April 2020
Dear Chamber Members,

As we move into 6+ weeks of the Governor’s Stay Home Stay Safe order, both the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce staffs continue to work on issues important to you.

We are diligent in getting you information and resources on grants, loans and even planning to reopen your businesses safely, when allowed to do so. We advocated for the Governor to loosen restrictions on those businesses that could, and are, working by themselves or who can safely deliver their goods; keeping themselves, their employees and the public safe. We will continue collaborating with other Chambers of Commerce, including the Michigan Chamber and U.S. Chamber of Commerce to get you the latest and most accurate information available.

If you need to reach us, please feel free to call.

Ryan Tarrant, President/CEO
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce
Veronica Horn, President/CEO
Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce
Whitmer Extends Stay-Home Order Through May 15 But Eases Rules

On Friday, April 24, 2020, Governor Whitmer lengthened her stay-at-home order through May 15, while lifting restrictions so some businesses can reopen and the public can participate in outdoor activities like golf and motorized boating during the coronavirus pandemic. Highlights of the order include:

  • People are required, rather than encouraged, to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces
  • Employers must provide non-medical grade masks to their in-person employees. 
  • Landscapers, lawn-service companies, plant nurseries and bike repair shops can resume operating, subject to social-distancing rules.
  • Stores selling nonessential supplies can reopen for curbside pickup and delivery.
  • Big-box retailers no longer have to close off garden centers and areas dedicated to selling paint, flooring and carpet. 
  • People with multiple in-state homes can resume traveling between them

The order continues to prohibit in-person work that is not necessary to sustain or protect life, with exemptions for various critical jobs. Restaurants remain closed to dine-in customers under a separate measure, and bars, movie theaters, gyms and other sports facilities also are still shuttered.

State Treasury Providing Student Loan Assistance During COVID-19

The Michigan Department of Treasury announced on April 28 that Michiganders who have student loans guaranteed by the state will be provided assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Collection activities on delinquent Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) student loans made by a financial institution and serviced by the Michigan Guaranty Agency will be halted until Sept. 30, 2020.

“College students should not have to worry about defaulting on their monthly loan payments during the continuing, unprecedented public health crisis,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said. “This program will help alleviate a tremendous amount of stress from students with financial hardships as they determine the next steps in completing their education and competing for jobs in the 21st century workforce.”

The state Treasury Department has stopped all wage garnishments and offsets to pay outstanding FFELP student loans serviced by the Michigan Guaranty Agency. Borrowers who are currently in repayment agreements will not be penalized if a payment is missed through Sept. 30, 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is both a public health emergency and an economic emergency,” State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks said. “If you are encountering financial hardship and cannot pay your state-backed student loans, please contact us so we can walk through your options for assistance.”

Individuals who have FFELP loans serviced by the Michigan Guaranty Agency and are encountering repayment issues are encouraged to call 1-800-642-5626. Service representatives can discuss payment options with borrowers.

Some FFELP loans were made by private lenders, and guaranty agencies insured these funds. Since 2010, no new FFELP loans have been issued by the federal government.
To learn more about state student finance programs, go to www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid. More information about the Michigan Guaranty Agency is available at www.michigan.gov/mgaloan.
Michigan PFAS Action Response Team launches grant program for municipal airport PFAS testing

The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) has announced a $4 million grant program available to municipal airport operators to support ongoing monitoring and testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will oversee the grant program.

Eligible applicants are current or former Part 139 commercial service airports in Michigan that have used or are suspected to have used Class B Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) to comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements. Federal, state and military aviation facilities are not eligible for the grant funding, although co-located municipal airport operations can apply.

Grant applications are due on May 29, 2020. Grant recipients will be announced in July and grants will range from $50,000 to $250,000.

Priority will be given to airports that demonstrate:
  • Known or suspected impacts to sensitive receptors such as residential wells.
  • Known or suspected impacts to lakes, streams and wetlands, especially waterbodies used for drinking water.
  • Releases known to be above Michigan’s groundwater cleanup criteria.
  • Detailed documentation of historic uses of AFFF.
  • Hydrogeological risk factors such as groundwater flow direction.
  • Continued overall compliance with environmental regulations.

A request for proposals (RFP) detailing the grant program can be found at Michigan.gov/aero.

For additional questions about the application process or general grant process questions, contact Steve Houtteman, MDOT Aeronautics, at HouttemanS@michigan.gov.

PFAS are a large group of man-made chemicals that have been used in many consumer and industrial products, such as non-stick cookware, waterproof fabrics and firefighting foam.
Over 1 Million Michigan Workers Affected by COVID-19 Now Receiving Unemployment Benefits

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has provided benefits to 1,018,315 Michigan workers who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19. The agency also disbursed more than $1.66 billion in payments since March 15. The most recent U.S. Dept. of Labor report showed 1,178,021 Michiganders filed unemployment claims between March 15 – April 18. Most workers who have not yet received unemployment benefits will be eligible in the coming weeks once they complete the federal requirement to certify their claim.

