We're sharing the latest updates, best practices and learning opportunities emerging from Michigan philanthropy.
State Task Force to Focus on COVID-19 Racial Disparities
Michigan’s Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities launched last week. The task force, created by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and led by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, consists of leaders across state government and health care professionals from communities most impacted by the spread of coronavirus.
The state shared that more than 40% of COVID-19 related deaths in Michigan are African Americans yet only 14% of our state’s population are African Americans.
The Oakland Press reports that while the state began reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths by race on April 2, 38% of the state's cases have not been reported while 26% of the state's deaths have not been disclosed, meaning the number of African Americans who have been diagnosed and those who have died could be much higher.
The alarming disparities surfacing amid COVID-19 are not unique to Michigan. The Brookings Institution published an article pointing to similar disturbing trends in Michigan, Illinois, New York and South Carolina where African Americans are dying at disproportionately higher rates. According to the institution, “Among the four states shown, Blacks are 74% more likely to contract coronavirus than their percentage of the state.”
Experts and policymakers point to deep structural inequities that are exacerbated in a crisis.
“We know that generations of racial disparities and inequality has a detrimental impact on the lives of people across the state,” Gilchrist said. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown this inequity to be particularly true, especially in the Black community, where the health of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted. That’s why we are taking immediate action to assemble some of the greatest minds to tackle this racial injustice now and in the future.”
The Brookings Institution shared that African Americans are less likely to have equitable access to health care and are more likely to live in densely populated areas. Nationally African Americans represent about 25% of all public transit users and are more likely to be part of the essential workforce, putting them at higher risk for contracting the virus.
“This virus is holding a mirror up to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in this country,” Whitmer said. “From basic lack of access to health care, transportation, and protections in the workplace, these inequities hit people of color and vulnerable communities the hardest. This task force will help us start addressing these disparities right now as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.”
CMF will be closely following this issue and the work of the task force, sharing new information as it becomes available.
Michigan Launches New Food Assistance Program
Michigan has become the first state in the country to gain federal approval of a program that will provide nutritious food to children affected by school closings due to COVID-19.
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) provides temporary funding to address emergency food needs for families affected by the pandemic.
The P-EBT program will:
Include families with children ages 5-18 who are enrolled in the Michigan Department of Education program for free or reduced-price school meals.
Include approximately 895,000 students in Michigan.
Include families who are currently receiving food assistance program benefits as well as those not currently enrolled in the program.
Serve as a special, provisional EBT program and it will be eligible for Double Up Food bucks.
Provide benefits that include $193.80 per eligible student to cover the months of March and April and an additional $182.40 per student to cover May and June combined.
The state shared that these additional benefits will fortify and supplement the important efforts that local school districts will continue to put forth, providing nutritious school meals to children at over 2,000 stationary locations and nearly 700 mobile sites throughout Michigan.
“I am proud that Michigan is the first state to receive federal approval for this program to put healthy food on the table for families that need them,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said. “The spread of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our state. My administration will continue to work around the clock to help Michiganders through this difficult time and slow the spread of this virus.”
This new program comes while we’re seeing our emergency food distribution network strained due to the growing demand.
Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) has been sharing its work on social media, stating in part: “Every Michigander is being called on right now to help feed the ever-increasing number of children, families and seniors finding themselves without food during the pandemic.”
FBCM has partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that senior citizens are able to receive meals during the pandemic by providing quarantine boxes. FBCM shares that the boxes provide 22 meals of balanced, protein-rich, shelf-stable food items, intended to last for 10 days.
FBCM has been focusing on what their strategy may look like statewide to respond to the food insecurity needs during and after the crisis.
“The longer-term view of this crisis will last longer than whenever the last patient is discovered,” Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of FBCM told CMF. “It will take months for economic recovery to take root and in the meantime, people getting back to work will need work supports to help them for the duration.”
FBCM is leading a virtual food drive and invites donations to support their food boxes for families and seniors.
The Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) has been working to make connections and partnerships when it comes to addressing the food insecurity and distribution issues Michigan is facing. Domino’s Pizza shared its interest in donating pizzas to those in need. The OFL connected Domino’s Pizza with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (FBEM). Through this partnership, last Monday, FBEM integrated a stream of hot, freshly made pizzas into three major food distribution sites in Flint.
In addition to shelf-stable food boxes designed for families to take home, each family received a hot meal delivered by the local Domino’s store. Flint's three major help centers, which were formed during the Flint water crisis, received the additional hot pizzas, serving approximately 900 families last week. The OFL says Domino’s is currently discussing how to expand these activities to more locations across Michigan.
Crisis Response: The Power of Partnerships
Across the state we are seeing response efforts powered by partnerships and the collaborative action of Michigan philanthropy.
Regional urgent relief funds and collaborative grantmaking are two key areas where we’re seeing rapid growth statewide. We hope sharing these stories from across the CMF membership can support continued conversation and learning as we navigate this crisis together.
There are numerous coordinated COVID-19 public health grantmaking efforts underway.
The Michigan Health Endowment Fund is partnering 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.
Last week the Health Fund announced the group awarded nearly $3 million to 61 Michigan organizations to ramp up their remote care efforts. The Health Fund shared that the partnership and grants were expedited in response to public health risks of in-person care due to COVID-19.
“Telehealth is a key strategy for expanding access to care, and we’ve supported this work for a number of years,” Becky Cienki, program director, the Health Fund said. “The current urgency underscores this ongoing need, and our goal is for these projects to both spur immediate action and create lasting infrastructure for telehealth.”
CMF is also tracking the establishment of urgent relief funds across the state. Many of the funds are addressing essential needs such as food, health, housing, child care and nonprofit support. Some are dedicated to small businesses in particular, and others to specialty areas such as the arts. To date CMF has captured more than 30 urgent relief funds created by or in partnership with our members.
Many members are partnering with their local United Ways to stand up these relief funds. More than a dozen CMF members are supporting the COVID-19 Community Response Fund hosted by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. DTE Foundation has been matching all donations to the fund through today, April 13. As of April 6, the fund had provided nearly $4 million in grants to 116 community partners across Southeast Michigan.
Up North, the Urgent Needs Fund at the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation has received support from at least six other CMF members: Oleson Foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City, DTE Foundation, Herrington-Fitch Family Foundation, Huckle Family Foundation and Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation. The fund has already deployed grants for basic needs, food distribution, downtown business support and telehealth counseling services and more.
The Charlevoix County Community Foundation is mobilizing resources from its Urgent Needs Fund to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The community foundation shared online that this fund originated from a partnership with the Frey Foundation and local donors during the Great Recession to provide support for partner organizations. Now, more than a decade later it’s once again providing support for critical resources.
The United Methodist Retirement Communities (UMRC) Foundation is partnering with Porter Hills Foundation to build extra emergency support for their caregivers and frontline workers who are caring for seniors at their facilities. In addition to a number of initiatives they’ve launched to support caregivers and frontline team members, the fund will be used for other direct care needs that may emerge as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.
To date CMF has captured more than 30 urgent relief funds on our COVID-19 Resource Central webpage created by or in partnership with CMF members. Are you aware of a relief and response fund led by or supported by Michigan philanthropy not listed? If so, contact CMF.
Legal Support Connected to COVID-19
There are many questions and concerns around the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19 on individuals, families and communities. Michigan Legal Help (MLH), which is supported by CMF member the Michigan State Bar Foundation, is seeing an increase in people searching for legal help and resources connected to COVID-19.
The MLH website is receiving as many as 17,000 visits each day from individuals in Michigan looking for help with unemployment benefit questions, evictions and other legal matters. Michigan Legal Help has compiled a resource center of materials related to COVID-19 detailing how the pandemic may affect various legal issues. The MLH website also includes a triage and referral function through the Guide to Legal Help that provides information and referrals tailored to an individual’s legal problem.
