Michigan local governments report fewer economic challenges one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and describe efforts to support local businesses

September 2021

This report presents local government leaders’ views on COVID-19’s impact on local economic conditions, as well as reports of whether or not their local governments took action to help local businesses  during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and assessments of any actions taken. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2021 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), conducted between April 5 and June 7, 2021.

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Key findings

  • As of spring 2021, 39% of Michigan local officials report that their local economies have suffered significant (33%) or even crisis-level (6%) impacts over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, while only 13% say there has been very little or no impact at all to their local economies.
    • These reports are significantly improved from a year ago, when 86% reported significant (51%) or crisis-level (35%) economic impacts during the early stages of the pandemic.
    • The negative impacts on local economies are reported most commonly in Michigan’s largest jurisdictions, where 61% still report significant (49%) or crisis-level (12%) economic impacts.
  • In response to the pandemic’s impacts on business conditions, 34% of Michigan local governments say they have taken, or are planning to take, at least one action to support local businesses. 
    • There are substantial differences in these actions according to the size of the jurisdiction. Three-quarters (75%) of Michigan’s largest jurisdictions report taking action to help local businesses, compared with 19% of the smallest communities (some of which report having no local businesses in the first place).
    • Actions taken include promoting or advertising local small businesses to the community (reported by 21% of jurisdictions that have done anything), waiving fees and fines, extending payment deadlines, etc. (19%), and creating more space for social distancing such as permits for outdoor dining and closing local roads (17%).
  • Among jurisdictions that had taken actions as of spring 2021, two-thirds (66%) believe they have been somewhat (55%) or very (11%) effective. Meanwhile, 22% say they have been neither effective nor ineffective, and just 6% say they have been somewhat or very ineffective.
  • Among the 49% of jurisdictions that say they do have local businesses but have not taken actions, the most commonly cited reasons for not providing support are that the jurisdiction lacks resources (50%) or that there are no particular actions needed (41%). Few cited outright opposition from the community (3%) or the government Board or Council (2%).

Economic impacts of COVID


Percent of local officials who say there have been significant or crisis-level impacts from COVID-19 on their local economy Spring 2021 MPPS

Actions to support local businesses


One third of Michigan local governments report taking actions to support local businesses during COVID-19 Spring 2021 MPPS

Common actions taken


Among jurisdictions that have taken any action, 17% report creating more space for social distancing (permits for outdoor dining, closing local roads, etc.) Spring 2021 MPPS