Local Government Fiscal Health During COVID-19

Local governments throughout Michigan will see a long-term impact and lasting challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy is working to help them respond to the fiscal concerns caused by the pandemic. 

In this episode of Michigan Minds, Thomas Ivacko, interim director of CLOSUP, and Stephanie Leiser, a lecturer at the Ford School, discuss CLOSUP’s latest fiscal health project to produce a guide comprising a curated set of strategies, memos, and FAQs to share with communities.

“Our goal is to assist local governments to be as prepared as possible for the coming fiscal challenges,” says Ivacko. 

CLOSUP conducts the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), which has been tracking local-government fiscal health in the state since 2009, near the end of the “Great Recession.” The survey is conducted in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan Townships Association. 

The MPPS collects information from local leaders across the state, and CLOSUP uses this information to identify the resources local governments need. They added questions in response to the pandemic to help them understand fiscal health and service capabilities, such as what the impact on public health and schools looks like, and what resources are needed.

Ivacko and Leiser say that, based on history and survey responses, the economic impact will be tough for Michigan governments, and emphasize the importance of understanding what communities are actually dealing with during this pandemic. 

“There have been a handful of local governments that have still not caught up from the Great Recession that have persistently high fiscal stress, and I think they’re going to be hit even harder by this. I think this recession is going to cause further permanent damage that they may never recover from,” Leiser says. 

CLOSUP is designing the fiscal strategy guide to provide information in an easily digestible format; it will include information to help plan for the short term, but also take a long-term perspective to help local governments become fiscally flexible and resilient. 

Listen to this episode of the Michigan Minds podcast to learn more. 

Related: Wolverine Caucus: Local Government Fiscal Health