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COVID-19 in Grand Rapids: Friday, March 27 updates

Application process goes live for Michigan Small Business Relief Program funding, GVSU and Spectrum Health team up for preparation of alternative care site, and more statements from local organizations issued March 26-27, 2020.
Gov. Whitmer, GVSU's President, and Spectrum Health's President and CEO toured the GVSU CHS building on Thursday, March 26.

Gov. Whitmer, GVSU's President, and Spectrum Health's President and CEO toured the GVSU CHS building on Thursday, March 26. /Grand Valley State University

Nearing a full week into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s March 23 “Stay Safe, Stay Home” order, the amount of developments continuing to unfold locally and statewide in response to the coronavirus outbreak has reached a level of information overload for many.

As of Friday, March 27, 45 cases have been confirmed in Kent County of those testing positive for the disease, with one confirmed death. Statewide, 3,657 cases have been confirmed, with 92 confirmed deaths. With these numbers to rise, local and state responses are continuing in step.

To help keep track of where major responses impacting Grand Rapids residents stand heading into the weekend, shared in this March 27, 2020 update are statements from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, Gov. Whitmer's Office, Grand Valley State University, Guiding Light, and the Michigan Music Alliance.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Michigan’s small businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak can now apply for grants and loans through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced today, March 27.

The program will provide up to $20 million in grants and loans to provide economic assistance to Michigan’s small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the outbreak, which will in turn support workers and their families dealing with economic hardship and uncertainty at this time.

“Small businesses across our state are facing unprecedented challenges as we take every step possible to mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” said Gov. Whitmer about the program. “With this funding, we can provide real assistance to support our businesses, communities, entrepreneurs, and workers around the state impacted by the tough, but necessary actions we are taking to mitigate the spread of this virus.”

The grants and loans under the program will support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce. This support may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business.

More information about eligibility criteria and how to apply is available on the MEDC’s website.

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency

To help Michigan residents receive unemployment benefits as a result of the outbreak, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) announced today, March 27, a new schedule for workers to file for benefits based on the first letter of their last name.

The UIA continues to see a dramatic increase in working families seeking emergency financial relief and this new schedule “will improve functionality, accessibility, and help alleviate bottlenecks in both the online system – – and over the phone at 866-500-0017,” the agency said.

We ask Michiganders to remain patient when filing for unemployment and to please follow this schedule to make it easier for everyone to access the emergency relief they need,” said UIA Director Steve Gray. “We’re recommending that workers go first to our 24-hr online system at We urge workers to only use our phone system if they do not have access to a computer or the internet.”

The new filing schedule begins Sunday, March 29.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Whitmer issued another executive order today, March 27, extending all 2019 state and city income tax filings to Wednesday, July 15. The deadline for state tax filings was originally Wednesday, April 15.

This additional order, like all other orders recently issued by Whitmer, aims to provide additional immediate assistance to residents struggling during the ongoing outbreak.

The new filing deadlines issued by Whitmer follow both the Internal Revenue System’s (IRS) extension of federal income tax filings and the City of Grand Rapid’s extension of city income tax filings to Wednesday, April 15.

More details about the latest executive order is available on the Executive Order page of the state’s website.

Grand Valley State University and Spectrum Health

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and Spectrum Health are partnering together in the preparation of an alternative care site at one of GVSU’s health professions buildings should Spectrum Health’s largest hospital in Grand Rapids reach capacity in care of coronavirus patients.

GVSU’s building, the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences (CHS), located on GVSU's Health Campus, is located across from Spectrum Health's Butterworth Campus on Michigan St., the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids. Leaders from Spectrum Health said there is space in the building to accommodate up to 250 hospital beds if needed.

Gov. Whitmer, GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella, and Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese Decker toured the CHS yesterday, March 26, to observe the preparations firsthand.

Spectrum Health’s Freese Decker said she and administrators studied hospital models in other states that are now near or over capacity with coronavirus patients and decided to take action and begin more drills at CHS.

“When we're at that capacity, we will need to expand to other sites," Freese Decker said. "We are appreciative of community members, students, and others who are coming together with some clinical skills to help us staff this, because we will need everyone to be engaged in this process."

Guiding Light and the Kent County Health Department

Local nonprofit Guiding Light announced today, March 27, the voluntary loaning of its downtown Grand Rapids facility as an isolation center for those experiencing homelessness who may have contracted the coronavirus disease.

In cooperation with the Kent County Health Department, Guiding Light will vacate the site on Saturday, March 28, until further notice, so anyone is homeless and with the disease may get taken care of with the proper medical equipment and personnel.

Guiding Light Mission has always been a valued partner, but now more than ever, we appreciate their collaboration, their sacrifice, and their generosity,” said Kent County Health Department Director Dr. Adam London. “Our goal is to provide a safe place for people who are experiencing homelessness to recover from the coronavirus and to keep the transmission of the virus to a minimum by isolating those with the infection. This is a very strategic and important public health intervention which will save lives.”

More information about the partnership between Guiding Light and the Kent County Health Department is available on The Rapidian’s COVID-19 Updates page.

Michigan Music Alliance

Rounding out recent developments impacting Grand Rapids residents, the nonprofit Michigan Music Alliance has organized an online Spread the Music Festival fundraising event taking place over the weekend. The event, broadcasting live through their Facebook page, began on Thursday, March 26, and concludes on Sunday, March 29.

The “virtual music festival” event aims to raise funds and awareness for the Michigan Artist Relief Fund, which will financially assistant Michigan-based musical artists whose incomes are being adversely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

“With events of all types being canceled to reduce the spread of COVID-19, people who make income fully through gigs and freelance music work are losing critical opportunities to support their well-being,” the Michigan Music Alliance shared, regarding the impetus behind the Michigan Artist Relief Fund.

A list of performances, including several Grand Rapids-based musical artists, is available on the nonprofit’s Facebook Events page.

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