The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation socially and economically – and that means many Michigan residents may be out of work or facing financial crisis. There are resources available for those that need food, financial assistance, unemployment resources and help paying their utility bills, just to name a few. A good place to start is by contacting Michigan’s 2-1-1 system, where you’ll be connected to a list of resources across Michigan for help with food, diapers, rental assistance, energy bills and bus fare, to name a few. Here’s how to connect:
- Call 2-1-1
- Text your zip code to 898211
- Visit the online database
Additionally, those interested in donating supplies, donating to a food bank or donating blood during the pandemic can call 2-1-1 as well. The federal government is preparing to send out direct stimulus payments to help individuals and families through the pandemic. The first wave of payments could be issued by the end of April, though it may take longer for some individuals. Learn more here. Read on to see how to access statewide and local resources offering help during this uncertain time. Unemployment If you are unemployed – or if you are sick, quarantined or taking care of family members who are ill due to COVID-19 – you are eligible to file for unemployment assistance from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. Additionally, public health first responders who are will or quarantined due to exposure are also eligible. Self-employed workers and independent contractors who don’t have unemployment insurance are now eligible as well. Here’s how to file a claim:
- Online at michigan.gov/uia in the MiWAM portal
- Due to higher-than-average demand, the MiWAM portal may be overloaded. Officials advise accessing the portal during off-peak hours from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
- Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays.
- Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
- Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
- Call 1-866-500-0017
- Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Fridays (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturdays (7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
Assistance If you need assistance with health care coverage, cash assistance, food assistance, childcare costs or emergency housing, utility payments or burial situations, the state of Michigan has a streamlined application system through MI Bridges. How to apply:
- Online at newmibridges.michigan.gov
- Using a paper application, which can be found online or at a local MDHHS office. Call your local MDHHS office and they will mail the application to you.
- At a local MDHHS office, which can be found here
- At a community partner, which can be found here For healthcare coverage only, you can apply over the phone by calling 1-855-276-4627
The state of Michigan has expanded the food assistance benefits for Michigan families, and waived the federal work requirements for about 27,000 individuals. Find out more information here. Blue Cross Support Additionally, Under the Affordable Care Act, people losing their employer group health insurance qualify to enroll in an individual health plan on the federal Marketplace. Based on household income and family size, subsidies for those plans may substantially reduce the premium cost – allowing families to continue their health insurance during the COVID-19 crisis. Both Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's and Blue Care Network's health plan advisers and local insurance agents can enroll people in health insurance coverage online, so social distancing guidelines can be maintained throughout the process. Subsidized coverage is a significant support for people who have lost employer coverage along with a job – but also people enrolled in individual plans who have seen their incomes drop. Individuals seeking help from Blue Cross can find it by calling 877-610-2583 or online at www.bcbsm.com/myblue. BCBSM has also begun a special support program for small businesses who may be forced by economic conditions to drop their health insurance coverage or lay off employees. The program is available to small employers and their insurance agents through a toll-free hotline at 866-582-5052 and via email at smallgroupCOVID19@bcbsm.com. Food The state’s 2-1-1 system is a great resource to get connected with local food drives and giveaways. The state also has a map of where families can find free lunches for children while school is closed due to the pandemic.
Additionally, these news sites offer a wide-ranging roundup of where free food is available across Michigan.
Rent and Housing Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has temporarily suspended all evictions in Michigan until April 17. For assistance with emergency housing, get connected with the state’s MI Bridges program. Additionally, the state offers interest-free forgivable loans to help with mortgage, property taxes and/or condominium association fees in cases of involuntary qualifying hardship – like job loss or a medical event. Learn more about the Step Forward Michigan program by:
Utilities Gov. Whitmer has issued an executive order that requires water service to be reconnected to residences that have had their water shut off. Additionally, check with your utility providers to see if they have any policies in place to suspend collections or to postpone bills in cases of financial hardship due to COVID-19. For example:
- DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are not disconnecting service and extending flexible payment plans for low-income customers, seniors and those impacted by illness or job losses related to the pandemic.
- SEMCO has suspended customer disconnections and has waived late fees for anyone unable to pay their monthly natural gas bill. Call SEMCO if you are concerned about paying your bill at 1-800-624-2019.
- For Detroit residents who recently experienced a water shutoff or received a shutoff notice, call Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency to get your service restored: 313-386-9727.
- AT&T is offering free internet access for new customers for two months. Low-income households can continue to subscribe for $10/month. Service will not be terminated due to inability to pay.
- Comcast and Charter Communications are offering free internet to low-income families. Internet and cable service will not be suspended.
Taxes The deadlines to file a federal income tax return, state of Michigan income tax return and income tax returns for Michigan cities have been extended until July 15. Assistance may be available to anyone to has been laid off due to COVID-19 with their past-due state taxes or other state debts. Here’s how to find help:
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