Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced the creation of a health corps to help Detroiters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The deputy mayor, Conrad Mallett, Jr., says various municipal departments will meet over the next thirty days and develop a plan for what the corps will look like.
Duggan says Detroit residents have expressed concerns about water shutoffs, evictions, job losses, and access to medical care during the pandemic.
“I really envision a corps of folks who work for the health department who can reach out to those of low income and say we will be there to help you on these issues,” says Duggan.
Mallett says these health department workers could help a Detroiter manage their case from A to Z in order to regain some stability in their life.
“Mrs. Jones, hypothetical person: we want to knock on her door and say, ‘Mrs. Jones, how are you? What are the barriers that you are experiencing that are preventing you from raising your quality of life? Is it the fact that you have a behavioral medicine-eligible child who needs help? Is it that you need more job training? What are the goals that you have set for yourself that we can help you attain?’”
Duggan also announced that Detroit is receiving $31 million in federal funding from the CARES Act. Duggan says that money will go to improve housing security for Detroit residents. Duggan acknowledged that $31 million won’t solve all of Detroit’s housing security problems, but he says it would be a huge help in the present.
The plan for the CARES Act funds needs to be approved by Detroit’s city council before it is put into effect. Certain aspects of the plan also require approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Duggan says homeless Detroiters who tested positive for COVID-19 are receiving shelter and medical care, but with the CARES Act funding, the city could expand that help. Under the plan, the city would also provide long-term assistance for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered.
“For people who have tended to bounce from shelter to shelter: we will be creating 24-month long term beds, a stable place for those who haven’t had a place to go, to have some predictability,” he says.
At the press conference on Monday, the mayor also announced that he would not be renewing the 8 p.m. curfew following multiple days of Police Chief James Craig not enforcing the curfew, during peaceful protests. Duggan says the national conversation about police brutality and racism is also relevant in discussions of public health.
“While we saw race discrimination in its most brutal form in [George Floyd’s] murder, racial inequity in this country is far broader. We saw it in COVID-19, when African Americans were dying at rates two to three times that of Caucasians. We see it in the unemployment rate: the black unemployment rate is twice the white unemployment rate, the black unemployment rate is twice the white poverty rate. As the economy has turned down, it has hit the black community far harder than the white community.”