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Treasury Secretary Confirms Support For Detroit Blight Fight

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (right) speaks in Detroit. (Credit: Beth Fisher/WWJ Newsradio 950)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (right) speaks in Detroit. (Credit: Beth Fisher/WWJ Newsradio 950)

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DETROIT (AP) - The toppling of vacant houses in Detroit’s Marygrove neighborhood this week marked the city’s initial use of $52 million in federal Hardest Hit Fund money to eradicate blight and elicited praise Friday from U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

But Lew, in Detroit to discuss the economy and jobs with business and community leaders, stopped short of promising additional dollars to the bankrupt city.

Detroit and the state of Michigan have not yet submitted new applications to the Hardest Hit Fund, he said.

“One of the things our conversations with the city and the state have been about is helping them to understand what they can apply for – and in some cases helping them make the application,” Lew told reporters following a tour Friday at a Detroit auto stamping plant. “This is an ongoing process. My visit here is not to say we’re done. It’s to say we’re partners and we look forward to continuing to work together.”

In December, Detroit became the largest U.S. city allowed into bankruptcy. State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr said he expects the city to emerge from bankruptcy by fall as it restructures about $12 billion in unsecured debt.

Detroit has struggled over the years to find money to raze the thousands of vacant houses and other abandoned buildings that dot the city. The Hardest Hit Fund, which was created in 2010 to help states get through the economic and mortgage crisis, will allow thousands of houses to be torn down, Lew said.

“That’s how the city is using the money, to move in and try to stabilize neighborhoods like Marygrove,” he said. “By coming in now they can take a neighborhood that has lot of strength in it and keep it from sliding. Then they are going to move on and they have bigger challenges with neighborhoods that are farther out on the curve.”

Lew’s two-day visit to Detroit ended Friday. Other Treasury Department resources being used in Detroit include the State Small Business Credit Initiative.

The initiative created more than 50,000 jobs across the country and 6,000 in Michigan, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters said.

New Center Stamping, which makes parts for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, previously received $3.7 million in funding through the program. Sixty to 70 jobs will be created at the plant, said Peters, a Michigan Democrat who also toured the stamping facility Friday.

“We need to make sure that we continue to make these kinds of investments,” Peters said.

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