December 7, 2020

Monday, December 7, 2020

Michiganders Face Economic Uncertainty as COVID-Related Supports are Set to Expire

This winter, Michigan families will face what health experts project to be the worst months of the pandemic, coupled with economic strain as state and federal supports expire.

Low-income and ALICE (asset limited, income constrained and employed) populations face potentially devastating impacts as COVID-19-based supports end, state revenues are down and no additional federal relief packages have passed through legislation.

The Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) has been working with partners at the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to monitor these issues and connect our community of philanthropy with resources on gaps in the social safety net. In the fall OFL hosted conversations featuring leading experts on the challenges frontline organizations face as the pandemic rages on, as well as philanthropy’s collective strategies for building toward more equitable and sustainable systems. The OFL has been closely monitoring the impending cliffs facing Michigan families with housing, utilities, cash on hand and food assistance.


The Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSHDA) Eviction Diversion Program—which provides assistance to residents who have fallen behind on rent payments due to the pandemic—will exhaust all of its funding by the end of the year. While the program is likely to continue at the local level utilizing CARES Act funding, those funds are expected to fall short of the amount needed to maintain current levels of housing assistance.

Based on U.S. Census household pulse survey data, it is estimated that between 341,000 and 405,000 Michigan households will be at risk for eviction without further assistance, and January’s estimated rent shortfall could reach $670 million statewide.


The state’s Water Utility Assistance Program was created to ensure Michiganders could pay their water bills so they could have clean water for sanitation. The $25 million program has helped over 70,000 families. An October State Supreme Court decision overriding Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders made water providers’ participation optional, and since, 30% of the state’s providers have opted out. The program is expected to expend its funding by the end of the month.


DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, Semco and UPPCO have been providing funding to help customers pay their energy bills. MDHHS notes the state has seen a recent increase in requests for utility assistance, likely due to lowering temperatures as suggested by weekly spending and usage rates. Funding for the State Emergency Relief Program—administered by MDHHS—is expected to run out in mid-2021.


Throughout the pandemic, food access has remained a constant challenge for children who rely on school breakfast and lunch for nutrition. With a lack of staff working in buildings, school meals have been difficult to come by for some.

Emergency food assistance funding is expected to see a 50% cut in January. MDHHS has launched a campaign encouraging families to apply for the food assistance program to help supplement their food allocations as cases continue to rise.

Cash Assistance

Over 14,000 unemployment claims were filed per week in Michigan last month, compared to 6,000 this time last year. The provision put in place during the pandemic allowing residents to claim unemployment for an additional six weeks is set to expire on December 31, as are a number of support programs for freelance and contract workers.

CMF and OFL will continue to lift up updates on these issues and work with state government to develop coordinated and strategic roles for philanthropy to play in supporting Michigan's families through the months ahead. 

CMF members who want to engage more deeply in OFL's work to create equitable change in safety net supports are encouraged to contact Karen Aldridge-Eason, foundation liaison, OFL.

Want more?

Read CMF’s previous coverage on the safety net.

Join OFL on December 11 for the virtual event: Michigan's P3 Collaborative and Early Childhood Education.



Championing the Policy Leadership of Our Community of Philanthropy

With the leadership and guidance of the CMF Board of Trustees and our community of philanthropy, we have recently launched transformative policy efforts that set the groundwork for advancing the CMF strategic framework, Equity at the Center. The framework includes a focus on fortifying the field through public policy action and championing the policy leadership of Michigan philanthropy.

Member input garnered through the development of the strategic framework informed the creation of the newly formed Government Relations Public Policy Committee (GRPPC) which combines the formerly separate Public Policy Committee and Government Relations Committee.

The committee, chaired by CMF trustees Neel Hajra, CEO, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and Julie Ridenour, president, Steelcase Foundation, is composed of 33 members and five advisors from a diverse cross-section of foundation types, geographies and lived experiences. Included are seven members appointed by CMF affinity groups to represent the affinity group’s interests.

Serving as a conduit between CMF members and the efforts of government, the GRPPC helps share philanthropy’s voice in shaping policy.

“In my view, one of the most important contributions CMF and its members can make to improving the quality of life of the people we serve, and working to promote greater diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, is through public policy advocacy,” Dave Mengebier, president and CEO of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, GRPPC committee member and CMF trustee said.

GRPPC committee members have identified five policy domains in which CMF will prioritize its 2021 advocacy efforts, each representing key issue areas where philanthropy’s voice has the ability to resonate in advancing long-term, systemic impact.

  • P-20 Education: CMF is committed to supporting the advancement of equitable education policies, systems and programs along the P-20 continuum that ensure every child and young adult across the state of Michigan, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, address or disability status has the resources to achieve at their highest potential.

