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Whitmer rolls out back-to-school road map

This window in the greater Marquette area proclaims a positive message of strength and perseverance amid the COVID-19 pandemic that continues despite lockdowns, social distancing and other measures taken. (Journal photo

MARQUETTE — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday released the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, a comprehensive document to help districts create local plans for in-person learning in the fall.

It outlines a number of safety protocols for schools to implement in each phase of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. Whitmer also signed Executive Order 2020-142, which provides a structure to support all schools in Michigan as they plan for a return of Pre-K-12 education in the fall.

“The MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap will help provide schools with the guidance they need as they enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students and their families,” Whitmer said in a news release. “I will continue working closely with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and experts in epidemiology and public health to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and financial support from the federal government.”

“This crisis has had serious implications on the state budget,” she said, and federal support is needed.

Executive Order 2020-142 requires school districts to adopt a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan that lays out how they will protect students and educators across the various phases of the Michigan Safe Start Plan. The MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap offers guidelines as to the types of safety protocols that will be required or recommended at each phase.

For Wednesday, July 1.

Recognizing that the protocols require money, Whitmer also announced she was allocating $256 million to support the districts in implementing their local plans as part of the bipartisan budget agreement announced on Monday.

The safety protocols detailed in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap includes guidance on the use of personal protection equipment, good hygiene, cleaning/disinfecting, spacing in classrooms, screening for symptoms, athletics and more.

The road map also offers guidance on how schools can address students’ and educators’ mental health.

Whitmer will continue to use the MI Safe Start Plan as the highest-level governing framework for determining if and when it is safe to resume in-person instruction.

Support still needed

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is reminding Michigan residents that there is still time to support small businesses participating in the MI Local Biz community crowdfunding program.

Launched in early June, more than 100 campaigns using this crowdfunding for COVID-19 recovery efforts will expire over the coming days and weeks, with many still seeking support from the public to meet their crowdfunding goals, the MEDC said.

The MEDC will provide up to $5,000 in matching funds per business to help them as they work to recover from the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

Michele Wildman, senior vice president of community development with the MEDC, said in a news release, “Michigan’s small businesses and traditional downtowns are a vital part of the state’s economy, and MI Local Biz offers innovative access to capital for those businesses that have experienced a loss in revenue directly related to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Examples of the types of businesses still participating include: restaurants/bars/ coffee shops, cafes, salons/day spas, yoga studios, historic theaters, retail shops, art galleries, recreation businesses and many other small businesses retailing products or providing services in a face-to-face physical location within Michigan.

In Marquette, Velodrome Coffee Company, located at 519 W. Washington St., was founded with the goal of serving its community and supporting coffee farmers worldwide with an emphasis on sharing their coffee and their stories.

When the COVID-19 outbreak hit Michigan, Velodrome was experiencing some of its greatest business growth to date, according to the MEDC.

Through the MI Local Biz program, Velodrome also exceeded its $5,000 crowdfunding goal, having raised more than $7,300 from community members to support its future success.

“Receiving this grant through our community’s support will be a massive help to Velodrome as we navigate rebuilding from the shutdown caused by COVID-19,” said Velodrome Coffee Company founder and co-owner Brice Sturmer in a news release. “We feel overwhelmed with kindness. We’re excited to continue our mission of roasting personally sourced coffees and bringing the stories of coffee farmers across the globe to our customers.”

MI Local Biz allows for a small business to use donation-based crowdfunding through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity’s existing platform and to receive a 1-to-1 matching grant from MEDC of up to $5,000.

Funds must be used by the businesses for working capital needs to maintain ongoing operations during and through the COVID-19 crisis. MEDC will provide a total of $500,000 in matching grants to the participating businesses statewide.

Individuals interested in learning more and supporting businesses in their communities can visit https://www.patronicity.com/milocalbiz.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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