COVID-19 Update: State Expands Testing Criteria and Offers Business Tax Relief, Total Health Care Will Waive Out-of-pocket Payment for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment, U-M Working with Detroit Small Businesses, 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 14

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 – Testing
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has announced it is expanding testing criteria for COVID-19 to include individuals with mild symptoms, and has published a COVID-19 test site finder here to help Michiganders locate a testing site near them.

Michigan’s testing priority criteria now include: hospitalized patients, symptomatic health care workers, patients in congregate facilities with symptoms, including those at:

  • Long-term care or elderly living facilities.
  • Jails or prisons.
  • Homeless shelters.
  • Residential foster care facilities.
  • Other group living settings.

Other priority test subjects include patients age 65 and older with symptoms, patients with underlying conditions with symptoms, first responders with symptoms, critical infrastructure workers with symptoms, and individuals with mild symptoms.

The COVID-19 testing site finder was developed by Castlight, a health navigation platform that connects the information of hundreds of health vendors, benefits resources, and plan designs into an online tool. Michiganders are able to locate testing sites by inputting their address or selecting state, county, and zip code.

State Government – Business Taxes
Certain businesses that have experienced disrupted operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic now have more time to make monthly or quarterly sales, use, and withholding tax payments, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Business taxpayers scheduled to make sales, use, and withholding tax payments for March and April or for the first quarter of 2020 can postpone filing and payment requirements until May 20. The state Treasury Department will waive all penalties and interest.

Specific information about the Treasury providing continued tax assistance to businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic can be found in Penalty and Interest Waived for 30 Days for Monthly and Quarterly Sales, Use and Withholding Returns due April 20, 2020.

Business taxpayers are encouraged to file sales, use, and withholding tax returns and pay taxes owed as of the original due date if able to do so.

On March 18, the state Treasury Department first announced tax assistance for businesses scheduled to make their sales, use and withholding payments in March.

The waiver is not available for accelerated sales, use, or withholding tax filers. Businesses with questions should inquire through self-service options using Michigan Treasury Online.

To learn more about Michigan’s taxes, click here.

Health Insurance
Total Health Care USA in Detroit announced today it will waive all copays, deductibles, and co-insurance for the treatment of COVID-19 through June 30. This is inclusive of all commercial, individual, and Medicaid members.

Effective immediately, all members can receive the testing and treatment they need for COVID-19 with no out-of-pocket health insurance costs. Covered treatment may be inpatient or outpatient from an in-network provider.

“We continue to support our commitment to our members and the communities we serve by making sure our members receive the treatment they need, without the burden of copays, deductibles, and co-insurance payments,” says Randy Narowitz, CEO of Total Health Care USA. “We must all be diligent in making sure our families and loved ones are safe in these difficult times.”

Patients currently can only be tested for COVID-19 if a physician orders a test. Patients must have a confirmed primary COVID-19 diagnosis and be receiving evidence-based care for treatment to be fully covered. Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider to determine eligibility for testing. Total Health Care USA encourages the use of Teladoc whenever possible, to protect our health care providers and facilities.

To support members throughout the crisis, Total Health Care USA continues to provide the following:

  • Fully covering the cost of physician-ordered COVID-19 testing for all members.
  • Continuing to provide Teladoc at no charge.
  • Expanding free home medication delivery for all members with local pharmacies.

Additional Testing
Rite Aid announced plans to expand COVID-19 testing sites as part of its partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The company expects to have drive-up COVID-19 testing locations open soon at Rite Aid stores in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, and Virginia.

All Rite Aid drive-up COVID-19 testing locations will utilize self-swab nasal tests overseen by Rite Aid pharmacists. An online platform will triage people based on guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The testing sites will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week and expects to be able to conduct approximately 200 tests each day.

The testing will take place in the store’s parking lot. As part of the testing process, people must pre-register online and remain in their vehicles from the time they arrive and until they depart.

Testing will be available at no cost to eligible individuals who meet criteria established by the CDC. Patients are required to provide government issued identification, be at least 18 years old and need to pre-register online here in order to schedule a time slot for testing.

