We all Zoomed in to our first meeting in the strange new circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order. Many of us were on video feed, while some others phoned in; in all attendance was good with over 100 members joining in. At 12:28, President Pat called us to order. He talked about these recent times with many folks working from home and many others laid off. He praised health care workers and critical employees. President Pat was able to secure his close personal friend, Lady Gaga, for a stellar performance of the National Anthem. He thanked Charles Mickens, Lisa Smith, Uma Umakanthan, and Dave Trumpie for helping to make this Zoom meeting happen.
President Pat talked about the passing of John Grettenberger Sr. Chris Holman let everyone know that COVID-19 has touched our Club – Michael Clark, who is on the front lines as a health care provider, is infected with virus and is on the mend. Irv Nichols let everyone know that Jack Draper is back at The Marquette from his stint at the Dobie Road facility.
PP reminded us that the local grant application still open, with over 20 applications so far. The deadline 3/31 at midnight; the contact person is John Person. He talked about club attendance and said that meetings by video don’t count against perfect attendance.
Donna Gardner said the Paul Harris letters are going out next week. $9000 has already been raised this year. She thanked those who have already given.
Janet Lilley and Sue Mills talked about a new program for the Club called “Rotary Connects.” They talked about how Rotary is such a very important part of our week and the need for keeping in touch. Rotary has a number of Rotary Classics who would like a reach out from another Rotary member during the week. Cathy has identified 18 names to call; to volunteer for Rotary Connects contact Sue Mills. Let her know if you would like to connect 1 person weekly or rotate through people.
Hari Kern announced the March birthdays. She asked the 14 of them for their favorite words, which included: sockdolager, delightful, friends, laughter, thank you, please, plethora, and Hari’s own favorite from her late husband Ralph is borborygmi (the medical term for intestines growling).
Lisa Smith introduced our speaker, Brian Calley. He was the 63rd Lieutenant Governor of Michigan and is currently the President of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM). Mr. Calley has been known as an advocate for persons with disabilities. SBAM with 26,000 business members is the largest such organization; they are doing COVID-19 updates at 3 pm daily.
Brian Calley told us that SBAM has filtered information for just small businesses, and they are advocating to solve problems. He addressed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. It is a $2.2 trillion package which includes $350 billion for small businesses. Technically these are loans, but they are forgivable if used as for certain purposes. The SBA 7a loans are for up to 250% of average monthly payroll from 2019. To be eligible either don’t layoff or call back your employees. The loans can be used to maintain payroll for employees, rent, utilities, or debt service. If the business maintains its headcount for 8 weeks, the debt is forgiven. The loans do not require personal guarantees.
Mr. Calley spoke about some other actions that have been taken regarding the COVID-19 crisis. The Federal tax deadline has been moved from April 15 to July 15. Michigan has delayed the withholding deadline by 30 days, and Governor Whitmer has hinted at state extending the state filing deadline. MEDC has announced a $20 million grant program (which is only enough for 1000-1500 small businesses); locally LEAP will handle that.
In question and answers, we learned:
  •  Attorney General Nessel has put out good guidance on enforcement of the closure orders. Each business or organization should designate someone to talk to law enforcement in the event of any question.
  • The disease was spreading before it was detected, and it has a long lead time to symptoms so over the next week, we will see some bad outcomes. Have to trust that the Governor and those helping her have more information than we do. Don’t resist or flout the rules.
  • The CARES Act definition of small business includes those with 500 employees or fewer all the way down to sole proprietors.
  •  Many Michigan businesses are joining the Arsenal of Health, stepping up to produce personal protective equipment and needed by health care providers and other needed items including Stormy Kromer making hospital masks, local distilleries making hand sanitizer, and GM & Ford making ventilators.
  • The SBA loans are available to 501(c)3 organizations to support payroll, rent, and utilities.
  • In addition to the forgivable loans, there are also disaster relief loans. These do have to be paid back, but they can be in larger amounts for up to 6 months working capital. Businesses can apply for both loans, but they can’t double dip on the purpose.
  • Charitable giving and spending locally have never been more important. Keep money local as much as you can.
  • It is important to keep up communication with employees, and ask if anything we can do to get through this.
For additional question, contact sbam@sbam.org. Lisa Smith spoke about SBAM membership.
President Pat thanked Brian Calley for making time for us. In light of current circumstances, he will ask the board to consider shifting speaker donations to local charity.
Our next meeting is April 3 on Zoom.
Chris Swope's email is:  chris.swope@lansingmi.gov