canada, but the group will bring music to the masses (for free) at the first Netfest: On Your Couch, a virtual concert experience on Saturday, May 30 at 7 p.m. In addition to performances from more than 100 underground acts and visits from celebrity friends.

Other acts scheduled to perform include Blaze Ya Dead Homie, Riitz, Hyro the Hero, Mayday, Ubiquitous from Ces Cru, Murs, RA The Rugged Man, and more.

To tune in to the concert, visit here.

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