Detroit to see layoffs, pay cuts due virus-caused deficit
DETROIT (AP) — The city of Detroit will begin some layoffs, cut back hours to other employees and reduce services to meet a projected $44 million deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Mike Duggan laid out the plan Tuesday night to city employees and residents. On Tuesday morning, the city’s health department reported 7,020 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus and 424 deaths.
A state-ordered shutdown of non-essential businesses has left Detroit without millions of dollars in casino taxes, income tax, sales tax and fees revenue.
Duggan said the city is expected to lose $348 million in revenue through June 30, 2021 but will make up 80% of that through budget surpluses, money in a rainy-day fund, blight removal funds and cutbacks to capital projects.
“We were saving this money for a rainy day we thought might be coming,” he said of the $50 million in the rainy-day fund. “If it isn’t raining now, I don’t know what is.”
Michigan will offer relief to struggling bars and restaurants by buying back their unopened booze during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order in a flurry of moves late Monday.
She also delayed the expiration of valid driver’s licenses and state ID cards to June 30. Whitmer extended the ban on sit-down meals at restaurants and continued the closure of many places of public accommodation through April 30.
More than 8,000 businesses will have until Friday to request that the Liquor Control Commission buy back spirits purchased before March 16. The bottles will stay in place for now to limit the risk of spreading the virus.
The liquor can be purchased again after emergency rules end. Whitmer said the program will help bars and restaurants “weather the storm through this challenging time in our history.”
Michigan’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose 5% to 27,001. Deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, increased by 166, or 10%, to 1,768.
Beaumont Health in southeastern Michigan said it had 865 COVID-19 patients, down from Monday, with 194 more awaiting test results. Henry Ford Health System reported 655 patients, a slight rise.
The state health department loosened testing criteria Tuesday by allowing people with mild symptoms to get a nasal swab.
“Expanded testing is needed to learn more about how COVID-19 is spreading in our state,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive.
Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan got a batch of bad masks from the federal stockpile of protective gear.
About 2,000 ear-loop-style masks were distributed last week but they had “durability issues,” spokeswoman Mary Masson said. She didn’t elaborate.
The balance of the 22,000-mask shipment won’t be used. Michigan Medicine has more than 200 COVID-19 patients.
WHITE HOUSE VISIT
President Donald Trump met with people who have recovered from the coronavirus, including state Rep. Karen Whitsett, a Detroit Democrat. She has praised Trump for promoting an anti-malaria drug as a treatment.
Whitsett said hydroxychloroquine saved her and should be made available for more sick Detroit residents. Hydroxychloroquine has been used by hospitals but hasn’t been specifically approved by the federal government for COVID-19.
VIRUS GOES TO COURT
A landscaping company shut down because of the coronavirus sued Whitmer, saying it’s missing a critical window after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for products to treat trees and plants.
Contender’s Tree and Lawn Specialists in Oakland County said the governor’s order greatly restricting businesses is an illegal taking by the government. Michael and Wendy Lackomar, who are also part of the case, said they’re stuck at a cabin in Sanilac County and can’t return to the Detroit area because of a travel ban between homes.
Whitmer’s office declined to comment.
Oakland County, Michigan’s second-largest, said workers at businesses deemed essential will be required to wear face coverings. The policy won’t be enforced until April 27 so businesses can acquire the protection.
The order applies to grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses with close contact with the public. Oakland County residents make up 20% of Michigan’s coronavirus cases.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan closed key access points, including trails, picnic areas, parking and boat launches.
“With 71,000 acres and 64 miles of beach, there is a lot that remains open,” said Tom Ulrich, deputy superintendent.
White reported from Detroit. Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.