Small Business Assistance
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is working with Detroit’s small businesses to help them find sources of federal financial aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic and assist them in navigating the rules and regulations they will encounter in the application process.

The Ford School of Public Policy’s Center on Finance, Law and Policy, through its Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project, has compiled resources business owners need to access the roughly $375 billion in grants and loans earmarked for small businesses in the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law last month.

COVID-19 Resources for Small-business Owners: Highlights resources to find, prepare, and apply for funding. This guide points to free assistance to help with required financial statements and offers practical advice on updating websites and social media.

Coronavirus Funding for Small Businesses: Provides details about the most widely available funding programs including SBA Disaster Loans, the Paycheck Protection Program, TechTown Stabilization Fund Grants, and Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Grants.

“For a lot of small-business owners, this is their first time dealing with bank lending and navigating the complexities involved in the process,” says Justin Erickson, program manager for the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project. “We have a team of interdisciplinary students responding in various ways: law students researching legal questions related to Small Business Administration lending, public policy students creating easy to understand guides, and design students designing templates for businesses moving to online sales.

“We have also expanded our team of students who are consulting directly with businesses on accounting and finance issues, as well as helping businesses navigate different loan opportunities and fill out applications.”

Businesses can make appointments to meet virtually with students here.

Manufacturing Medical Supplies
ZF North America, an automotive supplier in Northville, has partnered with Pontiac-based manufacturer Detroit Sewn to help with the fight against the COVID-19 virus. A shipment of 100,000 face masks is expected to be delivered to Detroit Sewn by the end of April.

Developed for frontline health care workers and individuals in the community with high risk for infection, such as those at soup kitchens, nursing homes, and other essential organizations, these masks will contribute to the fight against the contagion as ZF shifts production of some of its normal automotive safety products to this now critically needed item.

“The world is facing a situation unlike anything our generation has seen before and, while the challenge may seem impossible, now more than ever, it’s the support of each and every individual and company working together that is truly making a difference,” says Martin Fischer, president of ZF North America and member of the board of management of the ZF Group. “It’s an honor for us to join in the fight to help protect frontline health care workers and everyone who is caring for others during this difficult time. We hope we can not only do our part to make a difference, but to encourage others to contribute as we get through this together.”

Traditionally a full-service cut-and-sew manufacturer, Detroit Sewn recently restructured its operations to focus solely on the production of masks and gowns that protect health care workers and other essential service workers against COVID-19. The company employs 25 people on two shifts and also is supplying fabric to other manufacturing organizations like ZF that have industrial sewing expertise and who can assist with the fight against this disease.

Detroit Sewn and the Glamorous Moms Foundation also have partnered to create the Michigan Mask Donation Center at 71 N. Saginaw in Pontiac. The center is distributing home-sewn donated masks to community groups in need. More details can be found here.

According to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted. These masks are not intended to replace N95 masks.

Mental Health Services
Community Care Services (CCS), a nonprofit outpatient treatment center for mental health and substance abuse issues in Lincoln Park, has committed therapy resources to assist and serve those in the hospitality industry affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective immediately, CCS invites current and displaced hospitality workers who may be struggling with existing or compounded mental health and substance abuse problems to contact the agency for immediate services. CCS has designated therapists available for assessment, individual therapy, and other behavioral health services through its current telehealth services.

“We know that the hospitality industry has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis, and we want to reach out to this tight-knit community to provide as much needed supportive services that we can,” says Susan Kozak, executive director of CCS. “Our initial focus will be to immediately address symptoms like anxiety, depression, and struggles with substance use.”

Additionally, CCS will offer case management services to identify needed referrals, assist with health benefits applications, and create an online toolkit available here to offer informative videos and direct people to local and national programs.

Those seeking service can call 313-389-7500. Callers will be connected to trained intake professionals who will screen and determine a specialized course of treatment, as well as offer support and information about services and resources in their area.

Because many people working in this industry, especially those in restaurants and bars, do not have health insurance or wellness benefits, CCS will work to identify available resources to offset the cost of services and will accept clients who have little or no insurance. The only criteria for services is that the individual reside in Wayne County.

