• Initiative takes aim at disparities in health outcomes and digital access worsened by COVID-19
  • Effort is a landmark collaborative partnership between City of Detroit, private and social sector organizations
  • Distribution marks first large-scale effort from Connect 313, following the launch of the Connect 313 Fund at the Rocket Mortgage Classic

October 29, 2020 [DETROIT] — Connect 313 — a collaborative organization founded by the City of Detroit, Rocket Mortgage Classic, Rocket Companies, Microsoft and United Way of Southeastern Michigan that aims to close Detroit’s digital divide — today announced it has begun the distribution of tablets, digital training and tech-enabled healthcare services to thousands of low-income seniors throughout Southeastern Michigan.

This effort, called “Connecting Seniors,” is made possible through the Connect 313 Fund and by a generous grant of $3.9 million from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities Rapid Response Initiative. This is the first initiative to come from Connect 313 and is emblematic of the organization’s collaborative, community-driven model of investment, which brings countless organizations together to ensure all Detroiters can access the digital world and the opportunity it brings.

“The disparity in digital equity is a systemic, generational issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Joshua Edmonds, Digital Director for the City of Detroit and Chief Advocate of Connect 313. “Connect 313 is designed to undertake an ecosystem approach to eradicate the digital divide. We’ve already made great strides in connecting students to critical technology resources, but we must not lose focus on our seniors who are facing economic hardship and persistent technology adoption challenges that make telehealth a distant reality. I’m thankful for the numerous partners that have convened to take the necessary first step in securing resources for our community.”

Connect 313 will coordinate the distribution of devices and digital resources with the support of partners including: the City of Detroit, Focus: HOPE, Wayne State University, human-I-T, Microsoft + Accenture, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and the Rocket Community Fund (formerly Quicken Loans Community Fund).

The success of this initiative relies on the unique capacity each partner brings to bear:

  • Focus: HOPE currently delivers monthly food boxes to 41,000 low-income seniors in southeastern Michigan, in addition to other essential services. Connect 313 will leverage these distribution networks and relationships to deliver the devices.
  • human-I-T is the technology and connectivity provider for Connecting Seniors. They will provide the devices to the target population, along with WiFi-enabled hotspots and technical support services.
  • Wayne State University will provide a holistic suite of clinical and other health-related services including testing, counseling and mental healthcare. This includes an application that bundles existing Microsoft + Accenture telehealth and COVID-19 solutions to the University’s suite of services. Services will be coordinated from Wayne State’s Schools of Medicine, College of Nursing, Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, School of Social Work and Institute of Gerontology.
  • United Way for Southeastern Michigan, as the administrator of the Connect 313 Fund alongside the City of Detroit and the Rocket Community Fund (formerly Quicken Loans Community Fund), was the grant writer and will oversee the execution of this particular outcome.

“Throughout the pandemic it has become abundantly clear that we need to be creative in how we connect residents to digital resources,” said Jay Farner, Chairman of the Connect 313 Fund Board of Directors and CEO of Rocket Companies (NYSE: RKT). “This initiative, thanks to the support of the State of Michigan, provides an impactful solution for our seniors to access the healthcare they need. We are committed to changing the course for Detroiters through the Connect 313 Fund.”

This effort is a direct intervention for a cohort that has been severely impacted by persistent inequities, resulting in increased health disparities and other poor outcomes. A recent study by Wayne State University found that older adults living in Detroit die at two-and-a-half times the rate of older adults living in the rest of Michigan. Moreover, Detroit seniors have experienced disproportionate impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, both in healthcare outcomes and isolation from community support. Access and adoption of tech-enabled healthcare is critical to mitigating these inequities.

In addition to receiving the physical devices and training to use them, seniors and their caregivers will have access to a custom application to connect them to the Wayne State University suite of healthcare services, in addition to numerous tools developed by Microsoft + Accenture in response to COVID-19. The initiative aims to deliver devices, training, and tech-enabled healthcare to 4,000 low-income seniors and their caregivers within the next three months.

