We're sharing the latest updates, best practices and learning opportunities emerging from Michigan philanthropy.
Addressing Challenges and Creating Next Steps for MI Education and Students
On Friday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the creation of the Return to Learning Advisory Council, formalizing a process for determining how schools may be able to reopen in the fall. The panel – which will be comprised of students, parents, frontline educators, administrators and public health officials – is tasked with providing the COVID-19 Task Force on Education with recommendations on how to safely, equitably and efficiently return to school in the fall.
As the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation shared on Facebook, it has granted $130,000 to CMF to help state health and education leaders create a roadmap for reopening Michigan’s K-12 schools. The funds will allow the state to draw on the expertise of Opportunity Labs, a national nonprofit organization, to develop a safe and equitable plan for Michigan students' return to school.
Dr. Mario Ramirez, managing director of Opportunity Labs, a practicing emergency physician and former acting director of Pandemic and Emerging Threats with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Ebola epidemic said, "We look forward to supporting the advisory council in its work to ensure the safest possible return to school in the fall."
This is an important next step as the transition to remote learning has further highlighted inequities and challenges facing Michigan students, leading philanthropy, communities and business and education organizations to develop innovative solutions to support education now and in the future.
Launch Michigan, in partnership with Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative and Public Policy Associates, Inc., is currently conducting a comprehensive analysis of Michigan’s COVID-19 educational period with a goal of identifying innovative and effective educational, parental and social-emotional distance learning practices to scale for Michigan’s children. The study will include reviews of each school’s continuity of learning plan and focused conversations with educators and parents, as well as surveys of educators, parents and workforce-related community members.
“We believe it is critical Michigan leaves behind the systemic inequities that existed before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and feel that significant improvement can be made in Michigan’s ability to scale educational practices for children in all publicly-funded schools,” Adam Zemke, president, Launch Michigan said. “The Launch Michigan coalition is starting with a comprehensive study to learn from Michigan’s field of educators and will be working to help lift up and scale practice improvements for the summer and start of the fall academic year.”
Data gathering to help guide future supports and plans for learning is also underway at The Education Trust-Midwest. The group has launched a survey for Michigan parents and guardians to determine what is and is not working in the new remote learning environment. The Ed Trust-Midwest says that information shared by parents will help inform Michigan educators and policymakers, and is critical to understanding how school closures are impacting student learning at home.
According to Chalkbeat Detroit, 500,000 Michigan children lack access to computers or reliable internet access required for remote learning. While the digital divide has long been an issue in Michigan, statewide remote learning while schools are closed requires urgency in addressing the divide.
“We’ve always known about it. Now, it’s taken on a whole new meaning.” Casandra Ulbrich, president, Michigan State Board of Education said. “It would be a shame not to use this as an opportunity to try to address this divide.”
In an op-ed published by The Detroit News, Launch Michigan steering committee co-chair Tonya Allen, president and CEO, The Skillman Foundation and steering committeee member Chris Wigent, executive director, Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators describe the digital divide as Michigan’s next educational frontier. “This pandemic should elevate for us all that we can no longer let the inequities in Michigan’s education system linger and persist,” Allen and Wigent wrote. “Having made the call for education equity—and now technological equity for all students—Launch Michigan will help lead the charge.”
Last month, CMF reported that DTE Energy, Quicken Loans, The Skillman Foundation, the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), the city of Detroit, General Motors, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Detroit Branch NAACP formed Connected Futures, which contributed $23 million to provide computer tablets and internet access to DPSCD’s 51,000 students.
Most recently, the Mott Foundation granted $163,000 to Flint Community Schools to purchase 800 mobile Wi-Fi hot spots and 1,500 digital security applications for Flint students.
“This technology is necessary to ensure students are still learning and part of a community even when they can’t physically be in a classroom,” Ridgway White, president and CEO, the Mott Foundation told MLive. “We know an access gap exists, and we hope this grant gets us a step closer to eliminating it.”
K-12 students are not the only focus of philanthropy’s work to close the digital divide. The Skillman Foundation made a grant to Oakland University to provide laptops to students impacted by COVID-19.
Districts are also taking steps to ensure student learning in a remote environment. Kalamazoo Public Schools has loaned laptops to all of the district’s high school students.
“More than a short-term solution to help students continue their learning during the coronavirus crisis, this is a step toward bridging the digital divide to ensure everyone has the tools and opportunities needed to get a 21st-century education and lead their best—and our best—future,” Allen said.
Read Chalkbeat Detroit’s article on Michigan’s digital divide.
Read Launch Michigan’s op-ed on digital access for students.
Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund Launches to Support Small Businesses
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has partnered with Michigan Women Forward, a CMF member, in the creation of the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund. The $1.5 million fund is aimed at helping entrepreneurs and small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 recover from the outbreak, as well as assist them in meeting increased demands in support of COVID-19 response efforts.
“At Michigan Woman Forward, we are dedicating ourselves to doing everything we possibly can to help Michigan’s small businesses re-open and recover from this crisis,” Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO, MWF said. “Funding is just the beginning. We will also pair our entrepreneurs with experts to help answer questions and guide their decision making at this critical time.”
The Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund will provide recovery grants of $1,000-$5,000 and microloans of $5,000-$10,000 to small businesses who are in need and have been adversely affected by COVID-19 closures. At least 150 businesses statewide are expected to benefit from this support.
Funds awarded through the program can be used to support small businesses in managing expenses through the recovery phase, including rent, payroll, and inventory, due to the significant economic impacts of COVID-19.
