This winter, Michigan families will face what health experts project to be the worst months of the pandemic, coupled with economic strain as state and federal supports expire.
Low-income and ALICE (asset limited, income constrained and employed) populations face potentially devastating impacts as COVID-19-based supports end, state revenues are down and no additional federal relief packages have passed through legislation.
The Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) has been working with partners at the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to monitor these issues and connect our community of philanthropy with resources on gaps in the social safety net. In the fall OFL hosted conversations featuring leading experts on the challenges frontline organizations face as the pandemic rages on, as well as philanthropy’s collective strategies for building toward more equitable and sustainable systems. The OFL has been closely monitoring the impending cliffs facing Michigan families with housing, utilities, cash on hand and food assistance.
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSHDA) Eviction Diversion Program—which provides assistance to residents who have fallen behind on rent payments due to the pandemic—will exhaust all of its funding by the end of the year. While the program is likely to continue at the local level utilizing CARES Act funding, those funds are expected to fall short of the amount needed to maintain current levels of housing assistance.
Based on U.S. Census household pulse survey data, it is estimated that between 341,000 and 405,000 Michigan households will be at risk for eviction without further assistance, and January’s estimated rent shortfall could reach $670 million statewide.
The state’s Water Utility Assistance Program was created to ensure Michiganders could pay their water bills so they could have clean water for sanitation. The $25 million program has helped over 70,000 families. An October State Supreme Court decision overriding Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders made water providers’ participation optional, and since, 30% of the state’s providers have opted out. The program is expected to expend its funding by the end of the month.
DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, Semco and UPPCO have been providing funding to help customers pay their energy bills. MDHHS notes the state has seen a recent increase in requests for utility assistance, likely due to lowering temperatures as suggested by weekly spending and usage rates. Funding for the State Emergency Relief Program—administered by MDHHS—is expected to run out in mid-2021.
Throughout the pandemic, food access has remained a constant challenge for children who rely on school breakfast and lunch for nutrition. With a lack of staff working in buildings, school meals have been difficult to come by for some.
Emergency food assistance funding is expected to see a 50% cut in January. MDHHS has launched a campaign encouraging families to apply for the food assistance program to help supplement their food allocations as cases continue to rise.
Over 14,000 unemployment claims were filed per week in Michigan last month, compared to 6,000 this time last year. The provision put in place during the pandemic allowing residents to claim unemployment for an additional six weeks is set to expire on December 31, as are a number of support programs for freelance and contract workers.
CMF and OFL will continue to lift up updates on these issues and work with state government to develop coordinated and strategic roles for philanthropy to play in supporting Michigan's families through the months ahead.
CMF members who want to engage more deeply in OFL's work to create equitable change in safety net supports are encouraged to contact Karen Aldridge-Eason, foundation liaison, OFL.
Read CMF’s previous coverage on the safety net.
Join OFL on December 11 for the virtual event: Michigan's P3 Collaborative and Early Childhood Education.