  • Economic Prosperity: A strong and inclusive economy is made possible by equitable access to resources and opportunities. CMF supports policies, programs and partnerships that address structural and systemic barriers to economic opportunity and ensure economic prosperity is accessible to all Michiganders.

  • Health: High-quality health infrastructure and equitable access to healthcare, healthy food and other health resources are essential to the well-being of Michigan families. CMF supports work to improve social and environmental determinants of health through multiple approaches to contribute to better health outcomes for Michiganders.

  • Civic Engagement: An active and engaged citizenry is essential for the health and advancement of our democracy. CMF supports policies, programs and partnerships that advance the active engagement and participation of Michiganders in civil society.

  • Health of the Sector: CMF is committed to ensuring the integrity, health and stability of the charitable sector. We will support policies in alignment with our annually reviewed Government Relations Goals that enhance the resources, operational capacity and flexibility the sector needs to continue serving society.

With this new framework in mind, GRPPC plans to advocate for policies and legislation that promote equity across CMF’s policy domains and to build and maintain working relationships with the state’s elected leaders and policymakers.

“Building trusting relationships with policymakers at the local, state and federal levels and serving as an informed and trusted source of information is mission-critical. CMF’s combined governmental relations and public policy committee includes a cross-section of our foundation community with some very experienced and skilled professionals,” Mengebier said. “I feel fortunate to be part of such a talented team.”

Guided by CMF’s 2021 Government Relations Goals and the new policy domains, CMF’s Government Relations and Public Policy team continue to work with state and national partners to advance advocacy efforts.

In 2021 the policy team will debut new regional, virtual opportunities for CMF members to connect with state lawmakers, lift up philanthropy’s work and learn more about lawmakers’ priorities. CMF is also working closely with the United Philanthropy Forum to support CMF members’ engagement in Foundations on the Hill (FOTH), held virtually this year, from March 16-18, 2021 and March 23-25, 2021.

Want more?

Read more about CMF’s government relations and public policy work.

Learn about the GRPPC and its members.

View CMF’s 2021 Government Relations Goals.

Questions? Connect with Regina Bell, director, government relations and public policy at CMF.




CMF Members Establish Initiative to Support Suicide Prevention Programming

Content excerpted and adapted from a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation press release.

Four CMF members have partnered to provide $650,000 in funding to be allocated to nine Michigan organizations committed to suicide prevention programming in their communities.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan joined forces with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Children’s Foundation and the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation to establish the Suicide Prevention Support for Health Care Clinics Working with Michigan’s Health-Disparate Populations initiative.

“The Children’s Foundation is proud to be part of this important group that is working collectively to prevent suicide and save lives in the state of Michigan,” Lawrence J. Burns, president and CEO of The Children’s Foundation said.

The program offers grants to develop evidence-based and sustainable programming that will decrease the rate of suicide attempts and deaths by identifying children or adults who may be at risk and by addressing their needs for appropriate medical, social and behavioral services.

Over 7,000 Michiganders died due to suicide from 2014 to 2018.

“The Health Fund is excited to support a range of organizations providing direct care for Michiganders who are at an increased risk of death by suicide,” Dana Chesla-Hughes, program manager at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund said. “The diverse set of projects in this initiative reflect the diverse set of problems our state faces in the fight against suicide and we are pleased to be supporting the unique solutions our communities will find.”

Organizations that focused on populations experiencing health disparities due to income, age, gender identity and ethnic and racial characteristics were encouraged to apply for grant funding.

“Suicide is a complex problem that requires innovative, evidence-based solutions,” Lynda Rossi, executive vice president of government, strategy and public affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan said. “The organizations receiving funding are well-positioned to take on this important work in their respective communities. We’re confident these efforts will help save lives throughout the state of Michigan and will create sustainable changes to support improved behavioral health care for some of our most vulnerable populations.”

“The Flinn Foundation has always supported the advancement of evidence-based solutions to prevention and treatment,” Andrea Cole, executive director and CEO of the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation, said. “With suicide rates increasing, it is even more critical that we address the disparities in effective programs and services available in some of our most underserved communities.”

Organizations receiving grant funding include:

  • Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Dearborn

  • Black Family Development, Inc., Detroit

  • Child and Family Charities, Lansing

  • Corktown, Detroit

  • Institute for Population Health, Detroit

  • Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo

  • Mid-Michigan Health Foundation, Gladwin, Clare, Ogemaw and Gratiot counties

  • Southwest Counseling Solutions, Detroit

  • Upper Great Lakes (UGL) Family Health Center, Calumet

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