COVID-19 Update: Vehicle Sales Rise in China, USDA Approves Michigan’s Request for Food Assistance, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and 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 12

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Vehicle sales in China are starting to rise after a large drop in February, according to a report today in The Wall Street Journal. The China Passenger Car Association said Thursday that 1.05 million new cars were sold in March, down 40 percent from a year ago but up from the 79-percent drop to 310,000 new car sales in February. But consumer demand globally is expected to remain weak. HIS Markit, which operates an office in Southfield, has downgraded its outlook for world-wide auto sales this year to 72 million vehicles, a 19-percent drop from last year, “considerably worse than the two-year, peak-to-trough decline of 8 percent” during the recession of 2007-09.With Chinese partners, the following automakers have ramped up production in recent weeks: General Motors, Daimler, Volkswagen, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz.

Last week, Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Alphabet, filed a patent for a new system in self-driving cars that would be able to dynamically change the seat layout. If the car sensed that a crash was imminent, it could quickly arrange seats to protect all the human passengers inside as much as possible. No word on whether the company has filed a patent that would allow on-board technology to avoid a crash altogether. In addition, Amazon filed a patent for delivery drones. By placing radar devices at landing sites, such as in backyards, the technology could bounce signals to a drone to let it know where to land or things to avoid. In one drawing in the patent, that just looks like a sheet with a massive “X” in the middle of it.

The USDA today approved Michigan’s request for an emergency food program. The state Department of Education submitted a request to USDA Food and Nutrition Services for a Disaster Household Distribution Program on behalf of the Food Bank Council of Michigan in Lansing. The subsequent approval waives household verification and income eligibility requirements normally connected to The Emergency Food Assistance Program which the Food Bank Council said puts staff in close proximity to clients when asking these questions. The waiver will allow food bank staff, volunteers, and National Guard members to more efficiently serve a large number of people in need while also maintaining safety protocols outlined in social distancing guidelines. Michigan has experienced a significant demand for emergency food resources as more people find themselves without work during the pandemic. Flexibilities afforded through the Disaster Household Distribution Program waives the need to capture information face-to-face and further promotes social distancing and minimized contact. Founded in 1984, the Food Bank Council of Michigan was created to implement a unified strategy to address and alleviate hunger statewide. FBCM works with its regional food banks and over 2,800 hunger relief agencies, private companies, farmers, state and federal officials, and other allies to make sure no Michigander goes without food. To learn more about the Food Bank Council’s response to COVID-19, click here.

Stylist Relief
Detroit-based Abea, a beauty platform and business accelerator, has launched the Beauty Professionals of Color Relief Fund on GoFundMe.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 7,390 people were employed as hairdressers, stylists, or cosmetologists in metro Detroit in 2018. Abea expects to distribute grants of up to $1,000 to minority-owned businesses in southeast Michigan that can demonstrate a loss of income of economic impact due to COVID-19. Businesses must be at least 2 years old and have 10 employees or fewer. The application is available here.

Restaurant Support
Takeout COVID, a site that lists Detroit restaurants and bars that are offering food, wine, cocktails, or beer for takeout or delivery, has launched with more than 400 restaurants and bars on the site. A map shows restaurant locations, and each pinpoint shows what the location offers as well as contact information. A link takes you to the location’s menu.

For more information, to order food, or to add your restaurant to the list, click here. The website offers the service for 18 metropolitan areas across the U.S.

Comcast Business has launched a free webinar series aimed at helping businesses of all sizes and across industries weather the pandemic. They include strategies on how to rethink their short and long term goals and leverage technology to remain productive.

The five-part series features Comcast Business leaders and subject matter experts, along with industry partners and topical experts. The webinars begin at 1 p.m., and the first is scheduled for Tuesday. Registration is available here.

The webinars are as follows:

  • Leaning in to Support Small Business – Tuesday, April 14
    • Covers the Paycheck Protection Program, including eligibility, primary considerations, and details of other government programs designed to keep businesses running.
  • Connectivity and Resilience: How Technology is Supporting Business Continuity – Thursday, April 16
    • Covers how working remotely and digital commerce puts new demands on technology infrastructure. Comcast Business experts discuss how resilient network connectivity can help keep businesses productive.
  • Remote Learning Tech Solutions – Thursday, April 23
    • Covers how educators can adapt to remote learning by shifting their networks and technologies.
  • Keeping Cybercriminals at Bay – and Protecting Your Business – Tuesday, April 28
    • Comcast security leaders help businesses understand whether they are potential targets and explore the steps they can take to mitigate risk.
  • Steering Your Brand Through Crisis – Thursday, April 30
    • Covers how companies can manage their brands during all phases of a crisis.

In related news, Detroit’s Butzel Long, the Macomb Regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center, and Chemical Bank are sponsoring a free webinar from 2-3 p.m. on Wednesday titled “COVID-19 CARES Act Supporting Federal Contractors: A Guide for the Small Business Industrial Base.” A panel of experts will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on federal government contractors as well as tools and financial assistance available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Registration is available here.

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