COVID-19 Update: U.S. Provides New Applications for PPP Loan Forgiveness, Michigan Jobless Rate Remains High in May, Operation Warp Speed Explained, 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 June 17

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 – New Applications for PPP Loan Forgiveness Available
The U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, Wednesday posted a revised, borrower-friendly Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness application implementing the PPP Flexibility Act of 2020.  In addition to revising the full forgiveness application, SBA also published a new EZ version of the forgiveness application that applies to borrowers that:

  • Are self-employed and have no employees.
  • Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25 percent and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees.
  • Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19 and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25 percent.

The EZ application requires fewer calculations and less documentation for eligible borrowers.  Details regarding the applicability of these provisions are available in the instructions to the new EZ application form.

Both applications give borrowers the option of using the original eight-week covered period (if their loan was made before June 5) or an extended 24-week covered period. These changes are expected to result in a more efficient process and make it easier for businesses to realize full forgiveness of their PPP loan.

EZ Forgiveness Application

Full Forgiveness Application

Michigan Jobless Rate Remains High in May Despite Rebound in Payroll Jobs
Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate edged down in May to 21.2 percent, a monthly reduction of 2.8 percentage points, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Employment in Michigan rose by a solid 256,000 in May but remained more than 1 million below February levels. The number of unemployed declined by 97,000, following almost a 900,000 increase in April. The Michigan labor force in May registered a significant gain of 159,000.

The national unemployment rate of 13.3 percent was down 1.4 percentage points in May. Michigan’s rate was 7.9 percentage points above the U.S. rate. Since May 2019, the Michigan jobless rate increased by 17 percentage points, above the rate gain nationally of 9.7 percentage points.

“The May job market was marked by two primary trends: a continuation of record-high unemployment and job gains resulting from initial recalls from pandemic-related layoffs,” says Jason Palmer, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “Jobs rose in most industries in May, but these additions accounted for only about 17 percent of the jobs lost in April.”

Monthly labor force trends and highlights:

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic kept Michigan’s May unemployment rate above 20 percent for the second straight month. In April, Michigan was only one of three states with a jobless rate above 20 percent.
  • With the end of the Great Recession, Michigan’s unemployment rate hit a peak of 14.6 percent in June 2009.
  • Michigan’s labor force level rebounded in May to within 179,000 of the May 2019 level.

The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 1.7 percentage points to 23.2 percent in May. Total employment moved down by 28,000, while unemployment rose by 35,000, resulting in a net workforce increase of 7,000 since April.

Over the year, the Detroit metro area jobless rate surged by 18.7 percentage points. Employment decreased by 573,000, while the number of unemployed advanced by 352,000, resulting in a net workforce reduction of 221,000 since May 2019.

The monthly survey of employers indicated that seasonally adjusted jobs showed some initial signs of recovery in May. Michigan jobs rose by 178,000, or 5.2 percent, in May to 3,579,000. Despite this significant job gain, it represented only 17 percent of the jobs lost in April.

The most prominent monthly job advance occurred in the state’s construction sector, with a sharp recovery of 51,000 jobs over the month (+51 percent). Trade, transportation, and utilities had the second largest numeric job addition of 50,000 in May.

Industry employment trends and highlights:

  • Over the year, Michigan payroll employment fell substantially by 850,000, or 19.2 percent.
  • Jobs in the state’s mining and logging sector fell to 5,000 in May, the lowest level since at least 1990.
  • Michigan’s government sector recorded the largest numeric job cut of any major industry in May, dropping sharply by 13,000 jobs.
  • All major Michigan industries registered employment reductions since May 2019.
  • Over the year, leisure and hospitality had the largest employment decrease of any major sector, with jobs plunging by 238,000, or 54.7 percent.

Federal Government – Operation Warp Speed
The goal of Operation Warp Speed (OWS), initiated by President Donald Trump in March, is to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, otherwise known as countermeasures.