The fund can also advance business growth by providing working capital to assist with increased product or service demand, enable the company to revamp their business virtually through a strengthened online presence or start up a company to meet a new demand as a result of COVID-19.
“This fund will be vital in helping small businesses throughout Michigan keep their doors open and their workers paid, while offering much-needed economic support during this unprecedented outbreak,” Maggie McCammon, portfolio manager for the MEDC said. “Michigan Women Forward has a demonstrated track record of successfully providing holistic support for small businesses across the state and MEDC looks forward to working together with them and the other supporting partners as our state moves toward recovery.”
The $1.5 million fund includes support of $500,000 from MEDC and $500,000 from Michigan Women Forward’s SBA microlending funds, along with partners including Consumers Energy Foundation, the New Economy Initiative, General Motors Corporation, Fifth Third Bank and Comerica Bank.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and have been significantly impacted during this unprecedented time,” Brandon Hofmeister, president of the Consumers Energy Foundation said. “Consumers Energy is committed to helping Michigan’s small business community succeed now, more than ever. We are making an investment in our communities, business owners, workers and their families, and a commitment to help power through together.”
Eligible candidates will be prioritized based on demonstrated need, including:
Applicants who are located in a disadvantaged area within a U.S. SBA designated HubZone or Opportunity Zone.
Applicants that demonstrate status as a low- to moderate-income borrower.
Qualifying as a diverse business that can demonstrate ownership by underrepresented groups including, but not limited to, veterans, people of color and those who are low-income.
Cassin shared that within a few hours of launching the fund they received 134 applicants.
Learn more about the fund.
Connect with COVID-19 resources from MEDC.
Supporting Those Experiencing Homelessness in the Pandemic
The pandemic presents unique challenges to those who are experiencing homelessness and the organizations that support them. The Detroit News reported that the city’s homeless shelters face additional costs to limit the spread of the virus among residents. In fact, vacant shelters have re-opened to accommodate increased housing needs. MLive reported that families experiencing homelessness are being sheltered in hotels to save space in shelters in Grand Rapids.
Nonprofits serving the homeless population rely on one another for strategies and best practices.
“Nonprofits in the city recognize that it takes a village to do the work, and they should reach out to others to collaborate and support one another,” Celia Thomas, chief operating officer, Alternatives for Girls, an organization in Detroit that provides shelter and basic needs to the city’s homeless youth told The Skillman Foundation and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “For example, if someone donates an item that we can’t use, we will gladly pass that item along to other nonprofits who can use it.”
The National Alliance to End Homelessness released a suggested framework for communities to support the homeless population during the pandemic. Some immediate actions suggested in the framework include:
Implement outreach and testing for unsheltered populations.
Provide hygiene resources, such as handwashing stations and laundry services, for those in unsheltered environments.
Equip shelter staff with Personal Protection Equipment and provide special training to support unsheltered populations.
Funders Together to End Homelessness, a national network of philanthropic organizations supporting homeless populations, published a list of resources and best practices to help guide foundations looking to meet the needs of homeless populations during the pandemic.
“People experiencing homelessness are uniquely at risk of being exposed to and contracting COVID-19, but we know that safe, stable housing is a key to saving lives and keeping communities healthy,” Funders Together to End Homelessness wrote in its COVID-19 Response and Recovery: Recommendations for Philanthropy. “If we are thoughtful and intentional about how we act now, we can end homelessness.”
In southeastern Michigan, The McGregor Fund works deeply in the area of supporting metro Detroit’s homeless population. This year, McGregor has funded six organizations serving those experiencing homelessness, totaling over $1.1 million in grants. Meanwhile, the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan (CFSEM) partnered with the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) Foundation, Wayne State University, and the city of Detroit to provide testing kits at Detroit’s Salvation Army shelter.
“On behalf of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, DMC Foundation and our many donors, we commend the city, Wayne State University and others moving to protect some of our most vulnerable residents,” Mariam Noland, president, CFSEM said. “We are working across philanthropy, government and business to help in this evolving crisis.”
View the list of resources from Funders Together to End Homelessness.
Michigan 2-1-1 Launches COVID-19 Dashboard
Michigan 2-1-1, a United Way network and a free service that connects Michigan residents to human services agencies and resources, created a COVID-19 dashboard to show the needs emerging from Michigan communities since the pandemic began.
“Michigan 2-1-1 hopes this information contributes to the many parts of the COVID-19 conversation, planning and response efforts communities and organizations are implementing throughout Michigan,” Hassan Hammoud, executive director, Michigan 2-1-1 said.
CMF reported that in late March and early April, Michigan 2-1-1 was receiving 500 additional phone calls per day related to COVID-19. According to the dashboard, since March 2, nearly a third of the service’s 81,000 total calls have been related to COVID-19.
The dashboard provides insights from COVID-19 related calls:
Geographic footprint: Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo reported the most calls in the state.
Frequent requests: Assistance for food, electric bill payment assistance and rent assistance are the most common service needs among incoming calls.
Unmet needs: Michigan 2-1-1 reports that 8.15% of calls with COVID-related inquiries have not been resolved due to a lack of local resources.
"The 2-1-1 Dashboard has been a tremendous tool that allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of Michigan’s needs," Mike Larson, president and CEO, Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW) told CMF. "At the system’s peak, Michigan 2-1-1 was seeing an average of 800 additional COVID-19 related calls per day. As we’ve leveled out, we’re now seeing an average of 300-400 calls per day. Additionally, corporate volunteers from Flagstar Bank and Delta Dental, among others, have stepped up and helped create additional capacity across the system."
View the Michigan 2-1-1 COVID-19 Dashboard.