Seniors and caregivers who are interested in participating in the program can contact Focus: HOPE at 313-494-4240.

From the Partners:

“Our seniors are pillars of our community, and we are excited to be able to work collaboratively with so many partners to provide them with access to technology and application-based health support. We are committed to leveraging the collective power of the community to make a lasting change in the lives of everyone across Southeast Michigan.”

–       Tonya Adair, Chief Impact Officer, United Way for Southeastern Michigan

“As an urban-facing university and among the first in Detroit to mobilize into service to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations, Wayne State University is honored to be part of this consortium. This initiative rallies Wayne State resources to support low-income older adults with much needed access to primary health services and accelerates our commitment to eliminate health disparities in our community.”

–       President M. Roy Wilson, Wayne State University

“Focus: HOPE is proud to be a part of connecting seniors with technology that will provide them will the health-related support they need during this time of uncertainty. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our caseload had increased by over 4,500 seniors. We are ecstatic to leverage our relationship with this vulnerable community to connect them with additional resources at their front door.”

–       Portia Roberson, CEO, Focus: HOPE

“We are honored to play a role in ensuring that Michigan’s seniors have access to critical telehealth services. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance that technology and connectivity have on overall quality of life, especially for at-risk communities. Getting devices into the hands of seniors throughout the state will unlock opportunities for them to receive high-quality care and stay in touch with loved ones while reducing in-person interactions during the pandemic.”

–       Gabe Middleton, co-Founder and CEO, human-I-T


About Focus: HOPE

Focus: HOPE is a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization based in Detroit that is committed to using “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice.” Its main areas of focus are food justice, career development, and early learning education under the auspice of advocacy and empowerment. Through Focus: HOPE, thousands of individuals – especially those from disinvested communities – have become financially independent. For more details, visit www.focushope.edu.

About the Rocket Community Fund

The Rocket Community Fund (formerly Quicken Loans Community Fund) is the philanthropic arm of Rocket Mortgage, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Bedrock and other affiliated companies who comprise the Rock Family of Companies. Its strategy aims to support thriving, resilient and inclusive communities through data-driven investments in housing, employment and public life.

Through its For-More-Than-Profit model, the Rocket Community Fund recognizes that business and community are inextricably linked, and it purposefully brings together all of the assets of the Rocket Mortgage and Rock Family of Companies business – team member talent, technology, policy advocacy, and philanthropic resources – to invest in comprehensive community development in Detroit and across the country.

Since 2010, Rocket Mortgage Chairman Dan Gilbert and his affiliated companies have invested more than $200 million into addressing complex issues like tax foreclosure, chronic unemployment, and support of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Alongside financial investments, the Rocket Community Fund has organized team members to provide more than 725,000 volunteer hours nationwide, including 400,000 in Detroit.

For more information, visit RocketCommunityFund.org.

About United Way for Southeastern Michigan

United Way for Southeastern Michigan mobilizes the caring power of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to improve lives in measurable and lasting ways, in partnership with more than 700 agency partners. United Way is a leader in convening entities including business, labor, and government toward achieving positive outcomes for individuals and families around its Basic Needs & Health; Education; and Economic Prosperity strategies. The organization engages the community in its work via volunteerism and advocacy efforts and its annual campaign. For more information visit www.UnitedWaySEM.org.

About human-I-T

human-I-T is a nonprofit committed to inspiring and empowering people through technology and information to achieve their full potential. More than 82 million Americans lack access to a computer with internet connectivity in their homes, primarily because of cost. We promote digital inclusion and access through programs that provide technology, high-speed Internet access, tech support services, and digital literacy training at low or no cost to those in need, all while diverting unwanted technology away from landfills and giving it a second life.

To learn more about how our programs can help you, or how you can support our mission, please visit tawww.human-i-t.org.

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 27,000 students. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.

About Microsoft

Microsoft is a technology company whose mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.