The Download

The Download

March 22, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Michigan 2-1-1 Data: Top COVID-19 Related Calls Focus on Vaccine and Testing

The most recent data from MIchigan 2-1-1, a service that connects Michigan residents to health and human services agencies and resources in their communities, shows that in the last month the top COVID-19 related calls have been requests for vaccine information and testing.

At the start of the pandemic, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) launched the COVID-19 Hotline, utilizing 2-1-1’s telephone platform and technology support. In June 2020, MDHHS contracted with 2-1-1 and began to provide COVID-19 test scheduling assistance and resource benefits navigation for individuals who are quarantined and/or isolated due to COVID-19.

Since the launch of the hotline, the 2-1-1 network has fielded nearly 40,000 calls through the COVID-19 Hotline, providing over 31,000 callers with COVID-19 test scheduling support and over 1,000 residents with resource benefits navigation.

“Although we may be turning a corner on the pandemic as more and more vaccines are being administered across the state, we are nowhere near the end of needing to support Michigan families,” Mike Larson, president and CEO of Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW), Michigan 2-1-1 board member at large and MAUW representative told CMF. “The number of calls we see coming into 2-1-1 are direct evidence that many families are still struggling and will require social determinant support for months, if not years, as our communities recover from the long-term effects of COVID-19.”

Since last March, the 2-1-1 network has responded to over 450,000 requests for assistance, with over 150,000 of those being identified as a direct result of issues related to COVID-19.

Over the past year, 2-1-1 data has underscored the urgent needs emerging from our Michigan communities including basic needs such as housing, food assistance and utility payment assistance. 

We're highlighting recent efforts by the state and philanthropy to continue to support Michigan families. 

Food Assistance

Last week, the state announced food assistance benefits are being provided to approximately 810,000 Michigan children whose access to school meals has been affected by remote learning. 

Students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 are eligible if they qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school and in-person learning is not available at their school or is not available on a full-time basis. 

Families will receive an estimated $127.53 monthly for each eligible child who has no in-person classes and attends a school that is fully virtual and about $77.06 for each eligible child who attends a school with a hybrid schedule of in-person and remote learning.

Utility Assistance

Consumer’s Energy and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a campaign last week to connect Michigan residents with resources and information to access local, state and federal funding that will help them pay winter heating bills. Consumers Energy alone has provided $15 million since last fall to help customers pay bills. In all, the company and Consumer’s Energy Foundation have provided over $21 million to support customers and communities with needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The state is also providing support with rent payments. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) unveiled a $282 million rental assistance program to help tenants avoid eviction and ensure landlords can recoup rent.

The COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program (CERA), can help renters with their past due rent and utilities, with payments made directly to the landlord or utility provider. CERA can serve renter households that have incomes less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) who meet the following conditions:

  • Individual(s) in the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or has experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Individual(s) in the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability evidenced by a past due utility or rent notice.

The Heart of West Michigan United Way is coordinating with several community partners to bring on case workers to assist with processing CERA applications. In addition, the United Way is working on outreach efforts that are focused on reaching the hardest to reach populations through multiple communications channels to ensure that those who really need the help know this resource is available. 

“In collaboration with nonprofits, government and local foundations, including the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, our outreach efforts are focused on the hardest to reach populations to ensure that those who really need the help receive it,” Michelle Van Dyke, president and CEO, Heart of West Michigan United Way said. 

The Michigan State Bar Foundation, a CMF member, received funding and will be administering grants to legal aid organizations throughout Michigan to provide legal assistance and representation to tenants.

"Legal aid attorneys work closely with courts and the Housing Assessment and Resource Agencies (HARAs). From July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, with additional CARES Act funding, legal aid organizations throughout Michigan helped over 15,200 families facing eviction and achieved very successful outcomes. Protecting housing stability during this pandemic, is so important and we appreciate the opportunity to partner on this important program," Jennifer Bentley, executive director, Michigan State Bar Foundation told CMF.

Want more?

Read more about Consumer’s Energy campaign.

Learn more about 2-1-1.

Learn more about The COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program.     



Vaccine Eligibility to Expand, Efforts to Support Vaccine Education Continue

In two weeks, all Michigan residents over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive a COVID vaccine. As vaccine eligibility expands, the need for equitable access and distribution of vaccines continues.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard, over 2 million Michigan residents have been vaccinated, which is approximately 26.3% of our state’s population.

When it comes to Michigan residents who have received one dose of the vaccine, 34.3% of the recipients are white, 3.4% are African Americans, 1.37% are Asian or Pacific Islanders, .7% are Hispanic and .37% are Native Americans. 

As CMF has shared, CMF members are working to support education and awareness around the vaccine in hopes of ensuring equitable access and distribution.

The Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund, established by The Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF), in partnership with the United Way of Genesee County, recently awarded funding to support the Community Health Navigator program. Launched by Michigan United, the program is aimed at educating and raising awareness of the vaccines to community members.

