Where to Get Financial Assistance in Michigan
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The novel coronavirus hit Michigan's health and economy hard. Over 2 million Michiganders have filed for unemployment, and the state's unemployment rate has passed the 20% mark.
As shops and businesses cautiously raise their shutters and the immediate crisis begins to ease, many in Michigan are wondering how long it will be before they can earn normal wages again and how deep the recession will be.
If you are one of the many people finding it hard to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, we've compiled some financial assistance resources that may help.
Where to start
The most important thing you can do is get started. When it comes to money matters, the longer you delay, the worse the problem will become.
- Speak to any entity you owe money to, from utility companies to your bank. If you can pause payments on any of your bills, it may give you some breathing room. You may also be able to delay payments on your credit cards or personal loans.
- Strip your budget down to bare essentials. It may sound obvious, but the less you spend, the longer you can ride out the crisis.
- Say yes to any work you can find -- even if it is just a few hours. Any income is better than nothing. Find out how to file for unemployment in Michigan if you haven't already. Be aware that the extra $600 a month in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will run out at the end of July, and the government has not yet approved a second stimulus package.
Depending on your situation, you could also look at refinancing your debt. If you have a mortgage, see whether mortgage refinancing might be an option. And if you have a lot of high interest debt, look into debt consolidation loans.
Getting support in Michigan
Michigan 2-1-1 is a good place to start. The 2-1-1 support line can connect you with assistance programs in the state. MI Blues Perspectives and Bridge both have comprehensive lists of support resources.
What to do if you can't afford food in Michigan
You may be entitled to food support from the state, as well as medical assistance, and even cash assistance in some cases. Michigan has streamlined its benefits program, so you can apply for help from multiple programs at MI Bridges using your computer or cell phone.
Unfortunately, Michigan's program of additional food assistance during the coronavirus crisis finished in June. Don't let that stop you from applying though, as the regular program could still help.
The amount of food benefits you qualify for depends on your income and the size of your household. If you are eligible, you will receive a Bridge card, which you can use to pay for basic groceries each month.
Michigan Bridge cards can now be used online at certain retailers, although you can't use them to cover delivery charges. The Michigan SNAP program also offers a Double Up Food Bucks system, offering an extra dollar's worth of food for every dollar you spend at certain retailers.
If things have gotten really bad, the state also has a strong network of food banks and pantries. You may want to call ahead to ensure the food bank is open and check its requirements.
If you have school-aged children, use the state's Summer Food Service Program to find meals during the summer break.
What to do if you can't pay your rent or mortgage in Michigan
Renters in Michigan have been some of the hardest hit in the United States. The state's moratorium on non-emergency evictions ends July 15, but there is still some support to keep you in your home.
At the start of July, the governor approved an additional $880 million in emergency funding. One chunk of that money will go toward an Eviction Diversion Program that will work with courts to try to avoid evictions. The $50 million fund will be able to make lump-sum payments to landlords, facilitated by the state Housing Development Authority and other non-profits. The idea is that landlords will be able to get paid for back rent and tenants will be able to stay in their homes.
Make sure you're aware of all the national housing assistance that is available as well. For example, find out whether your landlord's mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. If it is, you will be protected from evictions until at least August 31.
If you are a homeowner, federally backed loans, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, are also protected from foreclosure until the end of August.
Even if your mortgage is not federally protected, contact your lender to see if you can defer payments or apply for forbearance. Over 200 financial institutions have signed on to the state's MiMortgage Relief Partnership, pledging to help customers access mortgage relief. If you haven't already done so, contact your lender and find out what support is available.
You can also reach out to a HUD advisor who can help you evaluate your options. And if eviction is looming, speak to your local legal aid team to see what help they can give you.
Be aware that while support is available, there is a lot of demand. Be patient and be persistent.
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