Photo via Shutterstock
Photo via Shutterstock

“No amount of hard work, grit, or sheer determination can fix what has happened,” said Michigan mom Katie Carls.

MICHIGAN — Federal support for Michiganders during the coronavirus has largely dried up.

Unemployment, which had been boosted to help combat the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, lost that boost at the end of July. Evictions, which had been halted, resumed facing a massive backlog of people poised to lose their homes. Small businesses shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program have had to fend for themselves

Taken together, these have left Michiganders facing hard choices, and often no choices at all. 

“Most everyone I know is just working towards the American dream,” said entrepreneur Katie Carls. “Provide a home and opportunity for our kids and families. We want to be working.  We want the sense of pride and fulfillment that comes with being a productive member of society. But at this point, there are things that are out of our control.”

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Carls owns a cleaning company, Marvelous Maids, with her sister. She also works part time selling refrigeration trailers for her father’s small business. Both those jobs were hobbled by the pandemic and resulting ripples felt throughout the economy. 

“No amount of hard work, grit, or sheer determination can fix what has happened, on our end. 

It is sickening to me that we are being hung out to dry and figure it out for ourselves, when major corporations have been given billions,” she told The ‘Gander. “We need a cohesive response and plan at a federal level that actually puts the people first. We don’t need profit over people. We need help.”

So, seven different organizations came together to send a letter from Michigan to Washington urging federal lawmakers to pass a new coronavirus relief package. 

A Call For Help

Prosperity Michigan, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, The American Sustainable Business Council, Local First, Good for Michigan, Michigan Small Business Alliance, and the  Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum coauthored a letter to members of Congress calling out for relief. 

“More than 1 million Michiganders have lost their jobs since March, and too many small businesses across the state have been forced to close,” the letter says. “While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should be applauded for leading our state through this public health and economic crisis, additional relief from Washington can’t come soon enough.”

Gov. Whitmer has been calling for that additional support herself since June, when she testified to Congress about the lackluster federal response to the pandemic and the challenges Michigan has faced as a result. 

Congress and the White House have come to a stalemate over three competing proposals for how to address that needed relief however. The Senate plan, called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection and Schools Act (HEALS, hence the lowercase “protection”) competes with the House’s Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) and a plan by President Donald Trump outlined in four executive memos. HEALS is the least generous of the packages, providing only a very short-term and much smaller continuation to the emergency enhancements to unemployment. 

“Unfortunately, the Senate’s recently introduced HEALS Act does not provide adequate relief for Michigan businesses and families,” the letter says. “The proposal reduces unemployment benefits and fails to include protections to prevent evictions or additional funding to help Michigan and other states balance their budgets.”

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And the proposed support from Trump actually worsen states’ budget crises, but compelling them to contribute a quarter of the total emergency enhancement to unemployment through the end of the year. 

HEALS also introduced a much smaller refresh of the Paycheck Protection Program targeted at shoring up small businesses, at less than a quarter its original funding. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to Michigan’s small businesses and more than 500,000 Michiganders are still bearing the brunt of this crisis,” said Branden Snyder, executive director Detroit Action and the Michigan Small Business Alliance in a statement to The ‘Gander. “Nearly half of Black and one-third of Latino Detroiters say they have lost their job due to the pandemic. Many of these workers have been counting on both federal and state support to weather the storm. If we can keep our families and businesses out of crippling debt by making sure they have basic resources to pay their bills, we can we can get these hardworking people back on their feet and into new jobs when our economy slowly begins to rebuild, which could be awhile.”

These, combined with HEALS not addressing a moratorium on evictions, leave Michigan families behind in a tumultuous time. 

“Families and communities need much more support than the HEALS Act offers,” said Dr. Darienne Hudson, president, and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “Struggling workers still need increased unemployment benefits and continued protection against eviction and foreclosure. Michigan desperately needs funds to avoid devastating cuts to education and essential safety net services.”