February 1, 2021

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Latest on the State’s Equity-Focused COVID-19 Response Efforts

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s third annual State of the State Address last week focused on addressing inequities in health care, education, economic development and more.

In the virtual address, Whitmer highlighted Michigan’s work to address racial disparities that have been exacerbated due to COVID-19. The governor shared that Michigan is “leading the nation in reducing racial disparities of this pandemic.” The governor established the Michigan COVID Task Force on Racial Disparities in April, appointing Dr. Marijata Daniel-Echols, program officer at The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to serve on the task force along with other leaders from the health sector, academia, government and nonprofits.

The task force released an interim report in December which showed a drop in average COVID-19 cases per million per day for African Americans in Michigan, as well as a significant drop in COVID-related deaths for African Americans.

Whitmer said the task force has become a national model, inspiring the Biden administration’s new equity task force.

During her address, the governor also highlighted efforts connected to the state’s goal of vaccinating 70% of Michigan’s population, ages 16 and above as soon as possible.

The Protect Michigan Commission, housed within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is focused on raising awareness of the safety and effectiveness of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, educating Michiganders and helping protect the health and safety of all Michigan residents.

Kyle Caldwell, CMF’s president and CEO, was appointed to the commission along with other leaders from across the state who will serve as an advisory group to Whitmer and MDHHS.

The Protect Michigan Commission held its first meeting on Friday, unveiling guiding principles that will inform the state’s strategy to get Michiganders vaccinated.

The commission’s principles include:

  • All Michiganders having equitable access to vaccines.  

  • Vaccine planning and distribution being inclusive and actively engaging state and local government, public and private partners and drawing upon the experience and expertise of leaders from historically marginalized populations.  

  • Communications are transparent, accurate and include frequent public communications to build public trust.  

  • Data is used to promote equity, track progress and guide decision making. 

  • Resource stewardship, efficiency and continuous quality improvement drive strategic implementation. 

The state shared that the commission will take the lead on developing an outreach strategy to identify and work with communities around the state where there is vaccine hesitancy.

This afternoon, CMF members can engage in a virtual conversation with Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and the team at MDHHS about COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The governor’s proposed state budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2022 is expected to include key areas of COVID-related support, especially funding for academic recovery.

Want more?

Watch Governor Whitmer’s address.

Access the materials from the first Protect Michigan Commission meeting.




Supporting Seniors and Caregivers in the Pandemic and Beyond

The pandemic has created a multitude of challenges for seniors, who are among the most vulnerable populations when it comes to COVID-19, in accessing services and programs, mental health and more.

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund, which focuses on the health and well-being of older adults across the state of Michigan, has continued to support seniors in innovative and impactful ways amid the pandemic.

The Health Fund sat down with CMF reflecting upon senior-focused areas of their COVID-19 response efforts and how they’re approaching the work in 2021.

“What we’ve noticed is that it’s really important now, in light of the pandemic, that we focus on opportunities to engage with older adults in different ways, and make sure they’re connected and have access to different programs and services,” Kari Sederburg, director of the Healthy Aging Program at The Health Fund told CMF.

In the early days of the pandemic, the Health Fund partnered with the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation, the Metro Health Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation to accelerate telehealth in Michigan. The grants awarded nearly $3 million to 61 Michigan organizations ramping up their remote care efforts. The partnership and grants were expedited in response to public health risks of in-person care due to COVID-19.

“That grant round was really successful in terms of getting nonprofit organizations up and running, whether it was setting up billing codes or purchasing tablets for those who may not have them so they can access services,” Sederburg said. “The resiliency of the nonprofit network and those organizations has been exemplified this past year as they have quickly changed course to adapt to the changing environment.”

The Health Fund continues to deepen its partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and in particular, the Aging and Adult Services Agency to support this work.

Sederburg said their work with the state agency resulted in GetSetUp, a virtual training program for older adults showing them how to set up telehealth appointments, connect to social programs, and order groceries. Since its launch, more than 20,000 adults have participated.

Another collaboration with Michigan State University addresses the physical and mental health effects of social isolation. Older adults are taught by volunteers how to use technology to connect with family and friends as well as how to participate in telehealth visits.

The Health Fund also recognizes the strain on caregivers which has been exacerbated in the pandemic.

"In an already tough journey, we are finding that many caregivers have needed to take on more responsibilities—they're trying to keep up with kids' educational needs and their jobs, all from home," Tim Niyonsenga, program officer for healthy aging & caregiving at the Health Fund said. "There's little time to engage in activities that would usually help them cope. And according to our grant partners, fewer caregivers are participating in programs designed to help them cope with stress."

The Health Fund has provided funding to Wayne State University for a project aimed at addressing racial health disparities and provide real-time support to African American caregivers.

Beyond family caregivers, the data shows there is a shortage of direct care workers, which is an ongoing issue. 

“Some of the work we are doing right now is partnering with the Center for Healthcare Strategies, the Aging & Adult Services Agency and other partners through a statewide workgroup to look at the direct care shortage issue, especially around the funding mechanisms to sustain the training for the direct care workforce but to also look at how can we expand the direct care workforce so that older adults’ needs are being met,” Niyonsenga shared with CMF.

As the pandemic continues, the Health Fund remains focused on supporting the needs of older adults and caregivers.

Want more?

Learn more about the work of the Health Fund.

Join your fellow CMF members for a virtual conversation on February 8 with Dr. Alexis Travis, senior deputy director of Aging & Adult Services from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 



Ending Homelessness in Michigan

New data released in the Ending Homelessness in Michigan Annual Report gives insights into the state of homelessness in Michigan. The report, released in late January, reflects 2019 data prior to the pandemic.

The data shows 61,832 individuals experienced homelessness across Michigan in 2019, with African Americans disproportionately impacted accounting for 52% of individuals experiencing homelessness.

The report breaks down the data of homelessness by subpopulations including:

Families with Children

  • In 2019, 11,661 adults and 15,577 children in 10,548 households experienced homelessness.

  • 59% of homeless families were led by single mothers.


  • In 2019, 3,847 youth between the ages of 18-24 experienced homelessness.

  • Of the nearly 4,000 youth who have experienced homelessness, 55% were African Americans.

  • One-quarter to one-third of youth experiencing homelessness had a history of foster care.

Single Adults

  • In 2019, 27,233 single individuals aged 25 and older experienced homelessness.

  • The average age of a single adult experiencing homelessness is 46.

The report provides recommendations to transform systems of support for those who may be experiencing or are at risk of homelessness.

  • Create policies at the local, state and federal level that center cross-sector collaboration among various service delivery systems.

  • Advocate for more affordable and stable housing in your community.

  • Engage in efforts to transform the homeless service delivery system through a racial equity lens.

Michigan philanthropy has been working to address issues of attainable and affordable housing and removing barriers to services and supports, especially as those challenges have only intensified amid the pandemic.

Basic needs and housing have been a constant focus for The McGregor Fund. In the early days of the pandemic, the fund quickly worked with partners across metro Detroit to support the homeless population.

“Important collaborative infrastructure was built that hadn’t existed before,” Vanessa Samuelson, learning director at the McGregor Fund and a member of Detroit’s Continuum of Care (CoC) executive committee said. “Working together, a critical set of supports for shelter and outreach providers was created that prioritized federal guidance for health and safety, industry best practice, and transparency.”

The McGregor Fund’s work and response to COVID-19 will be featured in an upcoming installment of our new digital series Impact Connected ─ a celebration of our CMF community. Join the conversation on our CMF social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn @michfoundations with the hashtag #ImpactConnected.

Want more?

Read the full report.

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