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Detroit announces expanded testing plans, stimulus money for struggling residents

City of Detroit

The city of Detroit says it’s now tested all residents at its26 nursing homes for COVID-19, and the next step is to test all nursing home staff.

Staff testing will be available for free at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds drive-thru testing site. That will become mandatory on May 11.

The city is also taking onsite testing to assisted living and long-term care facilities. That will be helped by a $400,000 donation from businessman Raj Vattikuti, in partnership with Henry Ford Health System and the city’s health department. The city said the donation will help pay for 10,000 COVID-19 tests at more than 100 facilities throughout the city.

As of Monday, Detroit had recorded 947 COVID-19 deaths. 200 of them were nursing home residents.

But Duggan said Monday that the city appears to have reached the downward side of the curve when it comes to new cases and deaths.

Three weeks ago, the city lost 246 people to COVID-19. The following week, that number was 241. Last week, deaths dropped to 127.

But Duggan warned that’s still way too high. And given how quickly Detroit went from zero to more than 8,600 cases, he said relaxing restrictions now would lead to even worse devastation.

“If we take off from that [current] base, we are going to have far worse infection rates and fatality rates than we’ve had before,” said Duggan, who estimates that 1 in 10 Detroiters is infected with coronavirus. “So we have to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Duggan also announced that Detroit has received $8 million in federal stimulus money from the CARES Act, and will put that toward helping Detroiters meet their everyday needs.

The money will be distributed by the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, and will go toward items including food and income support; rent and mortgage assistance; and help with property tax bills.

Duggan said $3 million of that money will be set aside to help people pay water bills. Although Detroit isn’t shutting anyone off right now, and has a programto restore water service to households that had been shut off for $25 a month during the pandemic, households are still charged regular monthly bills and will be expected to catch up once the emergency passes.

Duggan said some of them could face significant arrerages. “We don’t want to be in a situation when the pandemic is over, that people weren’t able to keep up on their payments, and now we have to start another round of water shutoffs,” he said.

Given the extent of Detroit’s COVID-19 death toll, money is also available to help people with up to $1,500 in funeral expenses.  Households who make up to 200% of the federal poverty level—around $52,000 a year for a family of four—are eligible for the funds.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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