By investing in and coordinating development with government agencies and the private sector, OWS will allow countermeasures such as a vaccine to be delivered to patients more rapidly while adhering to standards for safety and efficacy.

To accelerate development while maintaining standards for safety and efficacy, OWS has been selecting the most promising countermeasure candidates and providing coordinated government support.

Congress has directed almost $10 billion to this effort through supplemental funding, including the CARES Act. Congress has also appropriated other flexible funding. The almost $10 billion specifically directed includes more than $6.5 billion designated for countermeasure development through BARDA and $3 billion for NIH research.

Fourteen promising candidates have been chosen from the more than 100 vaccine candidates currently in development — some of them already in clinical trials with U.S. government support. The 14 vaccine candidates are being narrowed down to about seven candidates, representing the most promising candidates from a range of technology options, which will go through further testing in early-stage clinical trials.

Large-scale randomized trials for the demonstration of safety and efficacy will proceed for the most promising candidates.

The federal government is making investments in the necessary manufacturing capacity at its own risk, giving firms confidence that they can invest aggressively in development and allowing faster distribution of an eventual vaccine. Manufacturing capacity for selected candidates will be advanced while they are still in development, rather than scaled up after approval or authorization. Manufacturing capacity developed will be used for whatever vaccine is eventually successful.

Before the countermeasures are approved or authorized, the program will build the necessary plans and infrastructure for distribution. HHS plans for a tiered approach to vaccine distribution, which will build on allocation methodology developed as part of pandemic flu planning and be adjusted based on experience during the first wave of the COVID-19 response, data on the virus and its impact on populations and the performance of each vaccine, and the needs of the essential workforce.

OWS will expand domestic manufacturing and supplies of specialized materials and resources, such as glass vials, that can be necessary for distribution. The Department of Defense’s involvement will enable faster distribution and administration than would have otherwise been possible.

As a commitment to making countermeasures affordable for the American people, and as a condition of receiving support from OWS, companies will provide to the U.S. government an allocation of countermeasures developed.

U-M Engineering Course Challenges Students to Create COVID-19 Tech Solutions
A spring/summer semester course being taught at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor called Software Against COVID-19 is challenging students to come up with tech solutions caused by the global pandemic.

Normally called Software for Accessibility, the class taught by Davis Chesney typically focuses on technology solutions for persons with disabilities. Chesney decided to offer a special session from May through August.

“I thought that the students might have a great deal of angst right now about COVID-19, and all of the related uncertainties,” Chesney says. “And, there’s also the reality that many students had their plans change this summer at the last minute, such as canceled internships and an inability to travel. I hoped that a positive outlet for their anxiety — and for all of the unplanned available time — was working on projects towards the greater good. When caught in a situation such as this, creatively and positively helping others is always an excellent endeavor.”

Chesney says it’s been interesting and challenging to develop an online approach to a course in which students work in groups to design, build, and test their technology solutions.

Among the solutions the students have come up with include a Google Chrome extension that will allow a person playing a game on the web to signal for help with a dangerous domestic situation. Another is a store occupancy app. Still another is a tool that students hope will help flatten the curve of COVID-19 by encouraging people to share errand runs.

The students had spring term to develop their ideas and get through an initial design phase. They will continue to work through the summer term that ends Aug. 21.

COVID-19 Tax Tips
With the amended July 15 tax filing and payment deadline approaching as a result of COVID-19, KPMG Detroit Tax Partner David Rehrauer shares five tax tips that middle-income to high-net-worth individuals can apply to maximize their 2019 returns and prepare for the 2020 tax season.