Health Care Needs
Henry Ford Health System in Detroit today announced that support from the community is making an impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations to date have supported thousands of patients throughout the community, along with physicians, nurses, and medical staff, and helped the organization continue to stop the spread of the virus.

The support to the COVID-19 Emergency Needs Fund is already being used to provide:

  • Thousands of shift meals for care teams at every Henry Ford Health System hospital;
  • Life-saving equipment and personal protective equipment for staff and patients;
  • Gift cards, gas cards, and food to take home so that frontline teams have everything that they need to provide care;
  • Clean scrubs for frontline care teams and custodial staff, ensuring that they can minimize exposure risk for patients and their own families;
  • Transportation for employees and patients so that they can travel safely when buses and other options are limited;
  • Financial support for vulnerable employees that need a little extra help while they work to help our communities heal and slow the spread of COVID-19;
  • Resources to advance leading-edge research activity seeking to find a vaccine for COVID-19 as well as diagnostics and other efforts that are increasing the use of PPE and more;
  • Meal delivery for immunosuppressed and other homebound patients.

Albion College, located between Jackson and Marshall along I-94, announced today its new Michigan 2020 Promise program, which will assist Michigan families who have college affordability concerns due to COVID-19.

Exclusive to graduating high school seniors and transfer students, the Michigan 2020 Promise will cover 100 percent of tuition and fees for Michigan students’ whose families make less than $65,000 annually, after the Michigan Tuition and Federal Pell grants are applied. Families making more than $65,000 at minimum will receive $92,000, or as high as $136,000 in Albion College scholarships over the course of four years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only denied graduating seniors with the opportunity to walk in a high school graduation ceremony, it has evoked anxiety and concern for the financial and educational future of Michigan families,” says Mauri A. Ditzler, president of Albion College.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, entrance exam testing dates were postponed to the fall. To lessen this undue stress and make the hope of higher education more readily attainable, Albion College also will be waiving ACT and SAT scores as a prerequisite for admissions —exclusive to the fall 2020 incoming class.

The opportunity to apply for a Michigan 2020 Promise scholarship expires on May 1. Interested students should visit here to confirm their qualification.

Community Outreach
Starting Thursday, April 16, Detroit PAL is launching its Six Degrees of Separation – Checking in Saves Lives campaign designed to check-in with family and friends at least three times a month through the end of June.

“We believe this initiative will reach across generational, racial, geographic, economic, and other differences that normally divide us, but hopefully will now align us to save lives in this time of communal crisis,” said Detroit PAL CEO Robert Jamerson. “Personal communication is essential, so we truly hope everyone will join us in our efforts and help as many people we can during this unprecedented time of need.”

The organization is asking the community to take a pledge at and vow to check-in with at least six family members or friends on the 6th, 16th, and 26th day of each month and provide support and resources to those who may need valuable information via text, email, social media, or website.

Detroit PAL also is offering a Six Degrees of Separation T-shirt for sale here.

The National Business League in Washington, D.C., the oldest and largest black-business organization in the country, which was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1900, is hosting a free webinar on April 16 at 10 a.m. (EST) that will cover how to apply for the $349 Billion C.A.R.E.S. Act funding for small businesses. The NBL, which has an office in Detroit, will walk through the 1) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), 2) EIDL Advance, and 3) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP/P3) on the NBL’s Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, You Tube Live, and Twitter Live. Presenters include Terri Moon, business strategist and people centered thought leader at T3 Innovation Strategists; Barbara Whittaker, global procurement and supply chain executive director, T3 Innovation Strategists; and Gwen Malone Rhodes, technical innovator, data-driven, and insightful strategist at T3 Innovation Strategists. The host is Ken Harris, president and CEO of NBL. To participate, click here.

Connected Vehicle Trade Association is hosting a Venture Summit/Virtual Connect webinar May 5-7, 2020.

Organizers say startups seeking capital and exposure or investors seeking new deals can benefit from the program where innovation meets capital. Features include:

  • More than 100 VCs (regional and national)
  • Presentations by 100 top innovators
  • One-on-one investor-startup meetings
  • Two days of content including panel discussions and workshops.

Visit here for more information.