As Mlive reported, the program has trained 14 people from different areas of Flint to work as health navigators.

Program navigators reported that community members have shared experiencing difficulty with: 

  • Registering for the vaccine.
  • Accessing and using technology.
  • Navigating language barriers.

The grant awarded by CFGF and the Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund, will go towards the purchase of iPads to help register community members for the vaccine. 

The fund, in partnership with CFGF, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, the United Way of Genesee County and donors, has allocated $1.5 million to the community which includes funding to support messaging health education information at the grassroots level to ensure equity in dispersing information to the most vulnerable populations.

“Working together, we will continue to focus on equitable grantmaking for short-term recovery during the COVID-19 global pandemic,” Isaiah Oliver, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and CMF trustee said.

As Michigan prepares to ramp up vaccine distribution in the coming weeks, a vaccination site has opened at Ford Field in Detroit. The goal for the site is to vaccinate 6,000 southeast Michigan residents a day through mid-May.

"This mass vaccination site will accelerate Michigan's efforts to reach its goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine," Kerry Ebersole Singh, Protect Michigan Commission director said in a press release.

MDHHS and the Protect Michigan Commission awarded 35,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 22 pilot projects in an effort to help enhance the state's vaccine equity strategy.

According to the state’s press release, the goal of the pilot program is to help remove barriers to vaccine access for Michiganders 60 and older who live in communities with high Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) rates.

Kyle Caldwell, CMF’s president and CEO, serves on the commission along with other leaders from across the state.

Want more?

Read How Our Worst Health Crisis Can Lead to a New ─ and Better ─ Normal, an opinion piece published in Bridge Michigan by La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, co-chairs of CMF’s COVID-19 Working Group.

Read more about the Protect Michigan Commission pilot program.

Read more about the Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund.

Is your organization supporting efforts connected to the education, access or distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine? We invite you to share your story with the CMF team so we can lift up opportunities for peer engagement and share emerging grantmaking practices with our entire CMF community.



Advancing Racial Equity: A Conversation with the McGregor Fund  

Throughout the pandemic, the McGregor Fund has been nimble and responsive to the needs of the community, connecting with new partners to support the urgent work on the ground.   

“We felt we had to do more in order to respond to this unprecedented crisis, which challenged us to work in a different way with partners,” Kate Levin Markel, president of the McGregor Fund said. “We had to listen more broadly and deeply to understand how this crisis was affecting communities.” 

One of these partnerships helped the Fund extend their reach to a previously untapped population in a new and innovative way.  

“We made a grant to FORCE Detroit, an organization working on anti-violence policies and criminal justice reform. They are really well organized in spaces and communities that don’t really trust or engage with the traditional social safety net organizations, which has been the historic focus of our grantmaking” Heidi Alcock, director of grant development and communications at the McGregor Fund said. 

“FORCE Detroit came to us and we saw very quickly the need for direct financial support to meet discreet financial issues that were coming up early in the pandemic.”  

The Fund’s COVID-19 response efforts have been focused on advancing racial equity.

In November, CMF reported that the McGregor Fund announced $1.2 million in grants focused on racial equity in Detroit. This work will continue as the Fund recognizes opportunities to address disparities and reimagine systems in the pandemic and beyond.  

“This pandemic has fully illuminated the racial injustices in our communities and the only way through it is to suspend what we believe to be true,” Alcock said. “Especially those of us who hold privileged seats inside of institutions and systems and really listen, lean in and partner with communities in a way that we haven’t before. I believe that is the way both through the pandemic and to work towards racial justice, during the pandemic and beyond.”  

The Fund’s focus areas are basic needs and housing, recovery and restoration and skill building and employment, all areas where deep-rooted inequities have been further exacerbated by the pandemic.  

“The pandemic made visible the intersections between health and the experience of homelessness, and the inequitable outcomes for people of color that are a result of structural racism,” Vanessa Samuelson, director of learning and reporting at the McGregor Fund said. “We know communities of color experience homelessness disproportionately; we know that’s true across the nation and Michigan. And in Detroit, the homelessness system has engaged resources to understand how to redesign a homeless response to be equitable, centering people with the experience of homelessness.”  

While McGregor leadership continues their work to advance racial equity, they say the path to equity and justice must be met with reimagined systems that support the lives and well-being of Black and Brown Michiganders every day. 

This means working in collaboration with others within our CMF community, our nonprofit partners, policymakers and other leaders in urban, rural and suburban communities and sharing best practices.   

“We also have to be in conversation with our funder colleagues across Michigan, who work in very different communities, to help bring about a different kind of society,” Levin Markel said. “That means different kinds of public policy, different kinds of grant making, and not pitting people against each other. Working in a racially equitable way is to the benefit of everybody. Getting everybody to understand why that is true is also a part of our work going forward. Now more than ever, we have to understand how we got here, find better ways of working together, and rectifying disparities that should not be acceptable to anyone.”  

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 and Twitter @michfoundations with the hashtag #ImpactConnected. 

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