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Detroit to send contractors to the homes of low-income residents to help with flood damage

Detroit flooding
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

In the wake of devastating damage brought on by historic flooding, Wayne and Washtenaw County are waiting to see if President Joe Biden will issue a presidential declaration of disaster. In the meantime, the city of Detroit will provide low-income residents with contractors to help clean and repair flood-damaged homes.

Residents eligible for help from the city include homeowners with a poverty tax exemption, people with a disability, senior citizens, and people with children under ten. 

Mayor Mike Duggan says there were concerns among city officials, like Gary Brown, head of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, that wealthier suburbs would hold up contractors with repairing flood-damaged homes, and preventing low-income residents from addressing their damages.

"And so if you have one of those [poverty tax] exemptions and you fall in these categories, we are going to make you first in line, not waiting for the suburbs to go ahead of you," he said.

The current estimate from DWSD is 800 to 1,000 households who will need to the city to come help with repairs.

"That number might turn out to be higher or lower, but we’re going to be ready to send contractors in very quickly and for the first time, our most vulnerable are going to get help first. This is the way a city should operate," said Duggan.

Eligible residents should call (313) 267-8000 to start the process. Detroit Buildings, Safety and Environmental Department will send an inspector out within 48 hours.

"The team will hire a contractor, do an estimate, and the homeowner is going to sign off on the work. We’re not just going to go in and do the work, you’re going to sign off on what’s done to make sure whatever needs to be done, you will get fixed. But this is to make your house safe," Duggan said.

The city work will focus on removing debris, repairing damaged drywall and tile, and cleaning, santizing, and drying. 

Duggan says that if Biden does issue a presidential declaration of disaster, FEMA could reimburse the city for these services.

"Whether FEMA does or doesn't reimburse, this is a subject of debate between the FEMA lawyers and me right now. But at the moment, we don't really care. Gary Brown's teams are going to go in and take care of our most vulnerable families, and I'll fight out the reimbursement with FEMA later," Duggan said.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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