The initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Michigan communities and local governments

June 2020

This report presents local government leaders' views on the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan through May of 2020, including impacts on the state and its communities, expectations for how long negative impacts would persist, evaluations of governmental coordination, and resource needs to grapple with the resulting public health and economic challenges. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2020 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), conducted between March 30 and June 1, 2020.

Key findings

  • During April and May of 2020, overwhelming majorities of Michigan’s local leaders reported significant or even crisis-level impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on the state overall (93%), and on their local schools (88%), local economic conditions (86%), their residents’ welfare (70%), and their community overall (67%).
    • In addition, large percentages of local leaders—though less than half—also reported significant or crisis-level impacts on their jurisdictions’ local emergency response capabilities (43%), public health in their community (42%), the continuity of their own government’s operations (40%), and their delivery of public services (37%).
    • The state’s largest jurisdictions—those with more than 30,000 residents—were the most like to report these negative effects, including almost a third (30%) who were experiencing local crisis-level impacts on their jurisdiction overall, and 67% experiencing crisis-level local economic impacts, specifically.
  • While reported impacts in the first couple months of the pandemic have been quite extensive, Michigan local leaders generally expected various COVID-19 impacts would be relatively short-lived. Relatively few expected significant negative impacts to last seven or more months when it came to their residents’ welfare (31%), public health in their community (20%), or their own jurisdictions’ government operations (17%).
    • However, 45% expected significant negative impacts on their local economic conditions to last at least seven months, including 27% who predicted local economic impacts to last for more than a year. 
  • Assessments of the coordination between local governments and other entities is mixed, with local leaders reporting the most effective coordination has happened with their county government overall (59% say somewhat or very effective coordination), their county health department specifically (52%), and other nearby local governments (49%). 
  • Statewide, 39% of jurisdictions already had an emergency response plan in place or quickly adopted one in response to COVID-19 (including 94% of the state’s largest jurisdictions). Almost all officials from jurisdictions who have emergency plans and have drawn from them during COVID-19 say their plans have been effective so far. 
  • Relatively few Michigan local jurisdictions reported getting the public health or financial resources they needed in April and May, including public health resources needed from the state government (35%) or federal government (26%), and economic support needed from the state (22%) or federal government (21%).