June 1, 2020

As the nation attempts to kickstart the economy and re-open safely, the fallout from the shutdown is becoming more clear, exposing the devastation in vulnerable communities.

But researchers, entrepreneurs, city leaders and public agencies continue to come up with novel ways to track the virus and help get communities back on their feet.

Stimulus Checks Still Waiting to be Claimed

While you may have already received or may not need the $1200 stimulus check, there are millions of people who are desperate to get one and haven’t. Officials are reaching out to underserved communities and to those who don’t normally file income taxes. If you know people who fit this category, please share this information with them so they do not miss out on getting their stimulus checks. The IRS is urging people to sign up, including the homeless. In addition to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and qualifying resident alienswho meet the guidelines are all eligible for a stimulus check. There is no requirement in the law that you must earn an income or pay taxes in order to get a stimulus check.

Tracking COVID-19 in Sewage Sludge

Researchers from Yale University and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station analyzed solid waste and found the amount of coronavirus correlated with testing totals and hospitalizations. The genetic code of the virus is embedded in feces.  The testing is cost-effective and could be an early warning sign of how prevalent COVID-19 is within an area. This tool could be used by communities to track the spread of the virus and predict outbreaks, allowing local officials to put in place localized sheltering in place so as not to overwhelm hospitals. Apparently, the WHO has been tracking polio virus outbreaks using a similar method.

Tech Help for Black Businesses on Verge of Collapse

The spread of COVID-19  has deeply impacted small business owners around the country, particularly those in underserved communities.While states are allowing some businesses to re-open gradually, there are many small brick-and-mortar businesses, deemed “non-essential” during the shutdown, that are struggling. Many were forced to retreat to online digital storefronts, and some in African American communities lacked the tools to do that. One entrepreneur, Danielle McGee created an app that aims to help Black businesses who have been severely impacted by the viral outbreak and its economic consequences. Black Business Boom is a digital marketplace that enables such small businesses to open a digital storefront.

The service usually requires a $100 one-time set up fee but is currently being waived amid the coronavirus pandemic. Users will also be able to utilize different promotional tools. According to McGee, Black business owners don’t always have equal access to technology and resources and that’s where the app can help.

Seeing Public Data through a New Pandemic Lens

Preventing COVID-19 spread among seniors in residential facilities is no easy task. The City of Detroit wanted to identify high-risk locations, like licensed nursing and elderly care facilities, to better allocate scarce public health resources to residents at greatest risk.  The City reached out to the newly launched Regulation, Evaluation, and Governance Lab (RegLab) at Stanford. RegLab partners with government agencies and is designed to evaluate programs, policies, and technologies that modernize governance. The RegLab team helped public health experts identify buildings housing high-density populations of seniors using technologies applied to voter registration data. The same number of public health workers could be deployed five times more effectively because they were armed with better data.  Smart data advantages matter when time is of the essence, as with a virus that is highly contagious in high density and high morbidity populations.

Free Resources designed for International Job Seekers

Hundreds of thousands of talented immigrants are at risk of losing their legal status due to COVID-related job losses. Immigration restrictions limit how long they can remain in the U.S. without being paid. Bridge, an Ulu portfolio company, has created a new initiative, Next Act to connect those seeking a job during this very uncertain times with immigrant-friendly employers.

The information is able to be shared with recruiters at companies actively hiring and open to sponsorship; unemployed immigrants can learn about immigration options through webinars and attorney consultations offered by Bridge. They can also get online skill-building tools built for immigrant job seekers.


For many Americans, this summer may be more like “staycations”…..short drives and visits to familiar places. There’s hanging out in your backyard (if you are lucky enough to have one). But for many of us there is a desire to hit the road, masks in our pockets, sanitizer at hand with no need to get on an airplane or stay in a hotel.

Writer Michael C. Hopkins took a look at our predicament through the eyes of Henry David Thoreau, evoking a bit of Walden pond or what he calls the art of “deliberate escape”.

Say It with Flowers

New Yorkers recently found random flashes of floral tributes on the streets of Manhattan. One New York floral designer, Lewis Miller decided it was time to show healthcare workers “flower flashes” as a show of gratitude. This story can be found in a newsletter called The Good Stuff which you can sign up to receive weekly.

This is the end of our newsletter for now! Hope you have enjoyed reading it the last 11 weeks and we wish you and your family health and happiness through these uncertain times.

Miriam and the Ulu Ventures team

All references and hyperlinks (to specific products, medical devices, processes, services, companies, stories, articles, or other materials) are for informational purposes only and do not constitute affiliation, endorsement, or recommendation by Ulu, or that such products have been approved by relevant governmental authorities. Nothing herein is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. All product and company names mentioned herein are the trademarks, service marks, or trade names of their respective owners and all rights are reserved to them. 

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About the Author: Miriam Rivera

Miriam Rivera is co-founder and managing director of Ulu Ventures