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How Chamber Members Are Responding To The Sudden Uncertainty Caused By COVID-19

Prominent companies across the Detroit region have taken unprecedented actions to help their employees and consumers in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, and Michigan’s first confirmed cases of the infectious disease.

Here’s a look at how Chamber members are responding to coronavirus, and the mounting uncertainty it has produced as a result of its sudden impact on daily life and business as usual.

Answering Consumer Concerns

The Kroger Co. is among the grocery store chains nationwide left with bare shelves and long lines after a recent surge in consumer purchasing of canned food, bottled water, toilet paper, and other items. This week, Kroger announced that it will shorten operation hours at all Michigan locations to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., saying the adjusted hours will give staff more time to clean commonly used areas and restock shelves.

Also this week, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy announced temporary suspensions of electricity and natural gas shutoffs for low-income customers, including vulnerable seniors. While AT&T and Comcast joined dozens of other service providers in agreeing to preserve phone-and-internet service for out of work families and college students unable to pay their bills. The pledge was organized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Ensuring Workers Are Financially Supported

Workers throughout the state have been laid off as result of COVID-19. Many workers in Detroit, employed by venues such as Little Caesars Arena and Comerica Park, have even seen a need for their labor vanish after precautionary, abrupt cancellations of music and sports events this month. In response, Ilitch Holdings announced a commitment of $1 million to pay the salaries of about 1,500 part-time workers.

Helping to ‘Flatten the Curve” By Encouraging Remote Workforces

Starting this week, 90% of 18,000 Rock Ventures employees based in downtown Detroit begun working remotely, as part of the company’s effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. “We are confident that we will see no disruptions or lapse in client service – regardless of our members’ location,” said Aaron Walker, chief communications officer for Rock Ventures.

Likewise, Ford Motor Company, General Motors (GM), and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have instructed, or encouraged, all salaried employees to work remotely. Ford, GM and FCA, in partnership with the United Auto Workers (UAW), also announced the establishment of a “COVID-19/Coronavirus Task Force.” The task force will implement increased safety and health protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three automakers.

Economic Relief Is On The Way for Michigan’s Small Businesses

A survey conducted by the NFIB Research Center revealed COVID-19 is negatively impacting small businesses in the U.S., with supply chain disruptions, slower sales, and sick employees reported.

However, recent legislation expanded the Small Business Act’s definition of a disaster to include COVID-19. As a result, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) will soon be able to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EDILs) under a governor’s certification disaster declaration. The Chamber has learned Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is taking actions to obtain such declaration. In the meantime, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is encouraging all small businesses in Michigan to begin collecting information that will assist them in receiving relief loans. For additional information, or to obtain assistance with loan applications, small business owners in the state are asked to contact one of Michigan’s SBA offices.