  1. Overpay 2019 taxes (with 1 check) to avoid underpayment surprises: Taxpayers having to extend their 2019 tax returns past the July 15 due date should consider paying their unpaid estimated 2019 tax liability, plus their estimated Q1 and Q2 2020 taxes as one payment to avoid any surprises when they complete their 2019 tax return. Any overpayment on the 2019 completed return can be applied to the taxpayer’s 2020 tax liability, reducing the amount of future required estimated payments.
  2. Check your PMI payment on your 2018 return: In 2019, the rules were changed to allow a deduction for any private mortgage insurance (PMI) paid if a taxpayer itemizes deductions. This change was retroactive back to 2018, so if a taxpayer’s itemized deductions in 2018 and paid PMI, they should consider amending their 2018 tax return for a possible refund. And don’t forget to show any amounts paid on your 2019 and 2020 returns, as well.
  3. Consider eligibility for a 2020 loss related to COVID-19 to be deducted on 2019 returns: In the wake of COVID-19, the entire country was deemed a disaster area. Under a well-established tax code, taxpayers may be eligible to claim COVID-19-related losses incurred in 2020 on their 2019 tax return to reduce their 2019 tax liability. A unique opportunity and one worth exploring in the appropriate situations.
  4. Convert your IRA to a ROTH IRA: If lower earnings in 2020 drop you to a lower tax bracket, or you are concerned rates may increase significantly in the future, consider converting your traditional IRA into a ROTH IRA. While a taxpayer will pay tax on the amount of the IRA rolled over, future growth inside the ROTH IRA and withdrawals will be tax free.
  5. Consider bunching charitable contributions if you’re no longer allowed to itemize deductions: By using a donor advised fund (DAF,) a taxpayer can donate 5 years’ worth of donations into their DAF in 2020. This will increase their itemized deduction potentially allowing the taxpayer to exceed the standard deduction amount in 2020, and then rely on the increase standard deduction in the following years.

State Government – MDOT Invites Public to Take Online Future Mobility Survey
The Michigan Department of Transportation is developing a new state long-range transportation plan, known as Michigan Mobility 2045, that establishes a vision and priorities for transportation in Michigan for the next 25 years. MDOT is seeking input from the public on potential strategies to deliver Michigan’s transportation system through 2045.

MDOT’s MM2045 online survey, available now through Sept. 30, is part of MDOT’s planned outreach to a larger and more diverse group of Michigan residents during the SLRTP development phase. This survey presents potential long-term strategies for Michigan’s transportation network to the public in a realistic context.

For more information on the plan or to provide comments, the public can visit here.

Greektown Moving Forward on Development of New Park Space in Randolph Plaza
The Greektown Neighborhood Partnership has been awarded a $50,000 grant to support the development of Randolph Plaza as a downtown public park space and bicycle connector through the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds for Design and Access of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

The funding will spur the next phase in development of the first public space developed in the Greektown district in close collaboration with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, city of Detroit, Michigan Department of Transportation, Quicken Loans Community Fund, and local business and property owners.

The goal of the Randolph Plaza Pre-Development Project is to develop a long-term concept plan for the space as an urban pedestrian park plaza and future bicycle route for many users, a neighborhood destination, and an asset for downtown Detroit.

Ultimately, the urban park plaza will be a place where downtown residents and nearby workers, stadia-goers, visitors, nearby hotel guests, and students can socialize, relax, dine, learn, and participate in cultural activities.

“Building upon the Greektown Neighborhood Framework Vision, a community-led urban planning initiative released in September 2019 and adopted by the city of Detroit, the development of Randolph Plaza will connect Greektown with the wider downtown and complement forthcoming development in the district, while supporting the existing businesses in the area,” says Melanie Markowicz, executive director of the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership.

Centered on pedestrian and bicycle circulation, connectivity, and mobility, critical elements of the project include universal access, safety, greening, public art, and business and economic development, all while celebrating the district’s strong cultural roots.

The Greektown Neighborhood Partnership soon will be releasing a request for proposal for this work.

For more information about Greektown, visit here.

