Low-income individuals and families were already struggling with limited income, debts, unstable housing, and lack of access to healthcare. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis including school closings and the threat to the U.S. economy, these are the community members with the fewest resources to respond to the effects of COVID-19. Many people are losing their jobs or working fewer hours, finding it more difficult to pay their rent or mortgages, and at risk for foreclosure or eviction.
Fortunately, Michigan is one of several state and local governments who have temporarily halted evictions for non-payment of rent. Despite this, there is widespread fear about loss of homes or inability to access other basic needs during this time.
There are services available for individuals experiencing -- or at risk of -- eviction or similar crises. Michigan Legal Help (MLH) is an excellent online resource to learn more about a legal problem and apply for assistance. Here is a page dedicated to COVID-19 updates from MLH.
During the week of March 30th, MLH's visits were up 112% over a month ago. This is about 17,000 visits to the MLH website each day for a total of almost 123,000 in one week. MLH recently had to upgrade its servers to handle this increased usage.
The topics being explored on MLH tie directly to the COVID-19 crisis: The unemployment tools were the most popular last week. As compared to a month ago, usage of the unemployment tools is up between 2000 and 7000%. Similarly, usage of the food stamp calculator has doubled in the 2nd half of March.
In the coming months, the housing issues related to lost income during this crisis could have devastating consequences. Civil Legal Aid is going to be critical in helping individuals and families preserve housing and provide family stability. Legal Services of South Central Michigan put together this webpage on how clients’ legal rights may be affected by COVID-19. Similarly, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center has added important information to their website aimed at helping Michigan’s immigrant communities navigate information and resources in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The availability of local resources like Michigan Legal Help and legal aid programs across Michigan will be crucial in supporting our communities through this crisis.