A few of the topics in the resource center include:
The potential impact on an individual’s state benefits or assistance
The potential impact on an individual’s pending legal case
“This pandemic exacerbates challenges around stable housing, access to benefits, consumer debt collection and safety from domestic violence,” Jennifer Bentley, executive director of the Michigan State Bar Foundation said. “The legal aid programs throughout Michigan, including Michigan Legal Help, are working extremely hard to respond to the immediate needs, while also trying to prepare for a significant increase in the demand for legal help in the coming weeks and months.”
The MLH website is part of the Michigan Legal Help Program. The program works with judges, courts, lawyers, bar associations, nonprofit legal aid agencies, legal self-help centers, libraries and many others to promote coordinated and quality assistance for individuals representing themselves in civil legal matters in Michigan.
Michigan Women Forward Launches COVID-19 Entrepreneur Assistance Project
With funding from the state’s philanthropic sector, Michigan Women Forward (MWF), a CMF member, has launched a program to support women entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis.
MWF’s COVID-19 Entrepreneurship Program aims to connect Michigan women entrepreneurs who are facing challenges as a result of the pandemic with experts and contract workers to support their businesses. The program provides entrepreneurs with loans to ensure their businesses can continue operating during this time.
“Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of women and girls in Michigan,” Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of MWF said. “What better way to live out our mission than by finding resources to help women get through this devastating crisis?”
The Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan’s (CFSEM) New Economy Initiative (NEI) spearheaded this immediate relief effort for entrepreneurs in Detroit. The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the William Davidson Foundation made it possible for MWF to shift current grant dollars allocated for other programs to support the Entrepreneurship Assistance Project.
As of April 9, 77 women entrepreneurs have received loan relief dollars from MWF. The organization is still searching for funders to further support the program, particularly in West Michigan.
“It’s a privilege for all of us at MWF to do this work and we are humbled and honored to have thousands of women supporters in our communities who care so much about making sure women thrive and prosper,” Cassin said.
The program has not only provided financial relief to recipients but also a sense of hope and optimism in this difficult time.
“Thank you so much for believing in us,” one loan recipient wrote. “The financial support is so appreciated and needed. However, the emotional boost during such a challenging time is something that I can't even describe.”
Learn more about MWF’s COVID-19 Entrepreneur Assistance Project
Jennifer Oertel, CMF’s impact investing expert in residence, is highlighting Michigan Women Forward’s work in her upcoming The A-Z of Impact Investing blog which is set to go live on CMF's website this week.
The Skillman Foundation Provides Personal Protection Equipment for Detroit Nonprofit Workers
While personal protection equipment (PPE) is increasingly limited, Michigan foundations are working to ensure individuals outside of the medical field who are frontline workers are protected as they continue providing critical services to our most vulnerable communities.
The Skillman Foundation, in partnership with other organizations including CMF member the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, have secured more than 10,000 masks for nonprofit workers who are in direct contact with community members during the pandemic. In addition to medical professionals needing PPE, those providing food, shelter and other basic needs during this time need equipment to protect themselves and the people they serve.
“We rightly lift up our medical professionals; we must also lift up nonprofit workers who are filling emergency needs and direct supports for individuals and families,” Tonya Allen, president and CEO, The Skillman Foundation said. “Without PPE for nonprofits, we’re putting at risk this critical workforce, their families, and our community at large—particularly those most vulnerable and with the fewest resources.”
The Coalition On Temporary Housing (COTS)—which provides shelter and housing assistance to families facing homelessness—and Gleaners Community Food Bank—which distributes food to families in need through drive-up sites across metro Detroit—received the first allotment of PPE from The Skillman Foundation.
This effort shows how philanthropy, nonprofits and businesses can come together to support workers providing vital services during this time.
“Heroic people are dedicating themselves to help victims of the coronavirus and its impact,” Allen said.