DTE Foundation helps others face down the COVID-19 threat


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

People might have thought that DTE Energy’s main contribution to the negative situation generated by the COVID-19 threat would be to suspend energy shutoffs for those who are unable to pay their bills.

And this it has done, through at least May 3, for those at 200% or less of Federal Poverty Level.

But some may be surprised to hear that DTE is also offering the community help on two major fronts: masks and matching money.

As of April 8, DTE delivered 100,000 KN95 respirator masks to Detroit-area hospitals that desperately need them, after working hard to source the scarce masks.

Weeks ago, the DTE Foundation reached out to the Michigan Emergency Response Team to learn how it might help secure respiratory masks for health care heroes. Having already secured these masks for its employees who are on the front lines restoring power and repairing gas leaks, DTE’s procurement team activated its suppliers to identify sources.

Having already donated more than 50,000 masks to the Detroit Police Department, DTE worked with its partner Coctaw-Kaul, a minority-owned distribution company in Detroit, to secure the 2.3 million masks, which as most people know are desperately needed by health care and other front-line professionals.

The good news is, there are many more masks – about 2 million – on the way. “We’re just getting started. The DTE Foundation is pulling out all the stops to help protect the heroes of our communities,” stated DTE President and CEO Jerry Norcia. “For weeks, the DTE Foundation and its partners have been feeding Michiganders and equipping first responders. Now, thanks to the tenacity of our remarkable supply chain team, we can protect the Detroit-area health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic.”

According to DTE’s Colleen Rosso, these will be distributed to other counties as needed, through each county’s  emergency manager. (Not to be confused with the emergency managers installed by the state when municipalities have financial difficulties, these are ongoing employees who work for the county’s emergency services departments.)

Rosso says that as the masks arrive, they will be distributed to the emergency managers who will disperse them within counties according to their own emergency plans. “We’re moving them out of our storage area within hours,” she says. “We’re not hanging onto them. We know it’s going to continue to be tough for our state and we’re trying to do our best to help.”

According to Muskegon County Administrator Mark Eisenbarth, the state’s county emergency managers communicate with each other daily so there will be coordination to determine where masks are most needed. Eisenbarth adds that county administrators also communicate both statewide and regionally.

Medical and first responder organizations interested in being included in the mask donation are encouraged to contact their county emergency manager. Kent County’s Emergency Manager is Lou Hunt, but Grand Rapids has one as well, John Lehman.

As part of its $16 million commitment to help Michigan get through the COVID-19 crisis, DTE will also match all contributions to the United Ways in Michigan (and Michigan Action) through April 16.

Contributions should be made to the Michigan Association of United Ways, through www.uwmich.org/giveunited – the form obtained through clicking the button offers an option to designate to a “specific Local United Way” – or Michigan Community Action, mcac.memberclicks.net/donate

All of this is in addition to DTE actions funding one million meals, providing basic needs for more than 100,000 families, and shoring up small businesses.

In addition, the DTE Foundation is also supporting small businesses across the state. The Foundation, in cooperation with Tech Town, is funding support for 360 small businesses and has provided a grant to the Accounting Aid Society to guide small businesses in accessing the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to pay employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, DTE Executive Chairman Gerry Anderson, who also chairs Business Leaders for Michigan, is leading a special task force gathering best practices from global companies and the most up-to-date information from state and national government sources to help employers, associations and our state respond quickly and effectively to the health emergency. The task force is working with the Governor’s office to provide constructive guidance for dealing with the crisis.

“The DTE Energy Foundation’s donation is just one example of how Michiganders are rallying behind one another in this critical time,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I am so proud of the people and the business leaders of this state who are stepping up to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect Michigan families. We will get through this together.”


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