Michigan food banks pressured by COVID-19 fallout

As the holiday season approaches, the demand for food in Michigan is at a record high because of COVID-19, according to the state’s food banks. The need for volunteers to distribute it is also at record levels. And monetary donations are up. We talk to several regional food bank officials to get a sense for the increased need for food assistance as the pandemic leads to job loss and new medical expenses.

Downtown businesses struggle as former customers work from home

AVOIDING DOWNTOWN DEMISE – Michigan downtowns are headed for long-term trouble with so many workers continuing to work from home, business experts say. Local business groups are fighting back with creative marketing and repurposing commercial property. We talk to a Charlevoix downtown authority, the head of the Small Business Association of Michigan, the state retailers group and the Michigan Downtown Association. By Zholdas Orisbayev FOR PETOSKEY, TRAVERSE CITY, CORP!, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

Michigan schools must write off student lunch debts to qualify for state grant

LUNCH DEBT FORGIVENESS: Only 13 Michigan schools have applied for a million dollar program to forgive student lunch-money debt, designed to avoid shaming kids behind on their payments. And the Dec. 1 deadline is fast approaching. The distraction of COVID 19 and short deadlines are two of the reasons for the lack of response, officials said. We talk to the Michigan Education Association, a school lunch association and the Department of Education. By Zholdas Orisbayev. FOR GONGWER, MIRS AND ALL POINTS

COVID-19 drives new initiative to support affordable child care

COVID CHILD CARE: Advocates hope that a pilot program to split child care costs among businesses, government and families in west Michigan will lead to a similar program statewide. Child care challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the creation of a unique coalition of business and child care advocates to test the plan they hope will lead to statewide implementation. By Zholdas Orisbayev FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, CORP! AND ALL POINTS

Michigan universities lose $1.2 billion to the pandemic

UNIVERSITY BUDGET WOES: Declining enrollment and new costs related to the pandemic have Michigan universities cutting costs, deferring construction projects and laying off employees. The Michigan Association of State Universities projects that the state’s 15 public universities will take a $1.2 billion hit. By Zholdas Orisbayev. FOR SAULT STE. MARIE AND ALL POINTS

COVID-19 adds to local government funding woes

The coronavirus is straining Michigan local government revenues already under strain for years. Repeated cuts in funding and changes to statutory revenue have harmed local budgets since the early 2000s. That decline will worsen as local businesses wrestling with COVID-19 lose sales that generate local government income, according to one nonpartisan study. By Zholdas Orisbayev FOR ALL POINTS

Michigan prisons seek more funding as COVID-19 expenses rise

PRISONS COVID: Testing for COVID19 and shuffling corrections officers among facilities short-staffed because of the pandemic has added financial challenges to Michigan’s $2 billion prison system. They come just as prison officials struggle to replace a surge of retirements, the legacy of a 1980s prison build-up. We interview the director of the Department of Corrections. By Zholdas Orisbayev. FOR MARQUETTE, COLDWATER, IONIA AND ALL POINTS.

Northern Michigan real estate booms as builders struggle to meet demand

REALESTATEBOOM: Michigan builders are responding to a demand for expensive homes, a market driven in part by people investing in homes rather than travel during the pandemic. At the same time, the state lacks housing for moderate-income buyers, such as the workers who build the high-end homes, experts say. It is especially true in northern Michigan resort areas. Home prices statewide are up about 10% over last year. But last August the average selling price for homes in Northwest Michigan’s Emmet County was $428,581, up from $344,120 reported for the same month the previous year. FOR BUSINESS AND NEWS PAGES IN TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, CHEBOYGAN, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, CORP! AND ALL POINTS

Community colleges expect enrollment surge from COVID-19 essential workers

ESSENTIAL TUITION: Essential workers during the pandemic crisis could provide community colleges with an enrollment surge in January. That’s when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s offer of free tuition kicks in. That’s good for the students and for the colleges that suffered an enrollment drop of 5% to 10% this fall. We talk to community college and college association officials. By Zholdas Orisbayev. FOR TRAVERSE CITY AND ALL POINTS.