U-M: Detroit’s unemployment rate improves but money woes mount

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Detroit’s economy has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus downturn.

Detroit’s unemployment rate improved for the first time since the pandemic began but a “huge proportion” of residents still face “dire economic straits”, according to researchers at the University of Michigan who are tracking COVID-19’s financial impact on Detroiters.

The city’s unemployment rate is now an estimated 38 percent, down from the 45 percent to 48 percent unemployment rate that Detroit has had since at least early May, according to the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study.  Before the pandemic, the city’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

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Despite the improved unemployment rate, 1 in 5 Detroiters said they are still struggling financially, said Jeffery Morenoff and Lydia Wileden, the researchers behind the U-M survey.  

“We are seeing that a huge proportion of Detroiters say they are in pretty dire economic straits,” said Wileden. Next week, the group releases its fourth economic survey of Detroiters taken during the pandemic. The survey is based on the responses of 1,100 residents.

Despite the mounting financial woes Detroiters face, many are not yet expressing much concern about losing their home through eviction or foreclosure, said Morenoff, professor of public policy and sociology and director of the Population Studies Center at U-M’s Institute for Social Research.

“People have not been reporting huge levels of concerns about housing instability,” Morenoff said. “People have been protected somewhat by the moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.” 

But many moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures, and other temporary suspensions put in place during the pandemic may expire. 

Here is what you should know:

Extra $600 a week in unemployment 

It expired the last week of July. A divided U.S. Congress is still trying to hammer out a new deal. Democrats want to keep the $600-a-week payment but many Republicans want to cut the amount. 

Rental evictions 

In Detroit, the ban is set to end Aug. 17 after a four-month moratorium. 

Michigan’s new $50 million Eviction Diversion Program, is aimed at helping both landlords and renters.

Last month, the city of Detroit received $11.5 million in federal money to help residents facing eviction to get free legal defense and rental assistance. Go to www.DetroitEvictionHelp.com or call 866-313-2520.

Property tax foreclosures

Suspended until the end of the year by Wayne County Treasurer. 

Mortgage relief 

The state’s MiMortgage Relief Partnership allows a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments and foregoes foreclosures for 60 days. Participating financial institutions are listed on the MiMortgage Relief Partnership Financial Institutions page. More than 200 lenders are participating in the program. 

Government-held student loans

As part of the CARES Act passed in April, certain federal student loan payments and collections were suspended until Sept. 30 as well as an interest freeze. Congress is still debating whether to extend the deadline. 

Water shutoffs 

The city launched its Covid-19 Water Restart Plan in early March that allows households to reconnect for $25, then pay as little as $25 per month for the duration of the pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signed an executive order requiring public water suppliers to restore service to occupied homes that had been disconnected. That order expires  Dec. 31.

Utility shutoffs

DTE launched two programs that could help customers having a hard time paying bills. The Personalized Service Protection plans provide several payment options including utilizing the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The Low Income Self Sufficiency Program offers help with paying down balances over 24 months while protecting users from service interruption. Contact DTE at 800.477.4747 with questions.

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