“We are working hard to provide emergency financial assistance to those affected by COVID-19, with more than 1 million Michiganders receiving benefits,” said Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. “While Michigan’s unemployment system appears to be outpacing the rest of the country in paying benefits, much work remains for those who still need help completing their claim. We will not rest until everyone receives the benefits they are entitled to.”

In conjunction with the federal CARES Act, Michigan was among the first states in the nation to begin sending the additional $600 federal payments in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) and make the unemployment application available to self-employed workers and independent contractors through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In a recent Detroit Free Press report, Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst of Washington, D.C., nonprofit National Employment Law Project, said the state has been uniquely responsive to the crisis. Michigan is one of the few states already issuing the additional $600 pandemic benefit handed down from the federal government, she said. Evermore credited Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for improved access to benefits.

Added Capacity
The UIA has extended its call center hours and added hundreds of customer facing staff. The agency has also built in new tools to its online system connecting more than 100 staff to resolve technical issues like locked accounts.

Historical Demand
In the weeks preceding the pandemic, the UIA received around 5,000 new weekly unemployment claims. During the Great Recession, the weekly high was around 77,000 in 2009.

Unemployment claims during COVID-19:
Week-Ending March 21:       128,806
Week-Ending March 28:       304,335
Week-Ending April 4:         388,554
Week-Ending April 11:       222,207
Week-Ending April 18:        134,119
Five Week Total:           1,178,021

How to File and Certify
The fastest and easiest way to file and certify a claim is online at Michigan.gov/UIA. More than 90% of all claims are filed and certified on the 24hr website. Customers are urged to use the site during off-peak hours between 8pm-8am. For anyone having difficulty with their account, the UIA Call Center - 866-500-0017 - is available 8am-6pm Mon-Fri and 7am-2pm on Saturday. Customers in the call center and online chat queues before closing time will have their calls or chats resolved that day.
President Signs H.R. 266 "Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act" 

On Friday, April 24, the President signed into law: H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act," which provides additional fiscal year (FY) 2020 emergency supplemental funding to increase amounts authorized and appropriated for commitments for the Paycheck Protection Program authorized under section 7(a) of the Small Business Act, economic injury disaster loans and emergency grants under the CARES Act, to fund hospital and provider recovery and testing, and for other purposes

Federal Paycheck Protection Video - What You Need to Apply
If you have an interest in the federal Paycheck Protection Program but have not applied, watch our 90-second video that discusses what you will need before reaching out to your lender.

Virtual Michigan COVID-19 Update
During the week of April 27, we were joined by State Representative Brian Elder, Bay Arenac ISD Superintendent Deb Kadish and Bay Future President & CEO Trevor Keyes for a COVID-19 discussion and update. If you were not able to join us live, you can view the full update here.

Hampton Township Developing Economic Development and Resiliency Plan
Hampton Township is currently in the process of developing an Economic Development and Resiliency Plan that will act as a road map for the Township's future economic planning efforts. The aim is to identify a plan for Hampton Township following the closures of Consumers Energy Weadock (2016) and Karn (2023) coal plants. If you are a Hampton Township resident or business you can learn more here.

Independence and Liberty Bridge Inspections
Bay City Bridge Partners has continued inspections on Independence and Liberty Bridges this spring. The most recent inspections did not find any surprises and found the condition of the superstructure for both bridges to be generally consistent with past inspections. Bay City Bridge Partners are planning work to improve the condition of the pavement, sidewalks, and joints on both bridges. You can follow Bay City Bridge Partners to receive updates.

You can visit our website at www.baycityarea.com for additional updates related to the COVID-19 crisis.
S aginaw County Chamber of Commerce and Saginaw Future Inc. Provide Resources for Business Reopening  
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has begun lifting COVID-19 restrictions on some businesses, which can begin reopening. Landscapers, lawn-service companies, plant nurseries and bike repair shops can resume operating, subject to social-distancing rules. Stores selling nonessential supplies can reopen for curbside pickup and delivery. Big-box retailers no longer have to close off garden centers and areas dedicated to selling paint, flooring and carpet.

The most important goal for Saginaw County and Michigan is to stop the spread of Covid-19. As Michigan develops and implements appropriate policies, in accordance with federal, state and local regulations, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce and Saginaw Future Inc. have researched re-opening plans and playbooks for our businesses to begin to prepare for re-opening.

Businesses can visit COVID-19 BUSINESS RESOURCES to find re-opening playbooks for various industries and other related materials to help prepare them to reopen.

Please keep in mind that considerations for gradually reopening the economy must take into account hospital capacity, availability of personal protection equipment and testing kits. A sustained reduction in Covid-19 cases is the most important measure. Important resources and guidance will come from MIOSHA , U.S. OSHA , Center for Disease Control , and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cyber Infrastructure .

Governor Whitmer’s order continues to prohibit in-person work that is not necessary to sustain or protect life, with exemptions for various critical jobs. Restaurants remain closed to dine-in customers under a separate measure, and bars, movie theaters, gyms and other sports facilities are still shuttered.
On behalf of our members, the Bay Area and Saginaw County Chambers of Commerce will continue to monitor public policy that impacts our region, our communities and most importantly, your business!