Report: Michigan Will Lose $498.8M in Tax Revenue from Hotels
As a result of the sharp drop in travel demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local tax revenue from hotel operations will drop by $498.8 million in Michigan and $16.8 billion nationally in 2020, according to a new report by Oxford Economics released today by the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Hotels have long served as an economic engine for communities of all sizes, from major cities, to beach resorts, to small towns off the interstate — supporting job creation, small business opportunities, and economic activity in states and localities where they operate. Hotels also generate significant tax revenue for states and local governments to fund a wide array of government services. In 2018, the hotel industry directly generated nearly $40 billion in state and local tax revenue across the country.

Some of the hardest hit states include California (-$1.9 billion), New York (-$ 1.3 billion), Florida (-$ 1.3 billion), Nevada (-$1.1 billion), and Texas (-$940 million).

To view the full report, visit here.

MSU Identifies Pandemic-driven Changes to the Supply Chain
Michigan State University in East Lansing and Maine Pointe, a global supply chain and operations consulting firm in Boston, released a white paper that reveals the immediate need to address supply chain weaknesses, as well as offering tips for businesses to avoid future pandemic-driven fallouts.

The pandemic has become a catalyst for rethinking how businesses organize their supply chains and according to the researchers, will lead to a rebalancing of the supply chain that addresses limitations of the current model.

“A new model needs to be put in place that addresses weaknesses,” says Simon Knowles, CMO of Maine Pointe and paper co-author. “A more resilient supply chain will be better able to withstand the next major disruption, whatever that may be.”

The authors suggest that the purely cost-driven supply chain, which emphasizes cost savings above all else, is inflexible, ill-equipped to deal with major changes in demand — which can lead to serious shortages — and not as responsive as it needs to be.

“Existing supply chain models have been very efficient at driving down costs,” says Steven Melnyk, professor of supply chain management at MSU. “But the pandemic has highlighted serious risks to the supply chain, and now is the time for companies to take a serious look at whether they can simply return to their previous supply chain model.”

The harsh reality, Melnyk says, is that 2020 will be a washout for many firms.

“However, if companies want to hit their 2021 numbers, they need to start assessing their model and have rebalancing plans in place by October 2020 to build a more competitive and responsive supply chain model.”

The paper outlines several actionable steps business leaders must take to address both the short-term fallout of the pandemic-driven shutdowns and the need for a long-term rebalancing.

“This will still include a global factor, but the long-term rebalancing will limit exposure by avoiding single-region or single-supplier sourcing,” Melnyk says. “A balance of global, regional, and local sourcing will prove to be less risky and more efficient in the long run.”

According to Knowles, the pandemic is one in a series of global risk events that have exposed supply chain vulnerabilities.

“It certainly will not be the last disruptive event, and action must be taken immediately to ensure resiliency in the future,” Knowles says.

To download the white paper, visit here.

Higher Education
Spring Arbor University, located southwest of Jackson, has launched an online Doctor of Nursing Practice in Strategic Leadership program along with three online post-master’s certificates during this pivotal moment in the health care industry.

The DNP program is designed for working nurses looking to advance their careers in the most highly sought-after areas of the advanced nursing profession, while the post-master’s certificates – Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (non-NP to AGPCNP), and Nurse Educator – offer even more opportunities for highly skilled nursing leaders.

The launch of the new online program will provide options for nurses who hold a Master of Science in Nursing degree, with or without an APRN certification.

“The health care industry is currently facing the challenge of a lack of doctorally prepared nurses,” says Dr. Dawn Day, chair of graduate nursing programs at Spring Arbor University. “The new flexible online DNP in Strategic Leadership program provides opportunities for working nurses to expand their skills and advance their careers while also addressing an urgent need within the nursing industry.”

For more information on the new doctoral program, visit here, for the post-master’s certificates, visit here.

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds and Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Awards Grants
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has awarded nearly $1.7 million in grants to 73 organizations through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds.

