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Whitmer lifts eviction freeze; $50M in rent aid coming

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that a monthslong moratorium on evictions amid the coronavirus pandemic will end in mid-July, when landlords can start applying for $50 million in government assistance if they let people stay in their homes.

The initiative will be financed as part of an $880 million spending bill the Democratic governor will soon sign –funding the federal government sent to Michigan to address the COVID-19 crisis. She issued an order extending the eviction freeze — first issued March 20 –î through July 15 but then rescinding it from then on.

Starting July 16, if landlords do not evict their tenants for debt incurred during the pandemic emergency, they can receive a lump-sum payment from a local housing assessment and resource agency. Landlords –î whom Whitmer “strongly encouraged” to take advantage of the “innovative” remedy rather than pursue eviction or foreclosure–î must waive late fees or penalties and forgive a certain amount.

If a landlord is owed $1,000 and gets $900 through the eviction diversion program, for example, the remaining $100 must be forgiven. If a landlord who is owed $1,000 receives $450, $50 must be forgiven. The tenant would have to pay the remaining $500 in 12 equal monthly installments.

Eligibility for rent assistance will depend on tenants’ income and household size and vary depending on the amount due.

“No Michigander should have to worry about losing their home during a global health pandemic and, at the same time, landlords and managements companies need rent from their tenants to sustain their businesses,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Also Friday, the governor signed an order creating a task force to make recommendations by Aug. 31 on preparing nursing homes for any future wave of COVID-19 cases. More than 2,000, or 34%, of the people who have died were nursing home residents — mostly permanent residents who became infected but also some people who were discharged to the homes as hospitals faced capacity issues.

Overall, the state reported one additional death Friday, bringing the total of confirmed or probable to 6,134. An additional 389 confirmed cases were recorded.

Though Michigan has the country’s eighth-highest death rate per capita, it now is faring better than many other states on containing the virus. There were 35.4 new cases per 100,000 people in the state over the past two weeks, the eight-lowest rate in the U.S.

Still, there are areas of concern like Ingham County, where a bar in East Lansing has been linked to a rising number of infections. The health department reported 73 cases among people ages 16 to 28. None are hospitalized. There are at least three secondary cases ‚Äî people likely infected by someone who went to Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub, according to the county.

Texas and Florida on Friday clamped down on bars again amid record-high numbers of confirmed cases. Asked if Whitmer was considering a similar move, a spokeswoman said the governor was continuing to monitor cases. She let restaurants and bars reopen dine-in service at half capacity on May 22 in northern Michigan and June 8 everywhere else.

“As she has said all along, she will adjust as necessary as we learn more about where and how this virus spreads most easily,” said Tiffany Brown. “For now, however, it’s up to bar owners and patrons alike to do their part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and taking all required safety precautions.”

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