The majority of this year’s grants have been designed to support organizations as they adapt and adjust during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing them to continue their work on current projects or address urgent needs as they arise within the seven counties of southeast Michigan.

“We are honored to help carry out Mr. Wilson’s philanthropic passions by supporting organizations working in caregiving, design and access, youth sports across the seven-county region, and community assets in Grosse Pointe, which was home to Ralph during his lifetime,” says Mariam C. Noland, president of the Community Foundation. “Through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds, organizations will continue their critical work to improve the lives of residents in our community.”

Since 2016, more than $5.5 million in 234 grants have been awarded to nonprofits in southeast Michigan.

Nineteen caregiving organizations each received $20,000. Twenty-nine your sports groups also received $20,000 grants. Twelve organizations in the Grosse Pointes received $10,000 grants.

Thirteen grant recipients from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Fund for Design and Access include:

  • Auntie Na’s in Detroit, $40,000 for a walking path that encircles Auntie Na’s Village in Detroit and introduce physical activity to complement existing programming.
  • The city of Royal Oak, $32,517 for the construction of a universal design hard-surface trail through the Royal Oak Arboretum.
  • Michigan Municipal League Foundation, $50,000 for the creation of the Hamtramck Park Conservancy to manage and maintain Hamtramck’s parks and public spaces.
  • Thumb Land Conservancy, $50,000 for the establishment of a coastal forest park and trail along Lake Huron connecting the Port Huron area to Lakeport State Park.
  • Trinity Health, $50,000 to create a bike/walk path along Stark Road in Livonia that would connect Hines Parkway and the Stark Road Recreation area.

For the list of all 73 grants, visit here.

Juneteenth Weekend Celebration Planned June 19-20
Detroit is the New Black is launching a new Black Hyper Local online market as part of a two-day Juneteenth celebration featuring the Ponyride Makers Market sponsored by Bedrock Detroit, a virtual block party, virtual panel discussions, and performances from world-renowned poet Jessica Care Moore. Partial proceeds benefit the Ponyride Makers Market and Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan.

“The Ponyride marketplace is a true expression of Détroit,” says Roslyn Karamoko, CEO of Detroit is the New Black. “The market is personal to me because I myself am a Ponyride alumni and feel as though I’ve grown up with many of these talented entrepreneurs.”

The event kicks off Friday, June 19 with the Ponyride Makers Market via Zoom between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. that includes D.J. Rue, PrettyStringz, poetry by Moore Juneteenth-related celebrations and performances, and discussions with local Black women entrepreneurs. From 5-6 p.m., there will be a panel discussion on overcoming racial biases as a Black male entrepreneur with Ludacris. For more information, visit here.

On Saturday, June 20, between 1-6 p.m. the block party will feature a Black business crawl, music, DJs, performers, vendors, live painters, and dance cypher. A movie will be shown at 9:30 p.m. Free face masks will be provided. For more information, visit here.

Artist Hubert Massey Selected to Lead Installation of Woodward Mural
Famed artist, Hubert Massey, has been selected to design a mural with support from local student artists from Detroit Heals Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools Community District. It will be painted along a block-long span of Woodward Avenue leading to Spirit Plaza where it will be unveiled at 10 a.m. on June 19.

Massey’s art can be found in Mexicantown, Greektown, the Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Athletic Club, and the TCF Center, where his 30-by-30-foot fresco called “Detroit: Crossroad of Innovation” celebrates the city’s diverse industrial and cultural heritage.

Massey was chosen by 20 students who will serve as his crew, who selected him based on his experience, work in the community, work with youth, and the sketch of his vision included in his application.

“Watching the students dissect the work of the 35 artists who applied was magical,” says Rochelle Riley, director of arts and culture for the city, who is overseeing the project. “They were very clear on purpose, nuance, space and how the message had to be clear enough as to not be misconstrued. I was so proud of them.”

The street mural project was made possible by the Knight Foundation, Bedrock, Eastern Market, and Motor City Paint.

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